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How to get Swedish citizenship or stay permanently in Sweden

Like Sweden so much you want to stay forever – or even become a Swede? The process can seem daunting, so The Local has looked into what you need to know about getting Swedish citizenship or the right to stay in Sweden permanently.

How to get Swedish citizenship or stay permanently in Sweden
A child waving a Swedish flag. Photo: Emelie Asplund/

Exactly how to obtain the permanent right to live in Sweden depends on your citizenship and any existing permits.

The processes can appear complicated, but here are the key things to know about the main routes to permanent residence and citizenship.

First, it’s worth knowing that if you’re an EU citizen who is studying, working in Sweden or you otherwise have the means to support yourself, you automatically have right of residence in Sweden without needing to apply for any specific permit or proof. But there are a few benefits to applying for permanent residence, including added security in case you find yourself no longer fitting in those categories in future.

As for non-EU citizens, again permanent residence gives extra security once you are eligible to apply.

Permanent residence: EU citizens moving to Sweden to live with a partner

An EU citizen without the right of residence in Sweden (i.e. someone who is not working, studying or able to support themselves in the country) can apply for a resident permit if they have a family member who lives in Sweden and wish to live together.

This is a good option for people who want to move to their partner but do not yet have their own job or studies set up – or even people who do have a job or studies lined up, but want the added security of permanent residence from day one.

In that case, if you’ve lived together with the person for at least two years outside Sweden, Sweden’s Migration Agency says you “normally receive a permanent residence permit” – provided you apply “as soon as possible after your relative moves to Sweden”. If it’s a longer time since the move, that means “it is normally not possible” to obtain the permit, however.

The relative already in Sweden also needs to meet a maintenance requirement by having a sufficient salary to support both of you. In 2021, that’s judged as at least 8,287 kronor per month after all housing costs for two adults living together.

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.

Permanent residence: EU citizens who have lived in Sweden at least five years

As previously mentioned, all EU citizens working, studying or with the means to support themselves have the right of residence in Sweden without applying for a permit (your own EU passport is all you need), but after five years of living in Sweden, people in this category can also apply for “permanent right of residence”.

This secures your right to stay in the country even if you stop being able to support yourself, so some people who may not yet be eligible for citizenship, for example if you are not able to get dual citizenship or cannot yet afford the fee for citizenship, may choose to apply for this status.

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

Long-term resident status: non-EU citizens

There are several different options for non-EU citizens, which depend on which type of permit you have previously lived in Sweden on.

Non-EU citizens who have lived in Sweden for five years with a valid residence permit and can prove they were capable of supporting themselves and their family during that time can also apply for long-term resident status by filling in the form “Ansökan om status som varaktigt bosatt”, found here.

Long-term resident status is valid for as long as the person resides in Sweden, but your long-term resident status may be withdrawn after six years of living away from the country.

Permanent residence: non-EU citizens

You can only apply for permanent residence after a minimum of three years in Sweden as a general rule, with exceptions for self-employed people who can apply after two years and quota refugees who receive permanent residence permits from their first application. The exact time and requirements depend on which type of permit you are on, but in practice, most people can only apply for permanent residence after at least four years in Sweden.

If you moved to Sweden to live with your partner or close family member, you can apply for permanent residence after three years. However, permits are usually issued for two years at a time, so usually the application will be done after four years. The fee is 2,000 kronor.

If you have lived in Sweden with a residence permit for doctoral students for at least four years out of the past seven, you can also apply for permanent residence. Again, you must be able to prove you can support yourself financially. This application costs 1,500 kronor.

If you have lived in Sweden on a work permit, you can apply for a permanent residence permit when you extend this permit if you have worked for at least four years out of the last seven. You need to meet the same requirements as for an extension of your temporary work permit (for example, meeting minimum salary requirements) and you also need to meet the special requirements for permanent residence, including being able to support yourself financially and having lived an “orderly life”. It costs 2,000 kronor to extend a work permit, plus an extra 1,500 kronor per adult and 750 kronor per child if you have family members applying with you.

If you are self-employed, you can apply for a permanent residence permit after two years when it is time to renew your temporary permit. You need to be able to support yourself financially on the income from the company, spend more than six months of each year in Sweden, own at least 50 percent of your Swedish company, and be living an orderly life. The fee is 2,000 kronor.

