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SWEDISH CITIZENSHIP

How long can you leave Sweden for and not risk your permanent residency?

Several respondents to a recent survey by The Local said that one of the problems they faced in Sweden was uncertainty over how long they can leave the country without losing their right to stay. Here are the rules so far as we understand them.

How long can you leave Sweden for and not risk your permanent residency?
A young holiday-maker on Mallorca's Playa Cala Major beach. Photo: Staffan Löwstedt / SvD

The length of time a foreign citizen is able to leave Sweden without jeopardising their right to stay in the country or their chances of being awarded citizenship or permanent residence depend very much on what grounds they have a right to be here.

Keep in mind that the only type of residence document which is truly permanent – as in, that cannot be revoked no matter how long you are away – is Swedish citizenship.

Every other type of residence expires if you are out of the country for long enough. 

If you have the right to stay in Sweden temporarily and want to keep it or make it permanent 

Non-EU citizens 

For this group (which also includes EU citizens in Sweden under Swedish law (uppehållstillstånd holders) rather than EU law (people with uppehållsrätt)), the amount of time you can be away from Sweden varies depending on which permit you are on while living in Sweden. 

Non-EU citizens in Sweden on work permits or as doctoral students, for example, need to provide documentation proving they have had a work permit as an employee (or have been carrying out doctoral research, in the case of doctoral students) and have lived and worked in Sweden for four years out of the past seven years when applying for permanent residency, so it is possible to leave Sweden for several years over this period and still qualify. 

But people should still check the rules very carefully and make sure they can prove they have been in Sweden long enough.

Those in Sweden on family reunification permits (often referred to as sambo permits) need to provide the Migration Agency with details of any trips abroad of more than three weeks when renewing a residence permit, as well as whether they were travelling with the partner or spouse they live with in Sweden.

There do not appear to be any official guidelines for permanent residence permit applicants in Sweden as refugees, although the agency says in general for all types of residence permit that “shorter visits overseas, for example for holidays, do not affect your residence time [when applying for a permanent residence permit]. This is the case for other journeys overseas long as you have not moved from Sweden”.

For all non-EU citizens wanting to apply for citizenship, the Migration Agency specifies that any periods where you have been outside of Sweden for more than six weeks will be removed from the period of residence that counts towards the five years in Sweden. 

This suggests that overseas trips of more than six weeks would probably be considered long enough to affect your residence time when seeking permanent residence, too.

EU citizens and non-EU family members

EU citizens who have lived in Sweden for five years or more and have either been working, studying, self-employed or self-supporting for that entire period automatically get permanent right of residence or permanent uppehållsrätt.

This also applies to non-EU family members of non-Swedish EU citizens in Sweden on an uppehållskort (residence card) due to their relationship with an EU citizen, and EU citizens who have switched from one category to another – such as originally arriving as a student and then getting a job after graduation – you just need to have been legally living in Sweden under one or more of these categories for the entire five-year period.

Under the EU Free Movement Directive, an EU citizen (or their non-EU family member) may be temporarily absent for periods not exceeding a total of six months within each year without losing their residence status, with each year starting on the anniversary of the date when the EU citizen commenced residence in Sweden. 

The Migration Agency told The Local that it “respects the commission’s statement on its judgement”, and that six months away from Sweden is “acceptable as a rule”. 

It also stressed that “it is difficult to give an exact time limit for how long a person can be outside Sweden because this is affected by individual circumstances”. 

“The assessment of every case is individual and will be handled according to the information relevant to the case”. 

UK citizens with post-Brexit residence status

The UK withdrawal agreement largely gives Britons living in Sweden with uppehållsstatus (post-Brexit residence status) similar rights when it comes to residence as when they were EU citizens. 

Brits arriving in Sweden after this date (or before this date under Swedish rules rather than EU rules) are subject to the non-EU rules listed above.

This means that British citizens with post-Brexit residence status can leave Sweden for up to six months each year without losing their post-Brexit residence status. 

However, time spent abroad does seem to impact on the time people are considered to have been living in Sweden for the purposes of getting citizenship. 

A Migration Agency officer told one British applicant in an email that longer trips abroad can affect the calculation of “the period of habi­tual resi­dence” they are seen as having spent in Sweden. 

“If the applicant travelled abroad for short visits or a holiday, for example, it has no impact on the period of habitual residence in Sweden. But if the applicant were abroad for more than six weeks in total during a year, the entire time he/she was outside Sweden must be subtracted from the period of habitual residence.”

If you have the right to stay in Sweden permanently and don’t want to lose it

EU citizens

EU citizens who have lived in Sweden for more than five years automatically gain “a permanent right of residence”. If they wish to, they can apply for a free certificate of permanent residence, which can be used to document this right, but this is not required. You can lose your permanent right of residence if you move away from Sweden for more than two years (see here).

Non-EU/EEA citizens living with a non-Swedish EU/EEA citizen

Non-EU/EEA citizens who are living with a non-Swedish EU/EEA citizen can get a permanent residence card (permanent uppehållskort) after five years in Sweden. Like their EU partners, they can lose their right to live in Sweden permanently if they move away from Sweden for more than two years

UK citizens with post-Brexit residence status

UK citizens who have a permanent residence status (permanent uppehållsstatus) in Sweden are treated more generously than EU citizens. 

