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SWEDISH CITIZENSHIP

How do Sweden’s citizenship rules compare to Denmark’s and Norway’s?

As Sweden considers tightening its rules for both citizenship and permanent residency, we take a look at how Sweden's citizenship requirements compare to other Scandinavian countries.

How do Sweden's citizenship rules compare to Denmark's and Norway's?
Photo: Erik Johansen/NTB scanpix/TT

Gaining citizenship of one Nordic country grants you rights in the others, such as making it easier to move there, work there, and even become a citizen. So, where is it easiest to become a citizen, and where will you be waiting the longest?

Photo: Erik Johansen/NTB scanpix/TT

Sweden

Length of stay: 2-5 years

EU and non EU citizens can apply for Swedish citizenship after living in Sweden for five continuous years with right of residence. 

In some cases, this period can be even shorter.

Nordic citizens who have lived in Sweden for at least five years can become Swedish citizens through notification. This involves filling out a form and sending it to the local country administrative board, with a fee of 475 kronor.

The alternative is to submit an application for citizenship to the Migration Agency, which Nordic citizens can do after living in Sweden for two years. No other requirements below are needed for Nordic citizens.

EU and non-EU citizens who have lived with a Swedish citizen for at least two years can apply for citizenship earlier, after three continuous years in Sweden. However applicants will be asked to show that they have adapted well to Swedish life. This could be shown through learning the language, proving you can support yourself, or through the length of your marriage.

The requirement for continuous residency in Sweden means that if you spend more than six weeks abroad in any given year, it will extend the period of time until you can apply for citizenship.

For non-EU citizens, the process for getting citizenship is just the same as for EU citizens, except there is an additional requirement for a permanent residence permit. Permanent residency for non EU citizens is usually granted after four years of living in Sweden.

Other requirements: No outstanding debts or recent crimes

In addition to length of stay, EU and non EU citizens must have “conducted themselves 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. 

An automated test (in Swedish) can be filled in here to see if you meet those requirements. 

Language and citizenship test: May soon be required

While Swedish language skills and knowledge of Swedish society are not currently a requirement for citizenship, this could change in the future. In January 2021, the Swedish Ministry of Justice and Migration put forward proposals to introduce an A2 language exam for would-be Swedes, with exceptions for vulnerable individuals who have made a reasonable effort to learn the language. There are also proposals for a knowledge test about Swedish society.

These proposals will be subject to a long political process before they can be put into law, so at present the requirements are proof of identity, duration of residency in Sweden, and no record of serious criminal offences or debts.

Processing time and fees

The Migration Agency says applicants should expect an average of 39 months between submitting their application and becoming Swedish. Readers of The Local have reported the process taking anywhere between a couple of weeks to over three years. The application costs 1,500 SEK (~€150).

Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix/TT

Norway

Length of stay: 6-8 years

EU and non EU citizens can apply for Norwegian citizenship after living in Norway for eight years out of the past eleven years and if they have held residence permits that were each valid for at least one year during that time.

A new rule, which came into effect in January 2022, means that if you have sufficient income, you can apply after six years rather than eight. Currently sufficient income is 319,997 kroner (~€30,520), but this can change annually.

Those with Norwegian spouses, registered partners, or cohabitants can apply after living in Norway for three of the last ten years. 

Nordic citizens over the age of 12 can apply for Norwegian citizenship after two years living in Norway and do not need to fulfil any further requirements below.

Language test

EU and non EU citizens have to pass an oral Norwegian language test at either A2 or B1 level. A2 refers to an elementary level of Norwegian, and B1 is considered semi-fluent. 

The change to the language requirement from A2 to B1 will apply from autumn 2022 at the earliest, according to the UDI

Citizenship test

Applicants must pass a citizenship test (statsborgerprøve), or a social studies test if aged between 18 and 67. The tests must be taken in Norwegian, either Bokmål or Nynorsk.

For the citizenship test, applicants need to answer at least 24 of 36 multiple choice questions correctly to pass. Topics included in the test are history, geography, democracy, welfare, education, health and working life in Norway.

