Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2018, 12:53 GMT

Sweden: Right of residence, employment, access to social programs (health care, education and housing) and citizenship for citizens of the 10 new European Union (EU) countries; whether citizens of the new EU countries can continue to file refugee claims/asylum applications in Sweden (2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 25 February 2005
Citation / Document Symbol SWE42759.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Sweden: Right of residence, employment, access to social programs (health care, education and housing) and citizenship for citizens of the 10 new European Union (EU) countries; whether citizens of the new EU countries can continue to file refugee claims/asylum applications in Sweden (2005), 25 February 2005, SWE42759.E, available at: [accessed 22 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Sweden has been part of the European Union (EU) since 1 January 1995 (Sweden 27 Apr. 2004; see also Sweden n.d.a). The Treaty of Accession to the European Union 2003, which came into force on 1 May 2004 (EU 2003), sets out the "transitional arrangements" for the 10 new member states: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia (EU n.d.b). Under the Treaty of Accession, EU countries have the option to place restrictions on access to employment for up to seven years after the accession of the 10 new EU member states (ibid. n.d.a). While some of the other EU countries have put into place such restrictions for nationals of the new EU member states, "[t]he Swedish parliament has decided that Sweden will not apply any special transitional arrangements" (ibid.). A representative of the Embassy of Sweden in Ottawa stated during a telephone interview on 20 July 2004 that there are no differences in rights between citizens of the 15 EU countries (as of 30 April 2004: "the previous members") and those of the 2004 EU accession states. This Response provides details regarding the rights of residence, employment, access to social programs, the right to file refugee claims and the right to citizenship for EU accession state nationals in Sweden.

Right of residence

Under the terms of the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement, all EEA nationals may reside in Sweden, but they must apply for a residence permit if they live there for more than three months (Sweden May 2004a; ibid. 30 Apr. 2004). All EEA nationals may apply for the permit after their arrival in Sweden, whereas a non-EU national must apply for the residence permit before entering the country (ibid.; Sweden May 2004a). The EEA is defined as the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway (ibid.). EEA nationals who are employees, self-employed or self-sufficient "will obtain residence permits for up to five years at a time" (ibid.). Family members of business proprietors and independent contractors are also entitled to residence permits (EU 1 May 2003d).

Unlike Sweden, the accession EU member states are not parties to the Schengen Agreement (Sweden 30 Apr. 2004), which established "a territory without internal borders" that allows citizens to travel between borders without having to provide identification (EU 20 Mar. 2002). Therefore, nationals of the new EU member states must present "a valid passport or a national [identification] card when crossing the Swedish border" (Sweden 30 Apr. 2004).

Right to employment

Whereas the previous EU countries may impose restrictions on access to employment for nationals of the new EU member states, Sweden has elected not to impose any restrictions on the right to employment (EU n.d.a). Nationals from the accession states will therefore be treated "in the same way as people from the old Member States" (ibid.). They are also entitled to "register with labour offices and to receive assistance in seeking work" (ibid.). Nationals of all EU member states must be registered as temporary taxpayers, even if they are working for less than three months (ibid. n.d.f). EU citizens can stay in Sweden even without employment, but they must be self-sufficient (Sweden 30 Apr. 2004).

The basic rule is that "people who are qualified to practise a certain profession in their country of origin are also qualified" to practise their profession in Sweden (EU 1 May 2003d). Certain jobs, such as being "elected to the Riksdag" or working in the "police force, as a professional soldier and in some protective services, [can] only be filled by Swedish citizens" (Sweden 25 Apr. 2004).

Right to access social programs

According to the European Union Website, "[a]ll persons over 16 years of age residing in Sweden, whether of Swedish or other nationality, are registered for social security" (EU n.d.e). All persons who live and work in Sweden "contribute to the system by paying taxes, contributions and user charges," while their immediate dependant family members have the same rights as people resident in Sweden (ibid. 1 May 2003c). EEA citizens who work and live in Sweden "may qualify for unemployment benefits" (ibid.).


All EEA nationals who work in Sweden "are entitled to health care" in the same way as Swedish residents (ibid. 1 May 2003a). All residents in Sweden "are covered by the National Health System," which "provides medical care and hospitalization" upon payment of a patient's fee (ibid.). Concurrently, "[t]he health insurance system pays most of the hospitalisation expenses and laboratory fees. Maternity and childcare are free" (ibid.).


Foreigners are eligible to attend Swedish higher education institutions if they meet the general admission requirements, which means they must have completed a secondary school program comparable to the Swedish one (EU n.d.d; see also Sweden 29 Sept. 2004). They must also meet specific requirements, depending on the field of study (EU n.d.d). In addition, according to the Swedish government Website, "[a]n adequate knowledge of Swedish, acquired, for example, through a one year preparatory course" and "a very good command of English [are] ... requirements for all applicants" (Sweden 29 Sept. 2004; see also EU n.d.d).

EEA nationals who come to study in Sweden for longer than three months must obtain a residence permit within the first three months of their arrival (Sweden 12 Dec. 2002). To obtain the residence permit, applicants must demonstrate that they have "been admitted to full-time accredited university studies," that they can support themselves and that they have "medical insurance" (ibid.).

Foreign students do not pay tuition fees while studying in Sweden (Sweden n.d.b; see also EU n.d.d). However, all students must "pay a fee to register" and must buy their own books and pay for their living expenses (EU n.d.d). Information was also found to indicate that foreign students have to pay student union fees (Sweden n.d.b).

