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How to get Swedish citizenship or stay permanently in Sweden

Like Sweden so much you want to stay forever – or even become a Swede? The process can seem daunting, so The Local has looked into what you need to know about getting Swedish citizenship or the right to stay in Sweden permanently.

How to get Swedish citizenship or stay permanently in Sweden
A child waving a Swedish flag. Photo: Emelie Asplund/

Exactly how to obtain the permanent right to live in Sweden depends on your citizenship and any existing permits.

The processes can appear complicated, but here are the key things to know about the main routes to permanent residence and citizenship.

First, it’s worth knowing that if you’re an EU citizen who is studying, working in Sweden or you otherwise have the means to support yourself, you automatically have right of residence in Sweden without needing to apply for any specific permit or proof. But there are a few benefits to applying for permanent residence, including added security in case you find yourself no longer fitting in those categories in future.

As for non-EU citizens, again permanent residence gives extra security once you are eligible to apply.

Permanent residence: EU citizens moving to Sweden to live with a partner

An EU citizen without the right of residence in Sweden (i.e. someone who is not working, studying or able to support themselves in the country) can apply for a resident permit if they have a family member who lives in Sweden and wish to live together.

This is a good option for people who want to move to their partner but do not yet have their own job or studies set up – or even people who do have a job or studies lined up, but want the added security of permanent residence from day one.

In that case, if you’ve lived together with the person for at least two years outside Sweden, Sweden’s Migration Agency says you “normally receive a permanent residence permit” – provided you apply “as soon as possible after your relative moves to Sweden”. If it’s a longer time since the move, that means “it is normally not possible” to obtain the permit, however.

The relative already in Sweden also needs to meet a maintenance requirement by having a sufficient salary to support both of you. In 2021, that’s judged as at least 8,287 kronor per month after all housing costs for two adults living together.

Applications are filled out online, and are free of charge for all EU citizens. The application can be found here. If a permanent residence permit is not granted, a two-year temporary residence permit may be issued instead.

Permanent residence: EU citizens who have lived in Sweden at least five years

As previously mentioned, all EU citizens working, studying or with the means to support themselves have the right of residence in Sweden without applying for a permit (your own EU passport is all you need), but after five years of living in Sweden, people in this category can also apply for “permanent right of residence”.

This secures your right to stay in the country even if you stop being able to support yourself, so some people who may not yet be eligible for citizenship, for example if you are not able to get dual citizenship or cannot yet afford the fee for citizenship, may choose to apply for this status.

A certificate confirming that permanent right of residence can be issued for no fee upon request by filling out the form “Intyg om permanent uppehållsrätt”, found here.

If you have right of residence as a family member of an EU citizen and have lived together with a close relative in Sweden for at least five years, then you may also meet the criteria for permanent right of residence.

The Swedish Migration Agency office in Solna. Photo: Adam Wrafter/SvD/TT

Long-term resident status: non-EU citizens

There are several different options for non-EU citizens, which depend on which type of permit you have previously lived in Sweden on.

Non-EU citizens who have lived in Sweden for five years with a valid residence permit and can prove they were capable of supporting themselves and their family during that time can also apply for long-term resident status by filling in the form “Ansökan om status som varaktigt bosatt”, found here.

Long-term resident status is valid for as long as the person resides in Sweden, but your long-term resident status may be withdrawn after six years of living away from the country.

Permanent residence: non-EU citizens

You can only apply for permanent residence after a minimum of three years in Sweden as a general rule, with exceptions for self-employed people who can apply after two years and quota refugees who receive permanent residence permits from their first application. The exact time and requirements depend on which type of permit you are on, but in practice, most people can only apply for permanent residence after at least four years in Sweden.

If you moved to Sweden to live with your partner or close family member, you can apply for permanent residence after three years. However, permits are usually issued for two years at a time, so usually the application will be done after four years. The fee is 2,000 kronor.

If you have lived in Sweden with a residence permit for doctoral students for at least four years out of the past seven, you can also apply for permanent residence. Again, you must be able to prove you can support yourself financially. This application costs 1,500 kronor.

