Contacts with government agencies

Last updated: 20 9 2021

About Sweden – an orientation about Swedish society.

This text is about contact with government agencies in Sweden. In your everyday life, you may need to be in contact with many different government agencies.

If you are moving to a new address, for example, you will need to contact the Tax Agency. Or maybe you are going to take parental leave and need to ask Försäkringskassan about parental allowance. This text explains your right to an interpreter and how government agencies manage personal data, among other things. It also describes population registration, ID cards and e-IDs.

  • The right to information and accessibility

    Everyone is entitled to search for and read information from government agencies. This is one of the foundations of freedom of opinion and expression, and the right covers information about society, such as what laws there are, as well information about you, such as if you have a case pending with a government agency.

    Government agencies have to make sure that people in different circumstances are able to receive and understand the information they provide. For example, when you meet with officials from the state or municipality, you may be entitled to an interpreter if you do not speak or understand Swedish or if you use sign language.

    You are entitled to receive or be able to request documents from government agencies in the appropriate format for you, such as Braille, easy-to-read text, or text that can be listened to with an aid. Digital information from government agencies also has to be adapted to people’s different circumstances. This means, for instance, that agencies have to put subtitles in their videos and that the text on agencies’ websites has to be easy to understand.

Contacting a government agency in Sweden

You are entitled to contact government agencies and they are obliged to help you when you do.

There are different ways you can contact a government agency in Sweden. If you have basic questions, the best thing is to visit the agency's website on the internet. It is common for government agencies' websites to have information in various languages. You can also visit the agency in person, for example, by going to a service centre (servicekontor) where several government agencies collaborate. The staff in service centres can answer questions regarding several different agencies, such as Försäkringskassan, the Tax Agency, the Pensions Agency, and Arbetsförmedlingen. At the bigger service centres, there are often staff who can help you in several other languages besides Swedish.

Your right to an interpreter

In all your contacts with government agencies, municipalities, and medical care services, you may be entitled to an interpreter if you do not speak or understand Swedish. You are entitled to request an interpreter, for example, if you need one in order to understand your matter with the agency or in order to make yourself understood. You have to say that you need an interpreter when you make the appointment for your visit. The agency will often book an interpreter if you tell them you need one. Ask the agency in question if you are not sure.

It is important that you contact government agencies if you receive information from them that you do not understand.

Example: Martin needs an interpreter

Martin is soon going on parental leave to be with his son, Julian. He has filled in an application for parental allowance on Försäkringskassan's website, but he is uncertain about whether he filled in the information in the right way. Martin arrived in Sweden recently and has not learned Swedish yet. He finds it difficult to understand the information on Försäkringskassan's website, and he does not speak any of the languages that Försäkringskassan provides information in.

Option 1: Martin calls Försäkringskassan as he wants an administrator to help him with his matter. The administrator makes the assessment that an interpreter will be needed and makes an appointment for a separate meeting with Martin and an interpreter.

Option 2: Martin decides to go to a service centre for help. The service centre administrator makes the assessment that an interpreter is needed and makes an appointment for a separate meeting with Martin and an interpreter.

Confidentiality

Most documents at government agencies, regions, and municipalities are public. They are known as public official documents, which means that anyone is allowed to read them. If you send an email to a government agency, for example, other people can request to read it.

Before a government agency releases an official document, they always make an assessment of whether it contains any confidential information. This is known as a confidentiality assessment. Agencies are not permitted to release official documents protected by confidentiality regulations. Documents that contain information about a person's health, for example, may be protected by confidentiality regulations.

Government agencies process your personal data

When you contact government agencies, you often have to show your ID. The agency needs to confirm that they are dealing with you and no-one else. You may also have to give other personal data to the agency.

Examples of personal data include:

  • Your name
  • Your personal identity number
  • Your email address
  • Your phone number

You are entitled to know what personal data a government agency has about you. Contact the agency in question if you want this information. You can also contact them if you want them to change or remove your personal data. Sometimes a government agency needs to save your personal data – if so, they will tell you and explain why.

Some personal data is sensitive information. Government agencies are usually not allowed to handle sensitive personal data, but there are exceptions. Sometimes the medical care services, for example, are allowed to handle sensitive personal data about your health. Some information about your health is in your medical records, for example. Medical care services are obliged to keep medical records. They use and save personal data in order to make your treatment and care as good as possible.

Examples of sensitive personal data include information about:

  • Ethnic origin
  • Political views
  • Religion
  • Health and medical care
  • A person's sexual orientation
  • A person's functional impairment

If you feel that a government agency is handling your personal data in the wrong way, you can make a complaint to the Authority for Privacy Protection (Integritetsskyddsmyndigheten, or IMY). It is a government agency which monitors whether those who handle personal data comply with the law.

Protected personal data

If you are at risk of being subjected to crime, persecution, or serious harassment, you may in some cases be allowed to have your personal data protected. This might mean, for example, that your name and address are protected in the population register, which makes it more difficult for other people to find out where you live. Information in the population register is normally public.

There are three types of protected personal data: protected population registration, confidentiality flag, and fictitious personal data.

The Tax Agency or the police decide whether you can have protected personal data. You can apply for protected population registration and confidentiality flag from the Tax Agency. You have to apply to the police if you want fictitious personal data.

More information is available on the Tax Agency's website about protected personal data, how you apply, and what it means to live with protected personal data.

