Travel Adventures

Personal Number—Your key to Sweden

Every country has some way of identifying its citizens and cataloguing their various circumstances. In the United States it is the Social Security number (SSN). I’ve had this memorized since college. I had to, my University even printed it on our ID’s! We used them to order pizza! Thankfully, that practice stopped shortly before I graduated…but I digress. In the UK it is your National Health Service (NHS) number. The NHS number is very important for taxes and the like, but the UK is so well connected that I didn’t really need to learn it. If I gave my name and house number, most any agency could track me down. In Sweden, it is the personnummer or personal number. This is the number of all numbers. You need this for everything! I’m actually a bit shocked by the sheer number of places that require it.

Your Swedish personal number is not exactly like an SSN and it’s not exactly like an NHS number. It’s an all around number. You use it to pay taxes, to see the doctor, to enroll your child in nursery, to set up the internet, to enroll in IKEA Family…wait, what?!? You use your personal number that you use at the doctor and with the government to enroll in IKEA Family??? Right now you think I’m joking don’t you? I’m not. This number is the number to rule all numbers. It’s the granddaddy of all numbers and if you are planning to be in Sweden for more than one year, you are eligible to get one. If not…you are going to need a lot of help from others.


Skatteverkett, Swedish Tax Agency

After going to the Migration Board and turning in all of your paperwork to get a residence permit card (UT card); you will be able to go to the Tax Agency and apply for your personal number. If you will not be in Sweden for a full year, you are eligible for a co-ordination number. I’m not quite sure how they differ, but I do know there is no “co-ordination” option on that IKEA Family application 😉


The Tax Agency does not accept appointments, and I have been told the wait can be anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour and a half. Please note that they are open between 10am and 4pm with lunch from 12pm to 1pm. It is key that you arrive with all required data. In our case, we brought:

– Copy of work contract
– Migration Board cards
– Marriage Certificate
– Birth Certificate for our toddler
– Passports

We were told that because we had the Migration Board cards, we didn’t really need the work contract, but better safe than sorry.

After filling out the forms they provided, we waited between 30 and 45 minutes. I feel this is reasonable; kind of like getting your license renewed. Our arrival time did coincide with the conclusion of lunch and I do not know if this was helpful or not.

I also need to note that we are not doing this alone. Our liaison, Rachel, from Nordic Relocations, took us to the Migration Board and also to the Tax Agency. She brought along the copy of the work contract, information on our permanent housing, and even entertained our toddler while we were filling out the paperwork. If you do not have a Rachel or if you just want to be extra prepared, this website is very helpful:

The employees at both the Migration Board and the Tax Agency were very helpful and friendly. Once you complete your paperwork, you take a number and the Tax Agency employee will need to make a copy of all your documents. They will be returned before you leave. This whole process took about 10 minutes once our number was called.

After completing your paperwork, there is nothing to do except wait. Receiving the personal number will take between 1 and 4 weeks. Rachel speaks excellent Svenska (Swedish) and followed up on our behalf, ensuring we had our numbers available even before they sent out the confirmation letters. After the notice was received in the mail, we went the next day to have our photos taken for our formal identification cards (officially my worst identification picture EVER). These cards have your personal number as well as not one, but four pictures; four awful pictures… From start to finish, this whole process took us about a month and a half.

After speaking with some friends, I feel it is imperative to note that our experience is in line with individuals coming in on a long term work permit. We have an American friend not on a work permit, who joined his Swedish partner and child in the country and his experience is very different. He is in a queue to be able to apply for his personal number and is anticipating waiting at least six months. He began the paperwork in August and is still waiting for his number. If you are moving, just make sure to double check these types of things in advance 😃

As a funny aside, yesterday I went to mail a package to the United States. Imagine my surprise when the customs slip on the outside of the box required me to provide my personal number! That means that if you come to Sweden for a short period of time and don’t have a personal number, mailing packages back home (non EU only I think) could be pretty tricky. This number really is THE number for everything.

Like this Ring, except it's a Number. Image:

Like this Ring, except it’s a Number. Image:

I hope the website link and this information is helpful for anyone who is planning a move to Sweden. For the rest of you, I hope you still enjoyed reading 😃

Until next time…


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