Foreign students can receive "study assistance" only if they have lived in Sweden for at least two years and they have a "permanent residence permit or an EU/EEA permit" (Sweden 29 Sept. 2004).


Information on housing rights in Sweden could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within time constraints.


Foreigners, including EEA citizens, can apply for citizenship after living in Sweden "for at least five years," whereas citizens of the EEA countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland or Norway can acquire Swedish citizenship after having fulfilled a two-year residence requirement (ibid. Apr. 2003).

Refugee claims/asylum applications in Sweden

Asylum seekers in EU countries must make their asylum claim in the first safe country that they enter (ibid. Sept. 2004; ibid. May 2004b, 3). The European Union Website defines a "safe country of origin" as follows:

[a] country that can clearly be shown, in an objective and verifiable way, normally not to generate refugees, or about which it can clearly be shown that circumstances which might in the past have justified recourse to the 1951 Convention have ceased to exist.

... [T]o assess the safety of a country the following elements may be taken into account:

number of refugees originating from that country over the last few years;

observance of human rights (how the country meets its obligations of appropriate international instruments);

democratic institutions (elections, political pluralism, freedom of expression, legal means of protection and redress);

stability (EU n.d.c).

If it is determined that the country from which the applicant has come from is not a "safe country," the asylum seeker's claim will be dealt with by Sweden (Sweden Sept. 2004).

The Dublin II Regulation, which came into effect on 1 September 2003, sets out the criteria for determining which EU country is responsible for dealing with asylum applications (Ireland n.d.). However, pursuant to the Dublin Convention, "[e]very individual who seeks asylum within the EU will have their matter considered. An asylum-seeker may therefore not be passed from country to country" (ibid. May 2004b, 6). In Sweden, if the refugee process takes longer than four months, "asylum-seekers are allowed to enter paid employment" (ibid., 7).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Embassy of Sweden in Ottawa. 20 July 2004. Telephone interview with a representative.

European Union (EU). 2003. European Commission. Treaty of Accession to the European Union 2003. [Accessed 21 Dec. 2004]
_____. 1 May 2003a. European Employment Services (EURES)-The European Job Mobility Portal. "Living and Working Conditions: The Health System – Sweden." [Accessed 20 Oct. 2004]
_____. 1 May 2003b. European Employment Services (EURES)-The European Job Mobility Portal. "Living and Working Conditions: Recognition of Diplomas and Qualifications – Sweden." [Accessed 22 Feb. 2005]
_____. 1 May 2003c. European Employment Services (EURES)-The European Job Mobility Portal. "Living and Working Conditions: Social Welfare – Protection of Persons Moving in the EEA." [Accessed 22 Feb. 2005]
_____. 1 May 2003d. European Employment Services (EURES)-The European Job Mobility Portal. "Living and Working Conditions: What You Have to Think of When Arriving in X." [Accessed 22 Feb. 2005]
_____. 20 March 2002. Justice and Home Affairs. "The Schengen Acquis and its Integration into the Union." [Accessed 18 Oct. 2004]
_____. n.d.a. "Free Movement: Information on the Transitional Rules Governing the Free Movement of Workers from, to and Between the New Member States – Sweden." [Accessed 13 Oct. 2004]
_____. n.d.b. "Free Movement of Workers to and from the New Member States – How Will It Work in Practice?" [Accessed 29 Sept. 2004]
_____. n.d.c. Justice and Home Affairs. "FAQ – Asylum Policy – European Commission." [Accessed 22 Dec. 2004]
_____. n.d.d. Dialogue with Citizens. "Higher Education: Useful Information on National Provisions." [Accessed 15 Oct. 2004]
_____. n.d.e. "Registration: Useful Information on National Provisions." [Accessed 15 Oct. 2004]
_____. n.d.f. "You are the Worker: Useful Information on National Provisions." [Accessed 15 Oct. 2004]

Ireland. n.d. Oasis: Information of Public Services. "Dublin II Regulation." [Accessed 23 Feb. 2005]

Sweden. 29 September 2004. "Higher Education in Sweden." [Accessed 15 Oct. 2004]
_____. September 2004. Migrationsverket. "Facts About Asylum Regulations in Sweden." [Accessed 15 Oct. 2004]
_____. May 2004a. Migrationsverket. "Facts About Residence Permits for Citizens of EU and EEA Countries and Their Families." [Accessed 15 Oct. 2004]
_____. May 2004b. Migrationsverket. "Swedish Refugee Policy." [Accessed 15 Oct. 2004]
_____. 30 April 2004. Migrationsverket. "No Restrictions on Working in Sweden for New Member States." [Accessed 12 May 2004]
_____. 27 April 2004. Prime Minister's Office. "Sweden's Road to EU Membership." [Accessed 28 Oct. 2004]
_____. 25 April 2004. Ministry of Justice. "Swedish Citizenship." [Accessed 13 Oct. 2004]
_____. April 2003. Migrationsverket. "Becoming a Swedish Citizen." [Accessed 15 Oct. 2004]
_____. 12 December 2002. "Do I need a Visa or Residence Permit?" [Accessed 15 Oct. 2004]
_____. n.d.a. Migrationsverket. "Immigration Controls." [Accessed 15 Oct. 2004]
_____. n.d.b. "FAQs." [Accessed 22 Dec. 2004]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Embassy of Sweden in Ottawa, Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Oral sources: Embassy of Sweden in Ottawa; Refugee Documentation Centre, Legal Aid Board, Dublin.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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