There are a few exceptions to the fees for permanent residence permits. Citizens of Japan are exempt from all application fees; doctoral students with certain scholarships are exempt from the fees; and family members of non-Swedish EU/EEA nationals are exempt from the fee for family member permits, for example.

Citizenship: Nordic citizens

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 outlined above.

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 to the Migration Agency at the standard cost, which Nordic citizens can do after living in Sweden for two years.

Citizenship: EU citizens

The rules for becoming a naturalised 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 to be 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 at least 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.

Meeting the various requirements listed above isn’t a guarantee you’ll be granted citizenship however. 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.

File photo of a Swedish passport. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Citizenship: non-EU citizens

For non-EU citizens, the process for getting citizenship is very similar as for EU citizens, except there is an additional requirement for a permanent residence permit as well as having lived in Sweden for a continuous period of five years.

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 with the Swedish partner in Sweden for two years. If the Swedish partner was previously the citizen of another country, they must have held Swedish citizenship for at least two years – in this case, you must also have “adapted well to Swedish society”, and the Migration Agency will consider other factors like length of marriage or relationship, 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 people 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. 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 children

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 granted Swedish citizenship, you have what the Migration Agency calls the “absolute right” to live and work in the country, which means you will always be able to return to live in Sweden however much time you spend away from the country, unlike with permanent residence. In addition, you can vote in parliamentary elections, stand for election to parliament, 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.

Member comments

  1. A, we live most of the time in Israel and have a summer home and two daughters-in-law who are Swedish. We are citizens of all three countries.
    Somehow I got mixed up and renewed our membership in The Local France. Could you please change me to The Local Sweden?
    Thank you,
    P. Spectre

  2. So absolutely no information for students that come here to study but wish to stay after except for doctoral students. Okay. Great.

    1. Hi, as I understand students (other than PHD) cant stay more than 3 months after completion of degree. Thwy can stay if they start another degree or they start a job. When they start jib the time for residence starts from that point towards permanent residence or nationality.

      1. Hi
        How to apply for Swedish citizenship if exceptions for the period of residence requirements apply to me and do you need a solicitor to handle the application.
        Thank you

  3. How long does it take to get a decision on a permanent residence application for an American based on working and living here continuously for over 4 years? Thank you.

  4. What about the children who are born in sweden and have temporary residence permit. Do they havw to live in sweden for 3 years or they can apply with their parent even if they were born a few months beforw the application of citizwnahip of their parents?

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One year on: How Sweden’s new permit rule for PhDs has upended lives

In July last year, Sweden's new migration law tightened residency rules for PhD students, sending the future plans of thousands into disarray. The SACO union spoke to three of them about how their lives had been changed.

One year on: How Sweden's new permit rule for PhDs has upended lives

Chen, 31, from China.

PhD on non-pesticide methods to reduce insect damage in newly-planted forests.

Chen, who came to Sweden from China in 2017 to study a the Swedish Agricultural University, says that she has felt trapped in Sweden since defending her thesis in November, as the Migration Agency does not normally allow those applying for a residency permit to travel 

“I feel like I’m under house arrest,” she complains. “I haven’t been able to take a vacation outside Sweden since my permanent residency application is pending, and I can’t go back to China to visit my family for the same reason — two years since the first Covid outbreak at the beginning of 2020.” 

Now the exemption from residency permit requirements for PhD students has been removed, PhD students generally need to get a job as soon as they graduate to show that they can support themselves, but Chen says she was so deeply engaged in her studies that it was near-impossible to send off job or research applications. 

“There are many days I woke up at 8am and left my office at midnight,” she remembers. “I ate for only one meal during the day in order to finish my thesis in time. I could barely spare any time to look for jobs or send job applications even though I knew I had to get a job offer for at least two years to get a positive decision on my permanent residency application. “

“After my defence, there was no time to celebrate my achievement but I instead started to search for jobs immediately.”

Before the change in the rules, Chen had planned to look for post doctoral studies in another European country, but the new rules makes that difficult. 

