Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Moving to Sweden from South Africa

So this post is nowhere near the normal topics on my blog, but thought it would be worth posting in case it helped someone else. If you are here for help with moving to Sweden, and you have an interest in anything to do with technology, electronics, robotics or similar, have a look at the other posts here.

Maybe some background to start this post with: We moved to Sweden (Stockholm) from South Africa. My family and I are all South African citizens but we did spend 6.5 years in the UK and returned to South Africa in 2013. We landed in Sweden on the 7th of August 2021.
The process to get here is a little bit confusing and at times completely stressful. Given our experiences and also noticing that there are a number of people that seem to ask very similar questions on Facebook, I figured I would document our process and experiences here, in case it is useful to someone else.

Some additional Notes

Speaking Swedish

Although almost every single person in Sweden I've spoken with was able to easily flip over to English, all correspondence is done in Swedish. Even when you sign up at SFI (Swedish For Immigrants) the coms are all in Swedish, until you ask the friendly person on the phone if they can help you in English. (More on SFI later)

In the mean time we found installing the Microsoft Translator app your phone is super useful. I ended up installing the Google translator as well, since it has nice integration into my Android phone, which makes it a bit easier to quickly translate SMS's etc. I have to say though, at the time of writing, the Microsoft translator does a much better job at translating correctly. Using google, my rental contract had a clause about Reindeer herding (Which my kids got quite excited about; me not so much), rerunning it through the Microsoft translator made a lot more sense.

When we initially started looking at coming to Stockholm, we found loads of information about things like person numbers, id cards, coordination numbers, ID's, bank id's etc.; not to mention opening bank accounts so you can actually get paid once you get here.  I'll do my best to document here the process as we understood it.

Step 0: Get a bank account

All the research I did said very clearly that you are unable to open a Swedish bank account without a person number. Research also said that a person number can only be applied for in person once you are in Sweden, and could take up to 18 weeks.

I ended up googling banks in Sweden and found Nordea as one of the major banks. After finding no email contact details on line, I ended up phoning them directly from South Africa. They confirmed that they can do nothing without a person number.

I was then referred to SEB. Again, finding no contact details on their site, I ended up connecting to their Facebook page and they provided an email address for the branch I selected (I picked the one closest to my work offices).

With SEB I was at least able to get an appointment booked, before we left South Africa, to open an account shortly after we landed. Note: Appointments could have some lead time, so don't wait until the day before you leave to make an appointment. They are happy to open a very basic savings and debit card account for you without a person number, but this is great since I would at least have an account to get paid into. The account is opened for you during that meeting, but it then still took about 3 weeks to eventually get the debit cards sent to me by mail (See Step 1) and get them working. 

Note: At this point you still do not have a BankID which is an electronic signature, which you need to sign up for just about EVERYTHING.

Step 1: Get an address

Having an address is key. All the initial stuff requires a home address. They also validate the address, so a hotel or Airbnb addresses don't work (Sort of, read on).

You can start looking for a place to live before you get to Sweden. There are a couple of sites we were referred to including:

On blocket, you interact directly with the property owners and you can start a conversation. However, the quality of the adds and even the properties vary a lot. Given the demand is much higher than the supply, finding a property is quite challenging, and the owners have no incentive to do anything special.

On Samtrygg, you can do it all without interacting with a human. Properties have a button to select a viewing and you are presented with a menu to select when and what time you want to view. The annoying thing for me is the immediate warning that you will be charged SEK 450 if you do not show up for your appointment or cancel in less than 24 hours. I find this quite unnecessary, and the fact that you do not speak to a human in a new environment, can often leave you a bit unsure.

Note, on Samtrygg you can often see a virtual 3D tour through the house and you can even, in some cases, go as far as signing a lease, all without ever speaking with a human or seeing the property in person.

We ended up finding a place within 3 weeks on blocket, but only after seeing quite a number of duds, all while using public transport. If at first you don't find a place you like, keep looking. The quality and price of properties vary significantly and their is no correlation between the two.

Step 2: Register your move to Sweden with Skatteverket

We arrived in Sweden in the middle of the 3rd corona virus wave. All the guidance (and note the word is guidance, not law) says that you should self isolate for 7 days after landing. We actually "self isolated" for 5 days and then got going with completing the move to Sweden process, only to be met with a note saying that this should have been done within 5 days of arriving in Sweden. Anyway, it resulted in my official date being set a couple of days later than our actual arrival. I assume this would only be an issue if you are worried about making up the minimum number of days if you are close to the end of the tax year etc. for foreign tax requirements.

