Tag Archives: personal number

Life in Sweden without a personal number

The personal number is the access key to almost everything in Sweden.

I don’t have one. I am numberless. I am invisible in Sweden.

On a 1-year course (which is technically only 10 months) we are not eligible to be placed on the population register and receive a personal number.

Not having a personal number is really really really annoying.
skatteverketTo clear up a few rumours I thought I’d list a few of my successes and failures since arriving in Sweden without the magic number.


  1. Bank account

Yes, I managed to get a bank account! This was fairly straight forward and the Norrtull branch of Handelsbanken in Stockholm are really accommodating to Karolinska Institutet students. Had to book an appointment, bring evidence of my studies and genuinely bring a REAL Swede with me…as if a passport wasn’t enough to prove my identity. Sometimes the bureaucracy in this country is insane.

Still be warned. Although I now have an account, I had one occasion where a different branch of the bank would not allow me to pay money in because I lacked the personal number, so I had to return to the branch I opened the account at…


  1. SFI

Check! The rules on Swedish for Immigrants have changed so anyone with an EU passport can sign up. See my blog about this.

  1. Healthcare

Again, slight different rules for EU citizens. The European Healthcare Insurance Card is satisfactory for getting healthcare at the same cost as Swedes. Some Vårdcentrals (general medical centres) won’t let you register without the number but most will issue you with a reserve number as long as you have the EHIC card.

giphy (1)


  1. SL registration

SL is the public transport system in Stockholm. To register your card in case of theft, loss or damage you must have a personal number. Without registering it you won’t be able to get back your prepaid travel card if you misplace it.

giphy (3)When you think you don’t need a personal number to do something – but then find out you really do.

  1. Mobile phone

Most of the main mobile phone contract providers won’t start contracts with numberless people. Which means we’re stuck with pay-as-you-go…in addition you can’t even register your PAYG SIM with the provider to get any deals or benefits.

giphy (2)

  1. Swish and BankID

Presuming that you managed to get a bank account – Swish is an app which allows bank transfers via mobile phone number. To get Swish you need a BankID. To get BankID, you guessed it – you need a personal number. This means you end up being that friend who pays back their IOUs back in small change and coins…your friends start to hate you, it’s a slippery slope to social isolation.


  1. Membership cards

You cannot register for any store membership or reward cards. No discounts, no offers, no money left. You file for bankruptcy.


  1. Collecting mail and parcels

Even collecting your post is a hassle. Without a Swedish ID card you MUST take your passport. Otherwise prepare to get treated like you’re trying to commit identity fraud.


  1. Insurance

All insurance policies in Sweden require a PN. Uninsured iPhone, laptop and student room.

  1. Public library

As a student this doesn’t affect you too much as most University library’s should suffice. However, if you feel like immersing yourself into some classic literature you’ll be extremely disappointed to find that most library cards require a number for registration.


WARNING: These are only my experiences. Other people in different cities may have different successes and failures. Bribery not encouraged or advised.

SFI without a personal number!

I decided to study in Sweden for a number of reasons, one being the opportunity to begin to properly learn a language. As a typical Brit, I only speak English…despite having 5 years of French lessons during school.

Since moving to Stockholm I’ve been keen to have lessons and get talking the lingo. My svenska journey started back in September during introduction week when my university offered international students a free 3-day language course. At the end of the course I was super keen to continue to learn and felt the 3-days gave me and excellent basis to build upon. Our teacher explained to us about Swedish for Immigrants (SFI, svenska för invandare) and encouraged us that this was the best way to keep developing our skills.

SFI is the free course for anyone moving to Sweden to live, work or study. It is organised by the city council depending on where you are living, for me this is Stockholms stad. So I started researching how I could sign up…

I found the phrase I feared most:

“In order to study SFI, you must be registered in Stockholm City and you should have received your full national registration number.”

As a student on a 1-year course I don’t qualify for a personal number. The reoccurring theme in Sweden is that your need a personal number for EVERYTHING. I asked a few people about SFI and the personal number, everyone told me you definitely need one.


When you find out you need a personal number to do everything in this country.

I gave up the idea of SFI and went to some informal lessons with Language@KI taught by a medical student for 2 hours a week. Although these were great fun and helpful, I really needed some more hours per week to really get to grips of Swedish. I was also using Duolingo to supplement the lessons.

Anyway, a new year a new beginning. I will do more Swedish in 2016. My housemate also had the same New Years Resolution so we looked into SFI again.

A new phrase had appeared on the website:

“If you are an EU / EEA citizen or citizen of Switzerland you should have a right of residence (for work, studies) and be a resident in Stockholm. Bring your passport (to show citizenship).”

No personal number required!


When you find out you don’t need a personal number for everything in this country.

Whether this is a new exception or the rumours about the personal number and SFI were false for EU citizens, I’m not sure. BUT we visited SFI on Wednesday, passports in hand and registered successfully. CHECK!


  • You don’t need a personal number for SFI
  • If you don’t have a personal number – you need to be an EU citizen
  • A coordination number is also fine for registering
  • Bring your passport!
  • Congrats – can you now learn Swedish.

I start SFI on the 25th January with 3 of my friends doing 9 hours a week. It’s is going to be intense.