Swedish conservatives propose stricter rules for citizenship

Swedish conservatives propose stricter rules for citizenship
A Swedish passport. Photo: TT
Sweden's main opposition party, the Moderates, want to tighten the rules for people seeking Swedish citizenship, suggesting a string of new measures they say will encourage integration and better correspond to the rules of other Nordic countries and Germany.

In an opinion piece published in daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter on Thursday, Moderate party members Tomas Tobé and Gunnar Strömmer said that the rules to become Swedish aren’t strict enough, and in some cases even hamper the integration of the country’s new citizens.

“Sweden should be an open country (…) But at the same time we have to make demands: Everyone is expected to contribute to their best efforts,” they wrote.

The authors said that today, Sweden differs from its Nordic neighbours in the sense that those applying for a Swedish passport only need to have lived in the country for a total of five years (three years if you've lived with a Swedish partner for at least two years).

There are also no demands on an applicant to speak the Swedish language or have any civic knowledge and there are no legal measures to strip a person of his or her citizenship in terror-related cases.

“First of all, the citizenship must be valued higher than what it is today. Secondly, the rules concerning citizenship must be formed so that they encourage integration. And thirdly, our rules should to a large extent correspond to those in similarly comparable countries like the Nordic countries and Germany.”

Tobé and Strömmer then listed six new measures they feel should apply before a person can become a Swede.

The first measure concerns higher demands on a person’s Swedish language skills, which they said “is of great importance for integration”. The skills should be proved through language tests or the ability to show valid university grades, they propose.

They also want to impose requirements on a person’s ability to make a living, suggesting for example that a person can no longer rely on any kind of financial aid as their main source of income.

Thirdly, they suggest extending the time-period before a person to become a Swedish citizen from five years to seven years, in order for Sweden to “better harmonize with corresponding rules in other comparable countries”.

In addition, they said a so-called “integration bonus” should be offered to those who can show a good level of integration efforts by for example speaking good Swedish and making an income. The bonus would entail shaving three years off of the proposed seven to become Swedish.

In their fifth point, the authors said that the ability to strip an individual of their Swedish citizenship should be imposed if the person commits serious crimes, like terror crimes.

Finally, they said that the rules of keeping one’s passport safe need to be tightened to curb the amount of stolen or lost passports. Last year, more than 60,000 passports were reported lost or stolen. “We want tougher penalties than what we have today for when a passport is misused to gain entry and the expiry date for a new passport should be shortened if a person has previously reported their passport lost or stolen.”

The centre-left government last year changed the rules so that a Swedish citizen can only be granted three new passports to replace a lost or stolen document over a five-year-period, to combat forged passports.