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SWEDISH CITIZENSHIP

EXPLAINED: How to become a Swedish citizen

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.

EXPLAINED: How to become a Swedish citizen
How can foreigners become Swedish citizens? (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP)

Citizenship for 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 of 1,500 kronor, which Nordic citizens can do after living in Sweden for two years.

Citizenship for 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 for 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.

In practice, this usually means that you have to have been living in Sweden for at least four years to apply for citizenship despite being eligible after living with your Swedish partner for three years, as a permanent residence permit can only be granted at the same time as a temporary residence permit is renewed, and temporary residence permits generally last for two years at a time.

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

SWEDISH CITIZENSHIP

What’s the state of Sweden’s bids to revoke residence permits and citizenship?

Sweden’s government announced plans to make it possible to revoke residence permits and citizenship for some individuals just after the election in its Tidö agreement with the Sweden Democrats. What’s the status of those proposals so far?

What's the state of Sweden's bids to revoke residence permits and citizenship?

Each of these subheadings in bold is a topic addressed in the Tidö Agreement between the four parties, the deal that allowed Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson’s right-wing coalition to take office after Sweden’s 2022 election with the support of the far-right Sweden Democrats.

We’ll take a look at each proposal before looking into where it’s up to at the time of writing.

  • Launch an inquiry on revoking residence permits for foreigners with a ‘flawed way of life’

What’s this proposal about?

In the Tidö agreement, the government pledged, among other things, to propose policy to make it possible to deport foreigners for bristande vandel, a somewhat vague term which translates roughly to having a flawed way of life or being of bad repute.

Under bristande vandel, the Tidö agreement mentions things like associating with criminal gangs or organisations, prostitution, drug abuse or membership of extremist organisations.

What’s the status of this proposal?

On November 21st, a government inquiry was launched looking into the possibility of revoking residence permits for foreigners who commit crimes or have a bristande levnadssätt (literally: flawed way of life). An inquiry is the first stage of the legislative process, after which the government can choose whether or not to go through with its proposals as a bill.

According to current Swedish law, people who apply for a permanent residence permit already have to be able to show they “live an orderly life” – a criminal record could for example be grounds for refusing a permanent permit. The government in the new inquiry wants to extend this to include other factors than having committed crimes, as well as extend it to temporary permits.

The exact details will be worked out by the inquiry, but it could mean that permits could be refused or revoked for, for example, benefits cheating or abusing the welfare system in other ways, having large debts or being involved in or associating with gang crime or terrorist activities. It could also, according to the government, include statements that threaten democracy or the Swedish system.

There is disagreement between the coalition partners about whether or not things like serious substance abuse should be included.

The inquiry will present its report by January 15th 2025.

  • Investigate the possibility of revoking residence permits in other cases, for example for people who no longer fulfil the requirements for permits

What’s this proposal about?

Here, the government pledged to look into a number of issues surrounding the withdrawal of residence permits, with the goal of proposing changes to legislation which would make it possible to withdraw residence permits regardless of the category of permit if the requirements for permits are no longer fulfilled.

It also pledged to look at what measures should be taken to make it possible to withdraw residence permits granted to asylum seekers if there is no longer a valid case for seeking asylum, for example if the conflict in their homeland has ended.

What’s the status of this proposal?

This is covered across two inquiries. It’s addressed in the inquiry mentioned above, from November 21st, which stated that “the aim is that there should be more possibilities to revoke a residence permit when it is justified, for example when the conditions for an individual permit are no longer, or never have been, met,” and also in the October 5th inquiry mentioned in the next section of this article, in the case of asylum seekers in particular.

  • Investigate the circumstances under which permanent residence permits could be changed into temporary residence permits (for asylum seekers)

What’s this proposal about?

Here, the government pledged to “phase out” permanent residence permits for asylum seekers, in favour of a new system which would be based on temporary permits. It would, under this policy, aim to give affected permanent residence permit holders the possibility to gain citizenship before a certain deadline.

What’s the status of this proposal?

On October 5th, the government launched an inquiry on tightening asylum rules to the EU legal minimum, which will include an examination of how the law could be changed to stop asylum seekers from getting permanent residency, and also how permanent residency could be stripped away from those who have already been awarded it.

Judge Josephine Boswell, who has been appointed to lead the inquiry, is being asked to examine how residency permits can be recalled if the situation in the home countries of those granted asylum changes so that they are no longer at risk. 

The directive also states that “those affected [by phasing out permanent residence permits] should be given realistic opportunities to gain citizenship”.

In addition to this, Boswell is being asked to look at how clear-cut cases, where the applicant clearly has no grounds for asylum, can be handled in a rapid way, without going through a full assessment process, and at how resources such as translators might be restricted. Under EU rules, member states are only required to supply translators in situations where they are necessary for a fair legal process. 

Boswell has until January 2025 to submit her conclusions on which laws need to be changed to reach the EU legal minimum.

  • Propose policy to revoke citizenship for people with dual citizenship who have committed crimes which “threaten the system”, or whose citizenship was granted based on incorrect information

What’s this proposal about?

Under this policy, the government would like to include activity in a criminal gang as “crimes which threaten the system”, making it possible to deport gang members who don’t have citizenship and withdraw citizenship from those who do, if this would not make them stateless.

What’s the status of this proposal?

A “constitutional committee” with representatives from all parliamentary parties was formed this June, which was tasked with, among other things, looking at whether the right to citizenship as mentioned in the Swedish constitution should be changed so that it would be possible to revoke citizenship for dual citizens if they had committed “system-threatening crimes, crimes against humanity, certain other international crimes, or other crimes of a serious nature, as well as those whose citizenship was granted due to incorrect information or through other improper means”.

The committee will assess this issue and any potential changes to the constitution which will be required, and will propose which changes should be made, if any. It will present its final report by December 1st, 2024.

It will only look at the possibility of revoking Swedish citizenship for dual citizens, but Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer went one step further in a recent interview with public broadcaster SVT, and suggested that international law allows citizenship to be revoked even if it would leave the person in question stateless in cases where the citizenship was granted due to bribes, threats or false information. 

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