One reason to get protected personal data is if your are being subjected to violence by your partner or family.

You are entitled to a fair treatment when you contact public authorities

When you contact the national government, a government agency, a regional administration or a municipality, you are entitled to fair and equal treatment. The people employed there have to treat every person equally and maintain an objective attitude. They are not allowed, for example, to let their own opinions influence decisions they make.

Equal treatment does not always have to mean that each person has to be received in exactly the same way, but it should be equally good for all members of the population, regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, for example.

People who work in central government administration, government agencies, regional administration or municipalities must not discriminate when they are in contact with you or anyone else. What constitutes discriminatory treatment is determined in each individual case, but an example might be that an official you meet uses disparaging words against you. It might also be that you are denied access to documents you are entitled to see or that the official refuses to return your calls. In order to be classified as discrimination, the treatment you receive must be possible to link to one of the seven discrimination grounds described in the Discrimination Act. These seven grounds include age, functional impairment, gender and ethnicity.

Population registration

The Population Register (Folkbokföringen) contains the basic registration of everyone who lives in Sweden. Folkbokföringen has a record of your personal data, such as your residential address and if you are married or have children. Where you are registered as resident determines where you have to pay tax, where you can vote, and rights to various allowances and benefits. Each municipality also plans its activities based on how many people are registered as resident in it.

When you become registered in the population register, you receive a personal identity number that you will keep throughout your life. Your personal identity number is made up of your date of birth followed by four digits. You will need your personal identity number when you contact hospitals, government agencies, and municipalities, for example.

The Tax Agency shares the information about you in the population register with other government agencies and with banks. That means that you do not have to notify them yourself when you, for instance, move or change your name.
You have to be registered in the Swedish population register to apply for an ID card, for example.

ID card

"ID card" is an abbreviation of identity card. You use your ID card to prove your identity when you buy medication in a pharmacy, for example, or when you do bank business.

In order to apply for an ID card you have to be registered in Sweden, be at least 13 years old and be able to prove your identity. If you are under 18 years of age you need your guardian's consent in order to get an ID card. A guardian is the person or persons who is legally responsible for a child under 18.

You can prove your identity by showing an approved identity document, your residence permit card, or by taking a person along who can certify who you are.

You have to visit one of the Tax Agency's service centres to apply for an ID card. You need to book an appointment at the service centre before going there.

The Tax Agency's ID card is valid for five years. It is an approved identity document in Sweden. You cannot use the Tax Agency's ID card instead of a passport when travelling outside of Sweden. It is only valid in Sweden. If you lose your ID card, you have to call to block it. That way no-one else can use your ID card. If your ID card gets stolen, you have to report the theft to the police.

Population registration certificate

A national registration certificate is a document that shows what information the Tax Agency has about you, such as your name, address and marital status. You need a national registration certificate e.g. to get a driving licence. Bear in mind that a national registration certificate cannot be used to prove your identity.

If you need a birth certificate, you can order one on the Tax Agency's website. Birth certificates that only contain information about you can be printed out directly or downloaded to your computer. You can also visit a service centre and order a birth certificate there.

The digital society

Swedish society is becoming increasingly digital. This affects us all. Your contact with government agencies, for example, can be digital by means of various websites or apps. You can also use the internet to do your bank business, read the news, and stay in touch with family and friends.

E-legitimation (E-ID)

E-ID is an electronic identity document which is comparable to an ordinary ID document. You can use an e-ID to prove your identity securely on a website or in an app, for example. One type of e-ID is BankID. There are several other types, including Freja eID and AB Svenska Pass.

BankID is a simple way of providing your ID, e.g. when you enter into a contract, and electronically sign for payments on the internet. Using your electronic signature via BankID is legally binding in the same way as a physical signature.

Banks are the issuers of BankIDs. You need to have a Swedish personal identity number in order to obtain a BankID.

Safety:

  • BankID is your personal e-ID. Do not use BankID if someone else asks you to do so, for instance if you get contacted by phone or via social media.
  • The security code for your BankID is personal. Never reveal the security code to anyone else. If you do, you risk being defrauded.

E-services

Many government agencies have e-services – sometimes called self-service. E-services are services you can use to carry out various tasks via your computer or mobile phone. One example of an e-service is that you can apply for introduction benefit on Försäkringskassan's website. Often, you need an e-ID in order to use e-services.

Email

Email is an internet service that sometimes replaces ordinary mail. You can use email to contact businesses, government agencies and organisations. Among the most common email services are Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo.

If you have an email address, you may have experienced receiving fake email messages. There are people who may try to trick you into giving them information or money. They may also try to spread viruses, which is damaging code sent via email or other digital channels. You might get an email which looks like it is from you bank or a government agency, and which asks you to send your account information or click on a link. What you can do is separately contact the agency or company that appears to have sent the email to check whether it really is from them. Do not reply to the email straight away; check the agency's or company's website instead. Never give your passwords, access codes, or card details to anyone asking for them in an email, a text message, or a phone call.

  • Questions to think about

    What things might be difficult to do if you do not have access to or know how to use the internet, computers, and mobile phones?

Source evaluation on the internet

It is easy for almost anyone to publish almost anything on the internet. That makes it hard to know which information you can trust and which information could be fake. It is important to evaluate the sources of online information.

Begin by asking yourself: Who wrote this text and why?

For correct and up-to-date information about a government agency, visit its website.