Note: After completing the registration to move to Sweden, your new personal numbers will be sent to the address you provide during this step (See Step 1 above)

  • To do this, head over to Home | Tax (skatteverket.se) and select "Other languages" from the menu at the top. Select "In English".
  • Select the link in the "Moving to Sweden" section by the same name.
  • Scroll down and click the yellow "Move to Sweden" button (after obviously reading everything you are scrolling by ;-).
  • Click again the little button near the top for English
  • At the bottom click "Move to Sweden" again and start the 12 step form.
    Note: Once complete, you can not submit the form, you have to print it.
Printing the form was a problem for us, because I forgot to pack my laser printer into my suitcase. The solution to this is to complete and print this back home before you leave, if you have an address (In my case I entered the Airbnb's address where we were staying and then a couple of days later got a phone call from the Tax office stating that this was not a valid address. Luckily by that time we had found a place to live and I could just give her my new address. We also went back to Skatteverket and completed the change of address form, just in case). If you need to print something though you can head off with your USB stick or smart phone to a library and they will print it for you for a small fee. Another option is to find an Office Depot which is a stationary and office supply store which have printing facilities (For a less small fee).

Update: I have it on good authority that you can apparently go to Skatteverket in person and someone will assist you to complete and print the form right there.

The outcome of this step is your person number.

Step 3: Apply for an identity card

Now I got things a little confused and actually did this before Step 2 above, and it actually worked out well, because you have to book an appointment, and the first available slot was quite a few weeks away. By the time we went, we had received our Person numbers from Step 2 though, and then did not have a very long wait.

Note, when we did this, an ID card costs SEK 400 per person. I got ID cards for my kids as well, but I've heard that this is not required since they can be connected to a parent/guardians BankID.
  • To do this, head over to Home | Tax (skatteverket.se) and select "Other languages" from the menu at the top. Select "In English".
  • Click on the "Apply for a Swedish identity card" link in the "Apply for an identity card" section.
  • Click on "Make an appointment for application of ID-card" box.
  • Click on "Make an appointment for application of ID-card"
  • Select your region, service office and number of people. At this point the appointment selector pops up and you have to select you slot. I found it was much easier to click the "First available time" button.
    Note: You can select different offices if you have a couple in your area to see if there are others with closer dates.
  • Complete the rest of the form and you should then receive an SMS confirming your appointment and a reminder to pay the SEK 400 before you arrive.
    Note: Banking in Europe, in my opinion, are years behind South Africa (If you banked with FNB back home anyway), so don't expect payments to be processed over weekends, so make sure you do the payments long enough in advance
  • It is suggested that you bring a printed copy of the proof of payment to your appointment. I ended up showing the person who we dealt with, the transactions on my phone in mobile banking. She wanted to see the person id's you are supposed to use as the payment recipient reference. (I have to say that everyone seems to be super friendly and accommodating at least)

Step 4: Apply for a BankID and upgrade your bank account

Once you receive your ID Cards in the post, you will also (Normally a day or so later) receive th epin numbers for your ID Cards. It's a 8 digit pin number (Which incidentally, I have not needed to enter in anywhere). At this point you should contact your bank and make an appointment to get your BankID's created. The thing here is that the banks at the moment may not accept walk in clients and an appointment could easily be another weeks wait.

We were asked to scan and send through copies of our ID cards before your appointment.

Now that you have a Swedish ID card, you can be upgraded to fully capable bank accounts (ones that you will be allowed to use online as well ;-). In our case we kept the same bank accounts, but were issued with new debit cards which have all the limits of the original cards removed. Debit cards take another 1-3 days to arrive and the pins arrive a couple of days later. The bonus here is that you can view your pin on your mobile banking app so you don't really have to wait for the pin to arrive in the post.

At the bank you will need your mobile banking app. Also download the BankID app as well as the Swish app.

Once you get to the bank with your new Swedish ID card, it probably takes about 15 minutes max to get everything set up. You will be asked to scan a QR code using the BankID app which verifies that you are there and connects it to your bank account. Remember to link swish to your bank account/Phone number at the same time (Allot in Sweden happens via Swish).

And there we go, you should now be fully integrated into the Swedish system and be able to do all the stuff you've not been able to do until now.

Some additional Notes

On Facebook, the South Africans living in Sweden group has a good number of very active, friendly and helpful members. Awesome resource to ask questions when you run into stuff we are not used to in South Africa.

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