Other requirements

After filling in an online application, applicants have to deliver a series of documents in person, including birth certificates, marriage certificates (if applicable), a full list of entries into and departures from Norway, at least seven years of tax returns, and a police report certifying “good conduct”.

Processing time and fees

It costs 6,500 kroner to apply if you are over 18. However, the fee is cheaper or completely waived if you are a Nordic citizen, previously held Norwegian citizenship, or are under 18 years of age. 

Applications take around 16 months to process but this can vary.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to apply for Norwegian citizenship

Photo: Fredrik Hagen/NTB scanpix/TT

Denmark

Length of stay: 9 years

Normally, you must have lived in Denmark for nine consecutive years (without living elsewhere for more than three months) in order to qualify for Danish citizenship.

This period is reduced in some cases: for refugees it becomes eight years, citizens of Nordic countries need a two-year stay and people married to Danes qualify after 6-8 years, depending on the length of the marriage.

Other exceptions are made for those who have taken a significant portion of their education in Denmark, who may qualify after five years. If you moved to Denmark before your 15th birthday, you can become nationalised after you turn 18.

EU and non EU citizens must have a permit for permanent residency in Denmark for a minimum of two years before applying for citizenship.

Language test

Applicants must have passed the national Prøve i Dansk 3 language test, the final exam in the national Danish language school system. This involves a reading, writing, speaking and listening test which equates to B2 Danish.

There are certain exemptions from the language requirements. Residents of Greenland and the Faroe Islands, as well as Swedish and Norwegian speakers, do not need to document Danish proficiency. Dispensation can be given for applicants with certain types of illnesses and disabilities, and different rules apply to children.

Citizenship test

A condition of getting Danish citizenship is to demonstrate knowledge of Danish society, culture and history, by having passed a citizenship test (indfødsretsprøve).

In April 2021, the existing citizenship test, consisting of 40 multiple choice questions, was supplemented with five extra questions about “Danish values” such as equality, freedom of speech and the relation between legislation and religion. 

The pass mark is 36/45 and at least four of the five Danish values questions must be answered correctly. 

Children under 12, Swedish and Norwegian citizens, and people from the Danish minority in German region Schleswig-Holstein do not need to take the citizenship test.

Other requirements

  • Sign a declaration pledging allegiance and loyalty to Denmark and Danish society and promising to abide by its laws.
  • Be free of debt to the public sector and be financially self-sufficient.
  • Have no criminal convictions.
  • Hold a full-time job or been self-employed for three and a half of the last four years. 
  • Attend a ceremony, declare you will uphold Denmark’s laws, values and principles and shake hands with an official.

You also need to submit paperwork to prove your identity, current nationality, residency and economic activity in Denmark.

Processing time and fees

At the end of 2021, the processing time for applications was approximately 14 months, according to the immigration ministry. The fee is 4,000 Danish kroner (~€537).

After this time, you receive a letter notifying you that you can expect to be accepted for citizenship at the next round of parliamentary procedure (which happens twice yearly), provided you still fulfil the requirements at that time.

Once the new law making you a citizen comes into force, you will be sent a declaration that you have been accepted for citizenship with one final condition: you attend a ceremony, declare that you will uphold Denmark’s laws, values and principles, shake hands with an official and become a citizen.

Roundup

Even if Sweden decides to include a language and citizenship test in their application process, the country will still remain the easiest and cheapest in Scandinavia in which to become a citizen, although there’s a downside – it also has the longest processing time for citizenship applications.

Here’s the roundup.

Swedish citizenship

Application Fee: ~€150 (1,500 Swedish kronor) 

Length of time living in country: 3-5 years 

Language level needed: None, but this may change

Citizenship test: None, but this may change

Other requirements: No record of serious criminal offences or debts

Dual nationality allowed: Yes

Processing time: Around 39 months

Norwegian Citizenship 

Application Fee: ~€250 (2,500 Norwegian kroner)

Length of time living in country: 6-8 of the past 11 years

Language level needed: A2 Norwegian, soon to change to the more difficult B1 Norwegian

Citizenship test: Yes

Other requirements: A full list of entries into and departures from Norway, at least seven years of tax returns, and a police report certifying “good conduct”.

