The curse of (not getting) the Swedish personnummer

You are always told by people around you that life is easier as a student. Truly the world changes and sometimes problems metamorphose to dilemmas after you graduate. I say this at the risk of sounding over dramatic.

This blog post defines my frustrations that are entangled with the personummar.

The Swedish personal number or personnummer is your identity in Sweden. It is something like the American Social Security number. This sacred number issued by the Skatteverket (Swedish Tax Agency) has all your information, address, medical records etc. Getting this number means you are in the population register. It means literally that you exist, in Sweden.

If you are in the Global Health program, your visa is less than a year which also means you do not get a personnummer. This means you live carefully. Someone who came to Sweden a few years ago, told us that in their initial days, they would tell each other not to fall sick if they didnt have a personnummer, because healthcare costs a fortune. And if you come from a low or low-middle income country you might not have insurance to begin with. (Edit: All fee-paying students are covered by KI’s insurance for international students which includes health insurance, so this shouldn’t be a problem)

My frustration escalated after graduation, when I went to SFI and later to SFA to get enrolled for Swedish language course. I really want to learn the language because I figure I would like to work as a doctor at some point here. Knowing Swedish would also increase my chances of getting a job here. But there are some jobs which I cannot apply for since I don’t know Swedish.

To my disappointment, I being a non-EU citizen and not having the desired visa extension, could not enrol there. That hurt, I felt segregated, turned down, rejected, just because I was not EU.

It felt like a tight circle where you are not allowed to enter. To get inside you have to go through numerous hoops just to prove you are good enough to stay here.

Everything keeps circling back to the fact that I don’t have a personnummer which requires an extended visa of over a year which I cannot get because I don’t have a job. Getting a job would get easier if I knew Swedish. I cannot get into SFI to learn Swedish because I don’t have a personnummer.

I believe my patience and optimism in this country is finally being tested. So to all my friends who are in the situation now or might be in the future, chin up, don’t lose hope. You have to keep trying, knocking on all the doors and something will come up. At least that is what I tell myself 😀

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