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Exporting cultural goods

Have you won a painting, a book or a beautiful old desk at auction? Or have you bought a clock, a piano or perhaps a boat on the internet? Are you going to move abroad and want to take your treasures with you? Or are you thinking about selling them to someone outside Sweden? If so, you need to check whether your item needs an export permit from the Swedish National Heritage Board.

A large number of cultural goods are exported from Sweden every year. It can be hard to know whether this kind of item needs a permit before it can leave the country.

Here we describe the rules that apply to exporting cultural goods:

  • The categories of objects covered by legislation.
  • How to apply for a permit.
  • Which agencies need to be informed and decide whether a permit can be granted, and how the item can be assessed.
  • The risks of breaking the rules.

You may need a permit to export older cultural goods from Sweden

The export rules on cultural goods exist to protect Sweden’s cultural heritage. In particular, the rules aim to protect items that especially help us to understand the culture of the past. Our shared cultural heritage also includes items that provide information on historic events and belong to environments or people that are important to cultural history.

Anyone wishing to export an item that is judged to be highly significant to Sweden’s cultural heritage may have their application for an export permit refused.

Two types of permit

Export permit

An export permit is required for cultural goods that are covered by Swedish legislation. The categories of object that require an export permit are listed in the Annex to the Swedish Historic Environment Ordinance (1988:1188). This also sets out the thresholds that apply regarding the age and the value of the object.

Anyone wishing to take outside Sweden cultural goods that fall under any of these categories must therefore apply for an export permit.

Export licence

If the cultural goods are to be exported outside the EU’s customs area, an export licence is also required in some cases.

Within the EU there are provisions aimed at protecting cultural goods from being exported from the European Community illegally. Uniform controls are maintained at the external border of the European Community to prevent exports that contravene the provisions.

The EU-wide export rules cover some categories of object that differ from those that apply in Swedish legislation. In many cases different thresholds also apply in terms of the age and the value of the object. This means it is important to always check whether cultural goods leaving the EU’s customs territory require an export permit and an export licence, only an export permit, or only an export licence.


Read more: The following pages contain all the information on consideration of applications for export permits and licences, current categories of objects requiring a permit, how to apply for a permit and what happens in the event of breaching the regulations. If you would prefer to print out the information, the rules are provided in a summarised version and as a brochure.

Contact: Maria Adolfsson, Swedish National Heritage Board, 08–5191 81 79, maria.adolfsson@raa.se.


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