Dual nationality allowed: Yes thanks to a law change in 2020 

Processing time: Around 16 months

Danish citizenship

Application Fee: ~€537 (4,000 Danish kroner)

Length of time living in country: 9 years

Language level needed: B2 Danish

Citizenship test: Yes

Other requirements: No record of serious criminal offences or debts and be financially self-sufficient; sign a declaration pledging allegiance and loyalty to Denmark and its laws; hold a full-time job or been self-employed for three and a half of the last four years; attend a ceremony.

Dual nationality allowed: Yes 

Processing time: 14 months – 2 years

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SWEDISH CITIZENSHIP

‘The idea is to convert permanent residency into Swedish citizenship,’ Migration minister says

Sweden's Migration Minister has responded to criticism of the government's proposal to abolish permanent residency, telling an interviewer that the hope is that holders will gain full citizenship rather than get downgraded to temporary status.

'The idea is to convert permanent residency into Swedish citizenship,' Migration minister says

“The main idea behind the [Tidö] agreement is that we should convert permanent residency to citizenship,” Maria Malmer Stenergard, from the right-wing Moderate Party, told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.”You should not be here forever on a permanent residence permit. A clear path to citizenship is needed.”

I envision that you will receive individual plans for how to achieve this,” she continued. “Learn the language, earn a living, and have knowledge of Swedish society, so that you can fully become a Swedish citizen.” 

Malmer Stenergard said it was still unclear whether a planned government inquiry into the possibility of “converting…existing permanent residence permits” would also open the way for those who have been given a permanent right to live in the country to be downgraded to a temporary residency permit. 

“We’ll have to look at that,” she said. “There is a problem with positive administrative decisions and changing them, which the Migration Agency’s director general Mikael Ribbenvik has been aware of. We also state in the Tidö Agreement that basic principles of administrative law shall continue to apply.” 

READ ALSO: What do we know about Sweden’s plans to withdraw permanent residency?

In the Tidö Agreement, the deal between the far-right Sweden Democrats and the three government parties, it says that “asylum-related residence permits should be temporary and the institution of permanent residence permits should be phased out to be replaced by a new system based on the immigrant’s protection status”.

It further states that “an inquiry will look into the circumstances under which existing permanent residence permits can be converted, for example through giving affected permit holders realistic possibilities to gain citizenship before a specified deadline. These changes should occur within the framework of basic legal principles.”

Malmer Stenergard stressed that the government would only retroactively reverse an administrative decision (over residency) if a way can be found to make such a move compatible with such principles. 

“This is why we state in the Tidö Agreement that basic principles of administrative law must apply,” she said. 

She said the government had not yet come to a conclusion on what should happen to those with permanent residency who either cannot or are unwilling to become Swedish citizens. 

“We’re not there yet, but of course we’re not going to be satisfied with people just having an existing permanent residency, which in many cases has been granted without any particularly clear demands, if they don’t then take the further steps required for citizenship.” 

This did not mean, however, that those with permanent residency permits should be worried, she stressed. 

“If your ambition is to take yourself into Swedish society, learn the language, become self-supporting, and live according to our norms and values, I think that there’s a very good chance that you will be awarded citizenship.” 

She said that even if people couldn’t meet the requirements for citizenship, everyone with permanent residency should at least have “an individual plan for how they are going to become citizens”, if they want to stay in Sweden. 

When it comes to other asylum seekers, however, she said that the government’s aim was for residencies to be recalled more often. 

“We want to find a way to let the Migration Agency regularly reassess whether the grounds for residency remain. The aim is that more residencies should be recalled, for example, if a person who is invoking a need of asylum or other protection then goes back to their home country for a holiday.” 

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