“My plan was to do a one or two year postdoc in another country to strengthen my competence and then come back to Sweden,” she said. It is rather common to do a postdoc in a new country and then come back to the PhD country for a more stable academic position,” she said. “By doing so we could broaden our vision, establish collaboration and bring back new insights.

“When we got permanent residency, returning to Sweden was easier, without having to go through all the energy-consuming stuff, like getting a job offer and applying for a work permit, getting a personal number, Swedish ID, bank account, Bank-ID and insurance.” 

She believes that the Swedish government should acknowledge that the impact of the new alien act on PhD students is a mistake and take steps to reverse the changes.

“Do not be afraid to admit that you made wrong decision, be open-minded and listen to different voices,” she tells the Swedish authorities. “There are ways to fix the mess and regain people’s trust.”

Now she’s considering whether to carry on seeking work and waiting for the Migration Agency to take its decision, or whether to take her expertise to another country, probably The Netherlands or Germany. 

“The way to regain my freedom is either to get a job that fulfils the new requirement or to leave Sweden to build my life and career somewhere else.” 


Melissa, from Australia. Photo: private

Melissa, 36, Australia

PhD on riparian ecosystem science

“It’s brought a big, dark shadow of insecurity into mine and my partners’ long term plans,” says Melissa, who decided to do her PhD in Sweden partly because her partner is Swedish, and partly because she knew she would be “a better researcher and scientist” if she spent time researching in another country. 

When she arrived, she wasn’t necessarily planning to continue her research in Sweden, but as she began to realise she perhaps wanted to, the change in the law came in, making it more difficult. 

“Turns out, I really like it here and I like the research environment! I do want to stay in Sweden to pursue a career here. I knew that an academic career was already very unpredictable but I had hoped that after finishing my PhD I could continue branching out from the research I’ve been doing in boreal forests in the form of postdoctoral positions with some of the Swedish researchers I really admire.”

That is now all looking more and more unlikely. 

“It’s almost like there’s this atmosphere of uncertainty that’s with me when I think about life after my PhD,” she says. “It’s already stressful to think about what I will do when I finish my doctoral studies, but adding in the stress of possibly not being able to stay in Sweden is massively draining, especially when the Aliens Act seems to ignore, or not care to consider, the realities of an academic career.”

She believes that the Swedish government should at least adapt the Aliens Act to reflect what she calls “the realities of academic careers”. 

“It is virtually unheard of for a young researcher to gain a position that fulfils the support requirements for 18 months and by not adjusting the Aliens Act to account for this you are discouraging really talented and passionate young researchers from coming.”

Although she wasn’t set on staying in Sweden for the long term when she started her PhD, she’s finding the new barrier to residency is putting her off, pushing her to consider positions in Australia or the US. 

“I’m more hesitant about pursuing an academic career in Sweden because the added feeling of ‘temporary-ness’ in everything I do,” she says. “It even just manifests itself in little things like abandoning our plans to get a dog, buy a house, or have a more long term career goal in Sweden because permanency isn’t so much of an option anymore.” 

Tuser Biswas, from Bangladesh, is researching textiles at Borås Högskola. Photo: private

Tuser Biswas, 34, Bangladesh 

PhD on sustainably printing biological materials onto textiles which can fight bacteria and viruses

Tuser Biswas has also  had his plans to work as a postdoc outside Sweden thrown into chaos by the new law, which came out four months after he’d applied for permanent residency. 

After I finish my PhD in Sweden, I would like to go work somewhere else as a postdoc. When I started my PhD, I knew that if I want to go somewhere else, I could always come back to Sweden (and I probably would) but know I am not sure what I would do,” he says. 

Also, like Chen, he has been stuck in Sweden as a result of the law. 

“I’ve had to cancel attending conferences and still can’t plan work related trips outside Sweden. My family is very stressed for not being able to travel to home country for a long time now.”

He says that the change in labour laws has changed his views on Sweden. 

“The total political environment is getting unfriendly for international mobility. I came to live in an open-minded society, but it seems like a mirage now.” 

He believes that the government should better tailor its migration laws to fit researchers. 

“Don’t make a ‘one size fits all’ type law. The working conditions for PhD researchers and other employees are not the same. How can you judge them all under the same law?”.