According to this Q&A from the European Commission’s lawyers, “the conditions for losing the new residence status are more beneficial compared to those in EU law on free movement as United Kingdom nationals and their family members can leave the host EU state for up to five years without losing their permanent residence rights”. 

Other non-EU citizens 

Non-EU citizens who have a permanent residence permit (Permanent uppehållstillstånd or PUT), can lose their permanent residence permit if they leave Sweden for more than one year.  

If they inform the Swedish Migration Agency before they depart, however, they can be away from Sweden for up to two years without losing their residence permit.

The same rules apply for EU or UK citizens who have a permanent residency permit (Permanent uppehållstillstånd or PUT) rather than EU right of residence (uppehållsrätt) or post-Brexit residence status (uppehållsstatus) – i.e. those who live in Sweden under Swedish rules rather than EU rules or the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

This article has been amended after The Local sent a follow-up question to the lawyer at the Migration Agency and was told that she was not an expert on citizenship and was, as a result, unsure as to whether the six-month rule would apply in citizenship cases for EU citizens. 

Member comments

  1. Hi,
    How long can you stay outside Sweden and still keep your residence status not permenet status, is it two years ?

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For members

PROPERTY

MORTGAGE Q&A: Your questions on Swedish interest rates answered

In the second part of our property Q&A, we answer reader questions on when interest rates will start going down, as well as how and when to negotiate rates with your bank.

MORTGAGE Q&A: Your questions on Swedish interest rates answered

In a post on Facebook, we asked The Local’s readers to submit their questions on property. Here’s the first part of that article, where we discuss questions like whether it’s better to buy or rent, whether to buy a house or apartment, and if house prices have stabilised.

In this article, we answer questions to do with interest rates and mortgages.

When will interest rates start going down?

Sweden’s interest rates currently stand at 2.5 percent, with the next key interest rate meeting (where the Riksbank will decide whether to alter interest rates or not) scheduled for February 9th. 

These meetings take place roughly two months, with further meetings scheduled for April 26th, June 29th, September 20th and November 22nd this year.

Most analysts expect the bank to increase the policy rate by 0.50 points at this meeting. Handelsbanken’s chief economist Christina Nyman told the TT newswire that she expects another rate increase in April to 3.25 percent, after which rates will stay at that level for some time.

Nordea’s economists have the same prognosis, while experts at Swedbank expect a further increase in June to a peak of 3.5 percent.

Danske Bank predicts that the Riksbank will raise rates by 0.5 percentage points in February to 3 percent total, with a possible second hike of 0.25 percent predicted for April, depending on inflation in the first quarter of 2023.

In terms of drops in the interest rate, it predicts that rates will remain high throughout 2023, with the Riksbank waiting until 2024 to lower the rate by a total of 1 percentage point.

What is the new normal for interest rates going to be?

As above, we can expect rates to rise and remain high throughout this year, dropping to around 2.25 percent in 2024, if Danske Bank’s predictions are correct.

This is slightly lower than the current level of 2.5 percent, so it looks like we can expect things to get worse for at least a year, after which rates will be slightly lower than they are currently.

Essentially, don’t expect rates to drop to the same low or even negative levels they have been in recent years any time soon.

How do you negotiate interest rates with the bank?

The first time you negotiate your interest rates will be when you buy your property. You might be keen to get a deal sorted as quickly as possible so you know your purchase has been finalised, but negotiating a good rate is important as it can literally save you thousands – or even tens of thousands – of kronor over the course of a year.

Firstly, do your research. This includes using price comparison tools such as Compricer or Konsumenternas, but also looking at individual websites of mortgage providers and comparing interest rates there.

Make sure you look at both listräntor (the advertised interest rates) and snitträntor (the average rates people were actually given in recent months) to get an idea of what you should be paying, and remember, the listränta is a starting point for negotiations rather than a fixed offer.

Check if your bank offers any discounts for moving your pension over or opening an account with them, or rewards for energy-efficient properties, for example.

Many banks have a calculator on their website allowing you to use a sliding scale to alter the size of your deposit and see how that affects your interest rate, so make sure to have a look to see if you can get any discounts there, too. Some banks will offer you a discount if your belåningsgrad (the size of your loan compared to your deposit) is lower, so consider buying a slightly cheaper property or putting in more cash, if you can.

Here’s our article on how to get the best rate on your mortgage for more advice.

When should I renegotiate?

In general, you should consider renegotiating your interest rate when your fixed-term rate expires (variable rates are technically fixed for three months, so this applies to all types of mortgage). You may be able to get a better deal if you qualify for any new discounts or if your circumstances have changed for any other reason, such as if you’ve paid off enough of your loan that your belåningsgrad is significantly lower than when you applied.

If you renegotiate your interest rate before your fixed-term rate has expired, you will be charged ränteskillnadsersättning (literally: “interest difference compensation”) to compensate the bank for the loss of income between the point at which you renegotiate your loan and the point your current rate was due to expire, so you may not be any better off financially than if you’d just kept paying the same rate of interest.

If you have a variable rate, however, you won’t be charged ränteskillnadsersättning for renegotiating your loan before the date your current interest rate is due to expire.

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