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Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

A reader got in touch to ask how long he had to work in Sweden before he was eligible for a pension. Here are Sweden's pension rules, and how you can get your pension when the time comes.

Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?
A woman working at a standing desk in an office in Stockholm. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The Swedish pension is part of the country’s social insurance system, and it can seem like a confusing beast at times. The good news is that if you’re living and working here, you’ll almost certainly be earning towards a pension, and you’ll be able to get that money even if you move elsewhere before retirement.

You will start earning your Swedish general pension, or allmän pension, once you’ve earned over 20,431 kronor in a single year, and – for almost all kinds of pension in Sweden – there is no time limit on how long you must have lived in Sweden before you are eligible.

The exception is the minimum guarantee pension, or garantipension, which you can receive whether you’ve worked or not. To be eligible at all for this, you need to have lived in Sweden for a period of at least three years before you are 65 years old. 

“There’s a limit, but it’s a money limit,” Johan Andersson, press secretary at the Swedish Pension Agency told The Local about the general pension. “When you reach the point that you start paying tax, you start paying into your pension.”

“But you have to apply for your pension, make sure you get in touch with us when you want to start receiving it,” he said.

Here’s our in-depth guide on how you can maximise your Swedish pension, even if you’re only planning on staying in Sweden short-term.

Those who spend only a few years working in Sweden will earn a much smaller pension than people who work here for their whole lives, but they are still entitled to something – people who have worked in Sweden will keep their income pension, premium pension, supplementary pension and occupational pension that they have earned in Sweden, even if they move to another country. The pension is paid no matter where in the world you live, but must be applied for – it is not automatically paid out at retirement age.

If you retire in the EU/EEA, or another country with which Sweden has a pension agreement, you just need to apply to the pension authority in your country of residence in order to start drawing your Swedish pension. If you live in a different country, you should contact the Swedish Pensions Agency for advice on accessing your pension, which is done by filling out a form (look for the form called Ansök om allmän pension – om du är bosatt utanför Sverige).

The agency recommends beginning the application process at least three months before you plan to take the pension, and ideally six months beforehand if you live abroad. It’s possible to have the pension paid into either a Swedish bank account or an account outside Sweden.

A guarantee pension – for those who live on a low income or no income while in Sweden – can be paid to those living in Sweden, an EU/EEA country, Switzerland or, in some cases, Canada. This is the only Swedish pension which is affected by how long you’ve lived in Sweden – you can only receive it if you’ve lived in the country for at least three years before the age of 65.

“The guarantee pension is residence based,” Andersson said. “But it’s lower if you haven’t lived in Sweden for at least 40 years. You are eligible for it after living in Sweden for only three years, but it won’t be that much.”

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Swedish government proposes hike to work permit salary threshold

The government wants to see a sharp increase in the minimum salary required for work permits to combat "cheating and unhealthy competition", integration minister Anders Ygeman told a press conference.

Swedish government proposes hike to work permit salary threshold

On June 9th, the government are expected to propose a change to work permit laws altering the minimum salary for work permit applicants. Currently, applicants must earn at least 13,000 kronor a month for their applications to be accepted – the government want to see this figure more than doubled.

“This limit has contributed to gross exploitation on the Swedish labour market and a breeding ground for cheating and dumped wages,” Ygeman told a press conference.

“We don’t need labour migration to jobs which don’t require an education and where there isn’t a shortage of staff.”

It’s not yet clear what the new salary limit would be, although Ygeman has said that the Moderates’ suggestion of 80 percent of the Swedish average salary, which would be a limit of 27,000-28,000 kronor, would be a reasonable starting point.

“I want to discuss this with the other parties and with labour market actors to reach broad support. I’m convinced that we will reach an agreement, as I have interpreted it, there is strong support for this.”

The new salary limit, which the government hope will be in place by the end of the year, is the latest in a string of proposals to tighten up labour migration.

As recently as June 1st, new rules came into effect, including a new talent visa for certain highly-educated, highly-qualified applicants, and a requirement that work permits can only be issued to applicants with a signed work contract.

Ygeman does not consider the rules which have already been proposed to be sufficient.

“I would say in fact that we need further measures going forward. We will, among other things, increase control and sanctions for those who continue to abuse the system,” he said.