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How to Start a Business in Sweden as a Foreigner

Mar 9, 2024 | Business Setup, Entrepreneurship

Navigating how to start a business in Sweden as a foreigner can be an exciting journey into one of the world’s most innovative and stable economies. With its strategic location in Northern Europe, Sweden is a gateway to the Nordic and Baltic markets. It offers a business-friendly climate that is conducive to growth and international trade. The country’s well-developed infrastructure, efficient regulatory framework, and highly skilled workforce make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurs and investors from around the globe.

Whether you’re a seasoned businessperson or a first-time entrepreneur, understanding the essential steps and Swedish business etiquette is key to launching and operating a successful venture in this Scandinavian nation. We provide a comprehensive overview of what you need to know to transform your business aspirations into reality in Sweden.

The Swedish Business Climate

Overview of Sweden’s Economy

Sweden’s economy is known for its competitiveness and knack for innovation, often ranking high internationally. Its openness characterises it, and it thrives by integrating cutting-edge technologies, skills, and innovative practices. The nation has a highly educated workforce, sophisticated communication infrastructure, and a stable political landscape, all of which create a business environment that supports growth and progress.

While the cost of living and labour can be high, Sweden’s economic landscape is attractive due to its low corporate income tax and rates and the lack of withholding tax on dividend payouts, making it a magnet for overseas investment.

Key Industries and Growth Sectors

The Swedish economy is diverse, with key industries like technology, renewable energy, life sciences, and automotive. These sectors benefit from the country’s strong innovation capabilities, as shown by its impressive performance in various innovation indices. Sweden’s commitment to sustainability and technological advancement is reflected in the sectors attracting significant investment from domestic and international sources.

Sweden’s membership in the European Union has further boosted its economic position by removing many barriers to foreign investment, especially in these important industries.

Business Culture and Etiquette

If you’re looking to set up a business in Sweden, it’s important to get familiar with the local business culture and etiquette. These include Swedish corporate culture values transparency, equality, and consensus-building. Business meetings are typically direct, and there’s a strong emphasis on being punctual and well-prepared.

The Swedish workforce is notably unionised, focusing significantly on workers’ rights and collective bargaining agreements. This aligns with the nation’s commitment to most International Labor Organization conventions. Businesses in Sweden are expected to adhere to local laws, international standards, and principles concerning human rights and anti-corruption.

Advantages of Starting a Business in Sweden

There are plenty of advantages to starting a business in Sweden for foreign entrepreneurs. The country’s stable investment environment is bolstered by the absence of laws that discriminate against foreign investors, including those from the United States. Sweden’s regulatory framework is designed to support and encourage portfolio investments without imposing restrictions on the transfer of profits or on payments for royalties and licensing fees.

The tax regime is favourable, with Sweden participating in a comprehensive network of double taxation treaties and supporting the global minimum corporate tax agreement. Moreover, Sweden’s adherence to the EU’s General Data Protection Directive ensures a high level of data protection, enforced by the Swedish Authority for Privacy Protection. With its strategic location and designated foreign trade zones, Sweden serves as an excellent gateway to the European market.

Sweden Aerial View

Initial Considerations for Entrepreneurs

Defining Your Business Concept

Embarking on an entrepreneurial venture in Sweden begins with a well-defined business concept. Utilise the country’s robust digital resources to refine your ideas. Engaging with a trade organisation within your industry can provide valuable insights and support.

Building a network is essential, and organisations such as Nyföretagarcentrum can be instrumental in offering advice and events to connect with other entrepreneurs.

Developing a comprehensive business plan is essential, and guidance can be found through various channels, including Verksamt.se, which outlines Swedish business plan expectations. Certain business types may require specific permits. For sole proprietorships, your business will be linked to your personal identity number, provided by the Swedish Tax Agency.

Entrepreneurs must register for F-skatt, indicating that they are operating a business. Non-EU/EEA entrepreneurs will require a residence and work permit to start their ventures. Those with temporary residency can obtain a coordination number to facilitate their F-skatt registration.

While optional, registering your business or company name with the Swedish Companies Registration Office can protect your brand.

Market Research and Feasibility Study

Understanding the market is crucial. Utilise Statistics Sweden for demographic and economic data to inform your market research. Leveraging social media platforms can be effective for expanding your professional network. This can be from a company such as LinkedIn, TikTok, Facebook, or Instagram. Verksamt.se provides regional support and information essential for assessing your business concept’s feasibility.