If you have lived in Sweden on a work permit, you can apply for a permanent residence permit when you extend this permit if you have worked for at least four years out of the last seven. You need to meet the same requirements as for an extension of your temporary work permit (for example, meeting minimum salary requirements) and you also need to meet the special requirements for permanent residence, including being able to support yourself financially and having lived an “orderly life”. It costs 2,000 kronor to extend a work permit, plus an extra 1,500 kronor per adult and 750 kronor per child if you have family members applying with you.

If you are self-employed, you can apply for a permanent residence permit after two years when it is time to renew your temporary permit. You need to be able to support yourself financially on the income from the company, spend more than six months of each year in Sweden, own at least 50 percent of your Swedish company, and be living an orderly life. The fee is 2,000 kronor.

There are a few exceptions to the fees for permanent residence permits. Citizens of Japan are exempt from all application fees; doctoral students with certain scholarships are exempt from the fees; and family members of non-Swedish EU/EEA nationals are exempt from the fee for family member permits, for example.

Citizenship: Nordic citizens

There are special rules for Nordic citizens when it comes to applying for Swedish citizenship: citizens of Denmark, Finland, Iceland or Norway who have lived in Sweden for at least five years can often become Swedish citizens through notification, which is a simpler and cheaper process than the standard method outlined above.

For that process, the form “anmälan om svenskt medborgarskap för medborgare i Danmark, Finland, Island eller Norge” is filled out here and sent to the local country administrative board, along with a fee of 475 kronor. The alternative is to submit a standard application for citizenship to the Migration Agency at the standard cost, which Nordic citizens can do after living in Sweden for two years.

Citizenship: EU citizens

The rules for becoming a naturalised Swede are not as complicated as they may seem, though there are a few important points to understand. For EU citizens there are two scenarios to be aware of.

The first is that as an EU citizen living in Sweden for five continuous years with right of residence, you are eligible to apply for citizenship. The second is that as an EU citizen who has lived together with a Swedish citizen for at least two years, and who has lived in Sweden for a total of three years, you are also eligible to apply.

An automated test (in Swedish) can be filled in here to see if you meet those requirements. If you do, then a citizenship application can be filled out online here, and a fee of 1,500 kronor paid for processing.

Meeting the various requirements listed above isn’t a guarantee you’ll be granted citizenship however. You must also have “conducted yourself well in Sweden”, and the Migration Agency will request information on whether you have debts or have committed crimes in the country.

An application can be rejected if a person has unpaid taxes, fines, or other charges. Debts to private companies passed on to the Swedish Enforcement Authority could also impact the application, even if they are paid, as two years must pass after payment to prove you’re debt-free. If you’ve committed a crime, there’s also a qualifying period before citizenship can be granted which depends on the sentence. More details can be found here.

File photo of a Swedish passport. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Citizenship: non-EU citizens

For non-EU citizens, the process for getting citizenship is very similar as for EU citizens, except there is an additional requirement for a permanent residence permit as well as having lived in Sweden for a continuous period of five years.

Non-EU citizens married to or living in a registered partnership with a Swedish citizen can apply after three years, provided they have been living together with the Swedish partner in Sweden for two years. If the Swedish partner was previously the citizen of another country, they must have held Swedish citizenship for at least two years – in this case, you must also have “adapted well to Swedish society”, and the Migration Agency will consider other factors like length of marriage or relationship, knowledge of the Swedish language and ability to support yourself.

If you are stateless, you can apply to become a Swedish citizen after residing in Sweden for at least four years. The same time period applies for people who were granted a residence permit as a refugee “in accordance with Chapter 4, section 1 of the Aliens Act“.

Exceptions for the period of residence requirement to obtain citizenship can be made for “people married to a Swedish citizen abroad for at least ten years who do not live in their country of origin,” the Migration Agency notes, provided the person has “strong ties with Sweden” through for example regular visits to the country, or a “strong need” to become a Swedish citizen.

