If you're an EU citizen who is studying, has a job or the means to support yourself, you automatically have the right of residence in Sweden, but if you don’t fit that category (or if your country is about to leave the European Union…) then you may find it necessary to obtain permanent residence or citizenship. Those processes can appear complicated, but here are some key points that should make things more straightforward.
If you want permanent residency and are an EU citizen
An EU citizen without the right of residence in Sweden (ie: who is not working, studying or able to support themselves in the country) can still apply for a resident permit if they have a family member in the country and wish to live together with them there.
In that case, if you've lived together in your country of origin with the person for at least two years, Sweden's Migration Agency says you "normally receive a permanent residence permit" – provided you apply "as soon as possible after your relative moved to Sweden". Applying long after your relative moved or becoming dependent on each other after the move means "it is normally not possible" to obtain the permit, however.
Applications are filled out online, and are free of charge for all EU citizens. The application can be found here. If a permanent residence permit is not granted, a two-year temporary residence permit may be issued instead.
It is worth noting that despite the name, this permanent residence permit can still be withdrawn if you leave Sweden without notifying the Migration Agency. A person with the permit can retain it for up to two years however if the agency is notified about the move abroad.
As previously mentioned, EU citizens working, studying or with the means to support themselves have the right of residence in Sweden without applying for a permit, but after five years of living in Sweden those people can also apply for "permanent right of residence", something that could be handy to have for UK nationals living in Sweden ahead of Brexit for example.
A certificate confirming that permanent right of residence can be issued for no fee upon request by filling out the form "intyg om permanent uppehållsrätt", found here. If you have right of residence as a family member of an EU citizen and have lived together with a close relative in Sweden for at least five years, then you may also meet the criteria for permanent right of residence.
The Swedish Migration Agency office in Solna. Photo: Adam Wrafter/SvD/TT
If you want permanent residence and are not an EU citizen
Non-EU citizens who have lived in Sweden for five years with a residence permit and can prove they were capable of supporting themselves and their family during that time can also apply for a permanent residence permit by filling in the form "Ansökan om status som varaktigt bosatt”, found here.
This permanent residence permit is valid for as long as the person resides in Sweden, but may be withdrawn after six years of living away from the country.
If you want citizenship and are an EU citizen
The rules for the big one – becoming a naturalized Swede – are not as complicated as they may seem, though there are a few important points to understand. For EU citizens there are two scenarios worth being aware of.
The first is that as an EU citizen living in Sweden for five continuous years with right of residence, you are eligible to apply for citizenship. The second is that as an EU citizen who has lived together with a Swedish citizen for two years, and who has lived in Sweden for a total of three years, you are also eligible to apply.
An automated test (in Swedish) can be filled in here to see if you meet those requirements. If you do, then a citizenship application can be filled out online here, and a fee of 1,500 kronor paid for processing.
If you want citizenship and are a Nordic citizen
There are special rules for Nordic citizens when it comes to applying for Swedish citizenship: citizens of Denmark, Finland, Iceland or Norway who have lived in Sweden for at least five years can often become Swedish citizens through notification, which is a simpler and cheaper process than the standard method.
For that process, the form "anmälan om svenskt medborgarskap för medborgare i Danmark, Finland, Island eller Norge" is filled out here and sent to the local country administrative board, along with a fee of 475 kronor. The alternative is to submit a standard application for citizenship, which Nordic citizens can do after living in Sweden for two years.
File photo of a Swedish passport. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
If you want citizenship and are a non-EU citizen
Non-EU citizens with a permanent residence permit who have lived in Sweden for a continuous period of five years can also apply for Swedish citizenship. Non-EU citizens married to or living in a registered partnership with a Swedish citizen can apply after three years, provided they have been living together in Sweden for two years. The person must also have "adapted well to Swedish society," and Migrationsverket will consider other factors like length of marriage, knowledge of the Swedish language and ability to support yourself.
If you are stateless you can apply to become a Swedish citizen after residing in Sweden for at least four years. The same time period applies for refugees who were granted a residence permit as a refugee "in accordance with Chapter 4, section 1 of the Aliens Act".
Exceptions for the period of residence requirement to obtain citizenship can be made for "people married to a Swedish citizen abroad for at least ten years who do not live in their country of origin," the Migration Agency notes, provided the person has "strong ties with Sweden" through for example regular visits to the country, or a "strong need" to become a Swedish citizen.
Meeting the various requirements listed above isn't a guarantee you'll be granted citizenship however. For starters, you must also have "conducted yourself 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. More details can be found here.
Citizenship for kids
If you have children, you can also include them in your citizenship application provided they are unmarried, under the age of 18, and reside in Sweden, and you have sole custody of them or the parent who has joint custody has given their consent.
Children who have turned 12 must also provide their own written consent in order for parents to apply for them to become a Swedish citizen.
A Swedish citizenship ceremony at Stockholm's City Hall. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
What happens next?
If you're fortunate enough to be granted Swedish citizenship, you have what the Migration Agency calls the "absolute right" to live and work in the country, can vote in Riksdag elections, stand for election to the Riksdag, join the Swedish Police and Swedish Armed Forces, and also obtain EU rights if you weren’t previously an EU citizen.
As a final point: keep in mind that some countries do not permit dual citizenship, so check the rules for your home nation before applying.