People and government agencies

Last updated: 23 9 2021

About Sweden – an orientation about Swedish society.

Adrian has just moved to Sweden. He has been in touch with government agencies before, in Sweden as well as in other countries. But the ones in Sweden seem to work differently, and they have different names from the agencies Adrian was in touch with before. Which government agency should he contact if he needs advice about looking for a job? Which agency should he contact if he wants to get a driving licence? It is not easy to know what all the different government agencies do.

This text is about government agencies in Sweden. It describes what different agencies do and the kinds of decisions they make that might affect your everyday life. It also describes how you appeal a decision by a government agency.

  • 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.

Government agencies in Sweden

In Sweden, there are government agencies, regions, and municipalities. They have different tasks and areas of responsibility.

Government agencies

There are several hundred government agencies in Sweden. Their task is to ensure that the laws enacted by the Riksdag and the government are implemented.

Regions

There are 21 administrative regions in Sweden. Regions are managed by politicians elected by people who live in each region. Among the regions' main responsibilities are medical care and public transport. Sweden is geographically divided into 21 counties, and each county has a governing authority known as the county administrative board (länsstyrelsen).

Municipalities

There are 290 municipalities in Sweden. Municipalities are in charge of public services in their geographical area, such as schools, childcare, and care for the elderly. The politicians who manage municipalities are elected by each municipality's inhabitants in municipal elections.

You will be in contact with government agencies at many points in your life. If you are applying for a residence permit, for example, you visit the Migration Agency. There are other government agencies that make decisions which affect your everyday life, such as Arbetsförmedlingen, Försäkringskassan, and the Tax Agency (Skatteverket).

Appealing a decision by a government agency

If you receive a decision from a government agency that you think is wrong, you can appeal the decision. The agency issuing the decision has to inform you about how you can appeal it. This information will be provided along with the decision. It will tell you how to appeal, what the final date for sending in your appeal is, and if you need to include any documents with your appeal.

Example: Anita gets help to appeal a decision

Anita is 73 years old and has applied for home help service from the social services in the municipality where she lives. A support officer examines whether Anita is in need of support. After the examination, the support officer sends the decision by letter to Anita. Her application has been turned down, and she will not be getting home help service. She thinks this is wrong. What should she do? The letter with the decision says something about appeals, but she finds it hard to understand. She calls the support officer, who has to inform Anita how she can appeal the decision to the administrative court.

Some municipalities have a citizens' office where you can also get help and more information about how to appeal a decision.

What do the different government agencies do?

There are many government agencies in Sweden. This page has information about some of the agencies you may need to have contact with.

Who monitors the government agencies?

Government agencies and courts of law, and those who work there, have to carry out their duties and comply with the law. They are therefore monitored and audited by other agencies, including the Parliamentary Ombudsmen (Justitieombudsmännen, or JO) and the Chancellor of Justice (Justitiekanslern, or JK).

The JO and JK have to ensure that the courts and government agencies handle cases and matters in the correct way. If you feel that you or someone else has been wrongly treated by a government agency or a court, you can make a complaint about it to the JO or JK. Anyone can make a complaint. You do not have to be above a certain age. You do not have to be a Swedish citizen or be resident in Sweden in order to make a complaint.