Meeting the various requirements listed above isn’t a guarantee you’ll be granted citizenship however. You must also have “conducted yourself well in Sweden”, and the Migration Agency will request information on whether you have debts or have committed crimes in the country.

An application can be rejected if a person has unpaid taxes, fines, or other charges. Debts to private companies passed on to the Swedish Enforcement Authority could also impact the application, even if they are paid, as two years must pass after payment to prove you’re debt-free. If you’ve committed a crime, there’s also a qualifying period before citizenship can be granted which depends on the sentence. More details can be found here.

Citizenship for children

If you have children, you can also include them in your citizenship application provided they are unmarried, under the age of 18, and reside in Sweden, and you have sole custody of them or the parent who has joint custody has given their consent.

Children who have turned 12 must also provide their own written consent in order for parents to apply for them to become a Swedish citizen.

A Swedish citizenship ceremony at Stockholm’s City Hall. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

What happens next?

If you’re granted Swedish citizenship, you have what the Migration Agency calls the “absolute right” to live and work in the country, which means you will always be able to return to live in Sweden however much time you spend away from the country, unlike with permanent residence. In addition, you can vote in parliamentary elections, stand for election to parliament, join the Swedish Police and Swedish Armed Forces, and also obtain EU rights if you weren’t previously an EU citizen.

As a final point: keep in mind that some countries do not permit dual citizenship, so check the rules for your home nation before applying.

Member comments

  1. A, we live most of the time in Israel and have a summer home and two daughters-in-law who are Swedish. We are citizens of all three countries.
    Somehow I got mixed up and renewed our membership in The Local France. Could you please change me to The Local Sweden?
    Thank you,
    P. Spectre

  2. So absolutely no information for students that come here to study but wish to stay after except for doctoral students. Okay. Great.

    1. Hi, as I understand students (other than PHD) cant stay more than 3 months after completion of degree. Thwy can stay if they start another degree or they start a job. When they start jib the time for residence starts from that point towards permanent residence or nationality.

      1. Hi
        How to apply for Swedish citizenship if exceptions for the period of residence requirements apply to me and do you need a solicitor to handle the application.
        Thank you

  3. How long does it take to get a decision on a permanent residence application for an American based on working and living here continuously for over 4 years? Thank you.

  4. What about the children who are born in sweden and have temporary residence permit. Do they havw to live in sweden for 3 years or they can apply with their parent even if they were born a few months beforw the application of citizwnahip of their parents?

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For members


How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

It can now take about six months to get a work permit in Sweden, and a year for an extension. Here's how you can get on the fast track.

How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

How long does it normally take to get a permit to work in Sweden? 

According to the calculator on the Migration Agency’s website, 75 percent of first work permit applications are completed within three months, and 75 percent of work permit extensions are completed within 14 months. 

These numbers, though, are only for people in non-risk industries. If you are applying for a job in the cleaning, building, hotel and restaurant, or car repair industries — all of which are seen as high risk by the agency — applications can take much longer to be approved. 

For these industries, the calculator suggests a long 12-month wait for a first application and a 17-month wait for an extension. 

This is because of the higher number of unscrupulous employers in these industries who do not pay foreign workers their promised salaries, or do not fulfil other requirements in their work permit applications, such as offering adequate insurance and other benefits. 

So how do you get on the fast track for a permit? 

There are two ways to get your permit more rapidly: the so-called “certified process” and the EU’s Blue Card scheme for highly skilled employees. 

What is the certified process?

The certified process was brought in back in 2011 by the Moderate-led Alliance government to help reduce the then 12-month wait for work permits.

Under the process, bigger, more reputable Swedish companies and trusted intermediaries handling other applications for clients, such as the major international accounting firms, can become so-called “certified operators”, putting the work permit applications they handle for employees on a fast track, with much quicker processing times. 

