Residence Permits and Visa

If you are moving to Sweden for your doctoral studies, you will need to determine  whether or not you need to apply for a residence permit and if you need to apply for a visa. The agency responsible for migration in Sweden is called the Migration Agency (Migrationsverket). It maintains a detailed and up to date website that covers and describes the procedure in many migration related situations, in Swedish, English, and other languages. According to the Migration Agency, a residence permit (uppehållstillstånd) is a document that allows a foreign national to live and reside in Sweden, either for a limited period of time or permanently, while a visa (visum) is a conditional authorization to enter the country and stay for less than 90 days.

If you are a citizen of a EU/EEA country, you can live and work and study in Sweden without a residence permit or visa. 

If you are not from one of these countries, you will need to apply for a residence permit before moving to Sweden – this is handled through the Migration Agency. As a doctoral student, you are primarily a student from the point of view of the Migration Agency, regardless of your type of financing, so you should apply for a residence for a study permit (officially called a permit for higher education). This permit gives you the right to work in Sweden, so you can be financed through employment. 

You can find information about applying for the permit here. The HR staff at your university may be able to help, but you should keep in mind that migration regulations may change and they may not have a lot of experience with new regulations – it is important to take your information directly from the Migration Agency. 

In order to qualify for a study permit, you need to have been admitted to full time studies at a Swedish higher education institution. 

The Migration Agency’s page regarding permits for higher education, contains a list of documents required for applying. One thing you should note is that you will likely need some documents from the university certifying your admission, for example the university’s formal decision on admission, with information on the date of admission. You should have received this upon admission – in case you haven’t you should contact the administration at your university and ask for such a letter.  You may also need a supplementary certificate regarding the doctoral studies, issued by the university. The Migration Agency maintains a detailed description of the procedures, and you can also call them with questions. 

You can in principle receive a residence permit for the time your studies require. However, in practice, even if you have been admitted to several years’ studies, you will usually receive a residence permit for a maximum of two years at a time. You need to apply for a new permit before the old one has expired. Here you can find information about renewing your permit.  

There is information on the Migration’s Agency website on how to travel to Sweden once your residence permit has been granted. The procedure is different if you come from a country whose citizens need a visa to enter Sweden, or from a country whose citizens do not. The Agency maintains a list of countries whose citizens need a visa to enter Sweden, here. If you need to apply for a visa, you should contact the Swedish embassy or consulate in your country. The Swedish Government maintains a website of all the embassies and consulates, here

If you are planning to bring family members with you, there is information about that on the Migration’s Agency website, here.

Keep in mind that the Migration Agency has an obligation to assist you and answer your questions. You cannot hurt your case by inquiring about it. 

Once you have lived in Sweden for four years, you may be able to apply for permanent right of residence. 

If you do not qualify for permanent residency at the end of your doctoral studies you may still qualify to stay in Sweden on a permit for looking for work after studies. You should apply for this permit before your previous permit expires. If you get such a permit, and your total consecutive time of being in Sweden will be longer than a year, then you will be able to register with the Civil Register in Sweden and thus qualify for healthcare insurance. While in Sweden on a permit for looking for work you may qualify for unemployment benefits. 

Residence permits cannot be valid longer than the validity of your passport – you should therefore always make sure your passport is not expiring soon.