Moving abroad at any time can be a stressful experience, but with the added challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit, UK professionals will encounter additional barriers and considerations when deciding to take the plunge. However, moving abroad can be the most positive life change an individual can ever make – and the pandemic has served to highlight the true importance of quality of life.
Contractors stand to gain even more from working abroad than their permanent counterparts. Short-term assignments in another country can provide all the thrill of experiencing new cultures and lifestyles, with the flexibility of knowing you can jet off back home or to anywhere else around the world when you’re ready for a new adventure.
Here Generate’s payroll and contractor management specialists reveal the most important things to consider for contractors looking to work in Sweden in the near future.
Guide to Becoming a Contractor in Sweden
1. Visas & Work Permits
Following the UK’s exit from the European Union at the end of 2020, British nationals will no longer benefit from the same freedom of movement rights as other European countries. From 1st January 2021, British citizens will be able to travel to Sweden for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa, however this covers purposes such as tourism and visiting family rather than work.
Non-EU citizens must apply for and receive a work permit before taking up any kind of paid employment in the country. To qualify for a work permit, individuals must have received an official offer from an employer or end client in Sweden which will give the individual a minimum monthly take-home pay of SEK 13,000 (around €1,281 or £1,114) before taxes. Once individuals have received their work permit, their spouse/registered partner and children under 21 are able to join them in Sweden, although they must apply for a residence visa.
Some professions are protected under a law which enables foreign individuals to work in Sweden without a permit, including many roles that are popular with contractors. Teachers, some carers, technicians, those installing or repairing technology or machinery, and those working in transport and logistics may all be able to enjoy short- or medium-term assignments without a Swedish work permit – find out more about which professions are exempt.
Anyone wanting to work in Sweden can apply for a visa and work permit through the Swedish Embassy in their own country.
Although Swedish citizens pay high rates of tax compared to many nations across the world at around 60%, most contractors from other countries will need to pay much lower rates of tax. Individuals are only able to become Swedish citizens if they have been living in Sweden on a long-term basis, usually for a continuous period of five years. As non-residents, international contractors will be taxed considerably less. Non-residents working in Sweden for a Swedish employer, or an employer based elsewhere but with a permanent establishment in Sweden, are taxed a flat rate of 25% at source.
Non-residents working in Sweden for a non-Swedish employer without a permanent establishment in Sweden are liable to pay tax in Sweden if the beneficiary of the employee’s work is an entity in Sweden and the work is performed under the management and control of the Swedish entity. The tax rate in this case is also 25%. Contractors on assignment for less than 15 days in a row, and less than 45 days in total during a calendar year, are an exception to this rule.
Find out more about paying tax in Sweden.
Sweden’s current economic make-up and projected economic trends for the near future ideally position the country to provide temporary and medium-term employment prospects. The Swedish Government’s official list of Mismatch Priority Occupations includes five areas of the most significant skills shortages, which match well with contractor skill sets. The country suffers an urgent shortage of IT specialists, engineers, teachers, miners and healthcare professionals. The official list of Surplus Occupations includes humanities and art professionals, journalists, social scientists, administration officers and law specialists.
With over 40,000 recruitment companies in the UK and thousands more in Sweden, jobseekers have plenty of avenues to find their next assignment. Much like the UK and other countries, recruiters and end clients normally advertise roles of all types across social media and online job boards. The country’s most popular job board advertising sites include:
4. Reasons to Work in Sweden
Not just the birthplace of ABBA and IKEA, Sweden provides a plethora of benefits and things to enjoy outside of work:
- Work/Life Balance – Swedes understand the importance of personal and family life: employers and employees prioritise work/life balance, and ‘fika’ or coffee breaks are built into the professional day. Swedes and all those working alongside them enjoy some of the longest holidays in Europe, with many employers allowing six weeks’ annual leave every year.Flat hierarchies, smart casual dress codes and friendly workplace cultures ensure work is based around teamwork andcollective achievement rather than office politics or counting overtime.
- Equality – Equality is core to the Swedish culture of respect, honesty and collaboration. Anti-discrimination legislation means individuals are protected at work and in society regardless of their background, nationality, gender, age, sexuality or disability. The country has a long history of being at the forefront of human rights and progressive movements. Both male and female parents receive three months’ parental leave as standard, same-sex marriage has been legal since 2009, and the nation ranks fourth best on the World Economic Forum’s gender equality index of 150 nations.
- Culture – Viking history is not limited to Denmark and Norway: Swedish Vikings left a phenomenal legacy that includes rich Norse mythology. The nation’s renaissance and modernist art, architecture, literature and music are all world-famous and the famous Smorgasbord style of food offers plenty to enjoy outside of work.
- Landscapes – With over 200,000 islands, Sweden is the perfect place to get outdoors, observe a wide variety of wildlife and seek peace and quiet after a busy week at work. Also home to a range of mountains, lakes, countryside and thriving towns and cities, the country has the setting for every season and every taste.
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Keen on Scandinavia but not sure that Sweden is for you? Norway offers a similar friendly culture, an abundance of working opportunities and the chance to see the Northern Lights – read our Guide to Contracting in Norway.