Business Structure Options in Sweden

Entrepreneurs can choose from various business structures under corporate taxes, with limited liability companies (LLCs) being prevalent, especially in their private form. Shareholders’ personal assets are protected from the company’s liabilities in an LLC.

General partnerships and limited partnerships are also common. Trusts are not recognised in Swedish law. Foreign entities often prefer the limited partnership or LLC model for their Swedish operations.

Legal Requirements and Regulatory Framework

The country’s regulatory environment does not typically require central or local government authorisations for business activities. While there are no general restrictions on foreign investments or shareholders, certain sectors may impose conditions on foreign ownership related to permits.

Sweden adheres to sanctions from other countries, such as the United Nations and the EU. Although there are no specific foreign exchange controls, regulations are in place to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing. Entities must disclose their beneficial ownership to the Swedish Companies Registration Office.

Sweden offers incentives such as financial support and tax relief for foreign experts and key personnel, which can be attractive to both domestic and international companies.

Sunset In Sweden

How To Register A Business In Sweden

Step-by-Step Guide to Registering Your Business

To establish a business in Sweden, it’s essential to understand the market and regulatory requirements. Leveraging the country’s digital infrastructure can facilitate this process.

Joining a trade organisation relevant to your sector can offer crucial insights and assistance. Additionally, Nyföretagarcentrum provides support and networking opportunities that can help you understand the local business environment.

Verksamt.se is a valuable resource for registration and networking, created through the collaboration of several Swedish authorities. It’s important to determine whether your own business activity requires specific permits.

For individual entrepreneurs, linking your business name/contact name to your personal identity number is a key step. Registering for F-skatt is compulsory for conducting business.

Required Documentation and Registrations

The documentation and registration requirements vary based on your nationality. Nordic citizens have a streamlined process, while EU or EEA citizens enjoy the freedom to reside in Sweden without additional documentation.

Non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals need a residence permit for stays exceeding three months or for business establishment. For those with temporary residency, a coordination number can substitute for a personal identity number, allowing them to get an employment contract and apply for F tax status.

Business name registration is conducted through the Swedish Companies Registration Office and involves a fee.

Tax Registration and Implications

Understanding tax requirements is vital for business success. The Tax Agency’s website is the starting point for tax registration, offering resources in multiple languages to assist new business owners.

Consulting with financial advisors is recommended to stay informed about tax responsibilities and other financial obligations.

Opening a Business Bank Account

Establishing a business bank account is necessary for managing your financial activities. Verksamt.se offers guidance on creating a business plan that meets the expectations of Swedish financial institutions.

The Employment Protection Act governs labour conditions, with translations available on government websites. Almi provides capital and advice for funding, representing a viable option for financial support. Maintaining communication with financial advisors is crucial for compliance and growth.

Waterway And Buildings In Sweden

Setting Up Operations

Finding a Suitable Location

Selecting the right premises is a critical step in establishing your enterprise. Sweden boasts a variety of strategic locations that are conducive to sectors such as manufacturing and logistics. Business Sweden’s interactive site selection map is a useful tool that allows you to filter potential sites by criteria including size and intended industrial use.

The map also displays essential infrastructure and areas where economic and regional growth incentives are available, aiding in identifying optimal locations. Business Sweden‘s team offers detailed analysis and assistance throughout the site selection process, ensuring a seamless initiation of your operations.

Hiring Employees and Understanding Labour Laws

Familiarising yourself with Swedish employment regulations is essential when recruiting staff. The Employment Protection Act (LAS) outlines that employment contracts are typically indefinite, with four types of fixed-term contracts available under certain conditions, such as temporary replacement roles or for individuals over 67.

Swedish labour legislation also grants comprehensive rights regarding parental leave, vacation, and pensions. It is important to consult these regulations, which are accessible on the government and employer’s official websites, to ensure legal compliance and informed employment practices.

Securing Business Insurance and Permits

Obtaining appropriate insurance and permits is vital. Insurance options cover various risks, including property damage, liability, and operational interruptions. Ensure your enterprise adheres to the terms of your insurance agreement. Insurance can be acquired through providers or via memberships in trade organisations. Companies adhering to collective agreements must secure the corresponding collective insurance.

In addition to insurance, requisite business licences must be acquired post-registration, which are essential for lawful operations. Certain sectors, such as agriculture and healthcare, require specialised permits. Relevant authorities, including the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority and the Swedish Transport Agency, issue these. Identifying and complying with industry-specific regulations is imperative.