The certified operator or the certified intermediary is then responsible for making sure applications are ‘ready for decision’, meaning the agency does not need to spend as much time on them. 
You can find answers to the most common questions about the certified process on the Migration Agency’s website

How much quicker can a decision be under the certified process? 
Under the agreement between certified employers and the Migration Agency, it should take just two weeks to process a fresh work permit application, and four weeks to get an extension. 
Unfortunately, the agency is currently taking much longer: between one and three months for a fresh application, and around five to six months for an extension. 
This is still roughly half the time it takes for an employee seeking a permit outside the certified process. 
The Migration Agency told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper in a recent article that in September the average decision had taken 105 days, while over the year as a whole, applications for certified companies had taken 46 days, and those for non-certified companies 120 days. 

How can someone planning to move to Sweden for work take advantage of the certified process? 
Unfortunately, it is very much up to your employer. If you are planning to move to Sweden for work, you should make sure to ask prospective employers if they are certified, or sub-certified through an intermediary firm, and take that into account when deciding which company to take a job with. 
Smaller IT companies are often not certified, as they tend to start off by recruiting from within Sweden or the European Union. 
If you have begun a work permit application with a company that is not certified or sub-certified, then you cannot get onto the fast track even if your employer gets certified while you are waiting for a decision. 
The certified process can also not be used to get a work permit for an employee of a multinational company who is moving to the Swedish office from an office in another country. 
If my employer is certified, what do I need to do?
You will need to sign a document giving power of attorney to the person at your new company who is handling the application, both on behalf of yourself and of any family members you want to bring to Sweden.  
You should also double check the expiry date on your passport and on those of your dependents, and if necessary applying for a new passport before applying, as you can only receive a work permit for the length of time for which you have a valid passport. 

Which companies are certified? 
Initially, only around 20 companies were certified, in recent years the Migration Agency has opened up the scheme to make it easier for companies to get certified, meaning there are now about 100 companies directly certified, and many more sub-certified. 
To get certified, a company needs to have handled at least ten work permit applications for foreign employees over the past 18 months (there are exceptions for startups), and also to have a record of meeting the demands for work and residency permits.  
The company also needs to have a recurring need to hire from outside the EU, with at least ten applications expected a year. 
The Migration Agency is reluctant to certify or sub-certify companies working in industries where it judges there is a high risk of non-compliance with the terms of work permits, such as the building industry, the hotel and restaurant industry, the retail industry, and agriculture and forestry. 
Most of the bigger Swedish firms that rely on foreign expertise, for example Ericsson, are certified. 
The biggest intermediaries through whom companies can become sub-certified are the big four accounting firms, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG, and Vialto (a spin-off from PwC), and the specialist relocation firms Human Entrance, and Alpha Relocation. Bråthe estimates that these six together control around 60 percent of the market. Other players include K2 Corporate Mobility, Key Relocation, Nordic Relocation, and some of the big corporate law firms operating in Sweden, such as Ving and Bird & Bird. 

What is the EU Blue Card, how can I get one, and how can it help speed up the work permit process? 
Sweden’s relatively liberal system for work permits, together with the certification system, has meant that in recent years there has been scant demand for the EU Blue Card. 
The idea for the Blue Card originally sprung from the Brussels think-tank Bruegel, and was written into EU law in August 2012. The idea was to mimic the US system of granting workers a card giving full employment rights and expedited permanent residency. Unlike with the US Green Card, applicants must earn a salary that is at least 1.5 times as high as the average in the country where they are applying.
Germany is by far the largest granter of EU blue cards, divvying out nearly 90 percent of the coveted cards, followed by France (3.6 percent), Poland (3.2 percent) and Luxembourg (3 percent).

How can I qualify for a Blue Card?

The card is granted to anyone who has an accredited university degree (you need 180 university credits or högskolepoäng in Sweden’s system), and you need to be offered a job paying at least one and a half times the average Swedish salary (about 55,000 kronor a month).

How long does a blue card take to get after application in Sweden? 

According to the Migration Agency, a Blue Card application is always handled within 90 days, with the card then sent to the embassy or consulate named in the application.

In Sweden ,it is only really worth applying for a Blue Card if you are applying to work at a company that is not certified and are facing a long processing time.

EU Blue Cards are issued for a minimum of one year and a maximum of two years.