‘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 interview with Maria Malmar Stenergard was published in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper on Sunday. Photo: Stefan Jerrevång/TT

“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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Sweden’s population growth slowest in 22 years as fertility rate drops to record low

Sweden's fertility rate is at an all-time low, with experts warning that the working population could eventually start to shrink.

Sweden's population growth slowest in 22 years as fertility rate drops to record low

Sweden’s population grew by 30,200 people to 10.5 million last year, the smallest population increase in absolute terms since 2001, official statistics showed on Thursday, as the country has sought to curb immigration.

A combination of “a decrease in the number of births, a lower number of immigrations as well as a higher number of emigrations are the reasons for the lower population increase during 2023 compared to previous years,” Statistics Sweden said.

According to the agency, 94,500 people immigrated to Sweden last year, an eight percent decrease from the previous year, while 73,400 people emigrated from the country, a 45 percent increase.

The coalition government, led by Ulf Kristersson of the Moderate Party but relying on the support of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, has pledged to limit migration since coming to power in 2022.

Part of the explanation, however, is that the Swedish Tax Agency last year began a huge project to deregister several thousands of people who no longer live in Sweden from the population register. They are now formally in the books as having emigrated to an unknown country.

At the same time, the fertility rate in the Scandinavian country is at an all-time low, at 1.45 children per woman last year, according to the statistics agency. A total of 100,100 births were recorded last year.

Experts say that if the trend continues, the working population will eventually start to shrink, putting a strain on the country’s welfare system.

Nordic countries still have some of the highest fertility rates in Europe, according to Eurostat’s most recent data.

In 2021, Sweden’s fertility rate was 1.67 children per woman, above the EU average of 1.53 and significantly higher than countries in southern Europe such as Spain, which had a fertility rate of 1.19.

Those rates are well below the threshold of 2.1 that experts say is needed to maintain population levels.