Establishing Supply Chain and Distribution

Creating a robust supply chain and distribution network is crucial, with a particular focus on sustainability for small and medium-sized enterprises. The initiative “Sustainable supply chains in Swedish industry” explores methods to enhance sustainability in supply chains and is developing a model for supplier sustainability assurance in collaboration with Linköping University and sustainability leaders in Swedish industry.

Participation in such initiatives can help integrate sustainable practices into your supply chain from inception, establishing your business as a responsible entity in the Swedish market.

Buildings In Sweden

Financial Considerations and Support

Creating a Business Plan for Funding

When you’re looking to attract financial support, a well-crafted business plan is indispensable. It should outline your strategic vision and is essential for discussions with potential financiers. Resources and guidance for commercialising your ideas are available from Tillväxtverket and academic institutions such as the University of Linköping and the Royal Institute of Technology.

Overview of Government Grants and Subsidies

The startup ecosystem in Sweden is bolstered by various government initiatives designed to encourage new business ventures. Agencies like Tillväxtverket and Almi företagspartner, along with Jordbruksverket, offer financial assistance tailored to startups’ needs. Jordbruksverket, for instance, provides support specifically for young farmers, while Almi företagspartner offers loans with an EIF guarantee. Additionally, the Public Employment Service provides aid to young entrepreneurs.

Understanding Tax Incentives and Exemptions

It’s crucial to understand the tax benefits available to businesses. The accruals reserve regime is one such benefit, allowing tax-deductible appropriations. ‘Expert tax relief’ for foreign citizens is another, offering a reduction in tax and social security charges for foreign experts and key personnel for a limited period. A tax credit is also available to offset other taxes in case of negative investment income and capital gains/losses. Skatteverket can provide further information on these benefits.

Accessing Venture Capital and Angel Investors

Venture capital and angel investors are vital sources of capital for more significant funding needs. They support startups at various development stages and in diverse sectors. Networks such as Connect Sverige, Propel Capital, and Keiretsu Forum facilitate connections with business angels. Additionally, incubators, accelerators, and crowdfunding platforms provide funding, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Presenting a strong business case is essential to secure investment from these sources.

Canal And Buildings In Sweden

Embark on Your Swedish Business Journey

Embarking on your entrepreneurial journey in Sweden as a foreigner is an exciting endeavour, brimming with potential and bolstered by a supportive infrastructure. Sweden offers a landscape ripe for success with its innovative climate, robust economy, and favourable business structures. As you navigate the market, remember that thorough planning, understanding local regulations, and embracing Swedish business culture are key to establishing a thriving venture. Tap into the wealth of resources and networks available to smooth your path.

Whether your business aims to harness Sweden’s technological prowess or its commitment to sustainability, a world of opportunity awaits. So gear up, leverage the strategic advantages, and let Sweden be the launchpad for your global business ambitions. Welcome to the gateway of European enterprise!


Can a Foreigner Open a Company in Sweden?

Yes, a foreigner can open a company in Sweden. There are no citizenship or residency requirements for starting a business in Sweden. However, if you do not reside in the European Economic Area (EEA), you may need to apply for a Swedish residency permit to operate your business within the country. It’s advisable to consult the Swedish Companies Registration Office (Bolagsverket) and the Swedish Migration Agency for specific requirements and procedures.

Can I Start My Own Business in Sweden?

Absolutely, you can start your own business in Sweden. The process is straightforward and supported by a business-friendly regulatory environment. You’ll need to choose a business structure, such as a sole trader (enskild näringsidkare), a trading partnership, or a limited company (aktiebolag), and register your business with the Swedish Companies Registration Office (Bolagsverket). Be prepared to comply with Swedish business regulations and taxation requirements.

What is the Most Profitable Business in Sweden?

Sweden’s most profitable business sectors often include technology, green energy, life sciences, and the service industry, including IT services, financial services, and tourism. Sweden’s strong emphasis on innovation, sustainability, and high-quality living standards creates opportunities for regional growth in these areas. However, profitability can vary widely based on market needs, business models, and execution, so thorough market research is essential.

How Much Does it Cost to Register a Business in Sweden?

The business registration cost in Sweden varies by type of business entity. Registration is free of charge for a sole trader. Registering a limited company (aktiebolag) involves a fee of USD 215 (SEK 2,200) for electronic registration or SEK 2,800 for paper form registration. Trading partnerships and limited partnerships have a registration fee of USD 98 (SEK 1,000). These fees are accurate as of the latest information available and are subject to change, so checking with the Swedish Companies Registration Office (Bolagsverket) is recommended for the most current fee structure.

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