A technical mishap between SULF and Folksam has resulted in a number of members being wrongly informed that their membership in SULF has ended and thus the insurance has ended. It is only those who themselves ended their SULF membership where this applies. More information here.

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Non-Swedish doctoral candidates and social insurance benefits

There are two types of benefits within the Swedish social insurance system: employment-based benefits and residence-based benefits. Work-based benefits provide benefits for those who are, or have been, employed. This type of benefit is used for, for example, sick leave or parental leave. Residence-based benefits include for example children’s allowance, housing allowance, parental benefit at the minimum or basic level and dental care benefits.

Work-based benefits

In order to be covered by work-based benefits you must be, or have been, employed on a salary in Sweden that will qualify you for SGI (sickness benefit qualifying income). In some cases, income from work in other EU/EEA countries (incl. Switzerland) may also form the basis for benefits. Following a judgment by the European Court and two judgments by the Swedish Supreme Administrative Court, a person who comes to Sweden after working in another EU country (incl. EEA countries and Switzerland) may also be entitled to work-based benefits despite not having worked in Sweden. If you are in this situation, we are very keen for you to contact us at SULF.

Residence-based benefits

These include children's allowance, housing allowance, parental allowance at minimum or basic levels plus dental care benefits.

In order to be covered by residence-based benefits you must meet the requirements necessary to be considered a resident of Sweden (see below). These rules are not the same as those set for registration in the population register which in turn is the basis for the right to free medical care.

Challenges for doctoral candidates

Work-based benefits for employed doctoral candidates do not usually cause any problems. It is however important to note that and scholarships cannot form qualification for work-based benefits. However, there have been major problems regarding entitlement to residence-based benefits.

After SULF successfully took some cases to court and after the union contacted the Social Insurance Agency HQ, there are now new guidelines for the application of these regulations in place all over the country. SULF considers these as correct, however please note that in spite of  this it is vital for those affected to stay well-informed of the regulatory framework for residence-based benefits so you receive the benefits you are entitled to.

Conditions for residence-based benefits

The primary rule in Swedish legislation on social security is that a person is considered a resident if he or she intends to stay here more than one year.

There are some exceptions to this rule. The exception that affects some doctoral candidates is that those who come to Sweden to study are not considered resident here, even if their stay is intended to last for more than one year. In turn, there are then exceptions for certain students as is explained below. These exceptions mean that many students, after all, have the right to residence-based benefits.

In order to be entitled to a particular benefit, in addition to being considered a resident in Sweden, you must also meet specific requirements set out for that particular benefit. For example, the right to housing allowance depends on age, family situation, the cost of the home and the family's income level.

Anyone who comes to Sweden to do postdoc or equivalent may never be regarded as a student according to this body of regulations.

Foreign students with employment

A doctoral candidate who is employed in such a position may not, according to the preparatory works for the legislation and judicial practice, be treated as a student but as any other worker anywhere. This means the following:

For employed non-EU/EEA nationals who do not come to Sweden from another country within the EC
As a PhD from non-EU/EEA country, you are entitled to residence-based benefits if you intend to stay in Sweden for more than a year.

Since you are usually employed in a PhD position which may only be granted for a year the first time it has sometimes been questioned if your stay is going to be longer than one year.

According to the legal precedent achieved by SULF, and the new guidelines that have been distributed to Social Insurance offices, it can be concluded that this normally does not pose an obstacle to you receiving these benefits. What may be required is that you, in connection with your request for registration or application for a residence-based benefit, produce a certificate proving that your stay will be for a longer period than one year. This may be, for example, a certificate from your department head or supervisor and a copy of your study plan. You should also send a copy of your decision on population registration (issued by the Tax Agency). Read more in Försäkringskassans guidance (in Swedish only).

That your residence permit has been issued for studies, despite the fact that you are employed, is no obstacle to receiving these benefits. This is made clear in the information that has been issued within the Social Insurance Agency.

The accompanying family members of an employed doctoral candidate are also entitled to residence-based benefits if the employee is entitled to them. This means that they are entitled to, for example, children's allowance, parental allowance at the basic level and dental care benefits if the conditions for each benefit are satisfied.

In order to obtain work-based benefits, however, it is necessary that a member of the family is entitled to them through their employment.

Employed EU/EEA nationals (including citizens of Switzerland) and third country nationals who come to Sweden from another country within the Community
As an employed doctoral candidate from these countries, EU regulations are taken into account. This means that, primarily, you should be entitled to all the benefits covered by EU regulations governing the matter when in Sweden, work-based or residence-based.

In practice, this means that you do not need to provide proof of an intended stay exceeding one year. However, it is worth noting that there may be benefits in Sweden that are residence-based and not covered by EU regulations. For entitlement to such benefits you must meet the same requirements as for doctoral candidates from outside the EU/EEA.

With regard to third country nationals who come to Sweden from Denmark, special rules apply as Denmark applies some exceptions to both the EU regulations and the Nordic Convention which supplements these regulations.

If you are employed by an employer abroad, such a university in another country, in some cases you may be insured in that country and not in Sweden.

Non-Swedish doctoral candidates on scholarships or other types of funding that are not employment
Unfortunately, doctoral candidates on scholarships are not entitled to receive residence-based benefits, even if they can prove that they will be in Sweden for longer than one year, as they are regarded as students. Nordic citizens and others who come to Sweden from another Nordic country may be entitled to benefits according to the Nordic Convention.

As the EU regulation covering social security for individuals moving within the Union has recently been clarified on the subject of rules for people moving within the EU who are neither employed nor self-employed, it is possible that EU/EEA nationals (and Swiss nationals) and third-country nationals who come to Sweden from another EU/EEA country are entitled to receive residence-based benefits. This also applies to people on scholarships or people who have moved to Sweden in order to study.

Following a recent decision in the EC court and two verdicts in the Supreme Administrative Court, it is also possible that a person coming to Sweden after having worked in another country within the EU, the EEA or Switzerland is also entitled to receive employment-based benefits, even if he or she does not work in Sweden. Please contact SULF if you are in this situation.