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PERMANENT RESIDENCY

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.

passengers at arlanda airport
Thinking of leaving Sweden for a long period of time? Bear in mind you could lose your permanent residency. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT

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 was 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

MONEY

How you can lower the monthly cost of your Swedish mortgage

It’s no secret that mortgages in Sweden have become more expensive over the last year or so, as interest rates have risen following high inflation. But did you know there’s a way you can lower your monthly mortgage cost?

How you can lower the monthly cost of your Swedish mortgage

Essentially, when you take out a loan in Sweden, the government gives you a discount on the interest you pay, in the form of a tax rebate.

This doesn’t include interest paid on all types of loans – for example, student loans are not included – but it does include your mortgage.

In order to qualify for the discount, referred to as ränteavdrag (interest deduction) or skatteavdrag (tax deduction), you need to fulfil some requirements: 

  • You’ve paid income tax and at least 1,000 kronor in interest in the last taxation year
  • You have a capital deficit (meaning that your interest costs must be greater than any capital income you’ve earned through interest or dividends)
  • You are either partly or wholly responsible for the loan or mortgage in question

If there are two of you who are both named on the mortgage who fulfil these requirements, you’ll each receive 50 percent of the total tax rebate.

The interest deduction is automatically subtracted from your yearly tax and listed in your yearly declaration, if you fulfil the requirements, meaning you’re likely to get it back as a lump sum when tax season rolls around in April.

How much do I get?

The actual sum you get back varies depending on how much tax and interest you’ve paid during the year, but there are some general calculations which can give you a guideline of what you might get.

You’ll get 30 percent of your interest costs back on the first 100,000 kronor you pay in interest over a year, and 21 percent on anything over 100,000 kronor. 

If there are two of you, you each have your own individual tax deduction, even if you’re paying the same loan, so as a pair you’ll get back 30 percent on the first 200,000 kronor, as well as 21 percent on anything over this figure.

To figure out how much you’ll get, you need to first find out how much interest you’ve paid during the year your declaration covers and subtract this figure from your capital income earned through interest or dividends.

If your figure is negative, that means you can subtract this figure from your tax paid during the year. Bear in mind that if you owe tax, then your interest deduction amount will be used to pay it back first, lowering the total amount you receive.

You can also change the proportion of the deduction applied to each partner if you share a mortgage, dividing it 60/40 or 70/30, for example, if you don’t share the mortgage 50/50. You can do this through your bank or by manually changing the figures in your tax declaration.

I don’t understand. How does this make my monthly mortgage payments cheaper?

Here’s where something called skattejämkning comes in. This literally translates as “tax equalisation”, and it’s a way you can spread your tax rebate for interest costs out over a year, lowering your mortgage costs each month rather than of getting a lump sum in the form of a tax rebate during tax declaration season.

In order to equalise your tax, you’ll need to contact the Tax Agency directly, filling out a form with the catchy title of SKV 4302 – Jämkning (ändring av preliminär A-skatt) or using their Jämkning online service.

To do this, you’ll need to have in-depth figures on things like your salary, pension payments, sick pay and any other income like unemployment benefit or maternity or paternity payments, as well as capital income and any business income for the tax year you’re applying for, as well as your expected income for the rest of the year.

If your application is accepted, the Tax Agency will tell your employer to subtract less tax from your payslip each month, effectively meaning that you get your tax rebate for interest costs back in your monthly pay instead of getting it paid out all at once.

Bear in mind that if you do go down this route it’s important that your calculations are correct. If you accidentally overestimate your interest payments or underestimate your tax owed, you could end up being hit with a hefty tax bill once your declaration comes through.

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