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BREXIT

Brexit passport rush continues, but Brits face long waits for Swedish citizenship

More than 1,600 Britons have applied for citizenship in Sweden so far in 2018, a huge increase on the years preceding the Brexit vote.

Brexit passport rush continues, but Brits face long waits for Swedish citizenship
How long do you have to wait for a Swedish passport? Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The big news for British citizens in Europe this week was that freedom of movement was excluded from the latest draft of the Brexit deal. The draft grants Brits who meet the requirements for permanent residency rights in their host country, but does not allow onward movement within the EU.

There are currently just under 20,000 British citizens living in Sweden without Swedish citizenship, figures from Statistics Sweden show. But many of them are applying for citizenship as a way of ensuring they cannot only stay in Sweden but continue to enjoy the rights that come with membership of the EU after Brexit. 

As The Local has previously reported, a record 1,859 Britons submitted their applications for Swedish citizenship in 2017, an increase from 1,616 in 2016 and a huge leap from the years preceding the Brexit vote: in 2015, only 511 Brits applied for Swedish citizenship while 491 did so in 2014.

The trend shows no sign of slowing down. Between January 1st and November 1st this year, a total of 1,619 Brits applied to become Swedish nationals, according to official statistics kept by the Migration Agency.

In the same period, 1,098 citizenship requests were approved and 63 rejected – in other words an approval rate of 91 percent. But they faced a long wait, with applicants waiting on average 271 days for a decision.

READ ALSO: Anger as freedom of movement excluded from draft Brexit text

Stuart Mayes, a Brit living in Sweden, told The Local he had been told when he submitted his application for Swedish citizenship back in October 2016 that the process would take between three and five months.

“When that deadline passed I got in touch with the Migration Agency who confirmed that there was a backlog and it would be nearer to a year to process an application. When that time expired I was directed to their website where they stated that applications would be processed in less than 24 months. In October this year I checked again and discovered that they had updated the processing period to 23-26 months,” he said.

Last week he received a letter informing him “that they are starting to consider my application and that I have to return my passport to them along with other documents to demonstrate my eligibility for citizenship. So in total, the time from my initial application to receiving an outcome will be close to if not exceeding 26 months.”

Another Brit, who did not wish to be named, told The Local: “As a permanent resident, married to a Swede for 18 years, paid taxes, contributed significantly to Sweden's academic profile, no criminal record, I am still waiting for a response 22 months after applying.”

READ ALSO: How to escape Brexit and get citizenship in Sweden

When The Local took to social media to ask readers how long they had had to wait for a decision on their citizenship application, we got a variety of different replies.

“It has taken 24 months so far and counting. Impossible to get any meaningful response. After 12 months they said 15-18 months. After 18 months they said 21-23 months. Now they say 24-26 months. Like the carrot and the donkey, always receding,” tweeted Colin Carlile.

“I've currently been waiting about a year and half after having been here for over five years. They haven't even allocated a case officer to look at it as far as I can figure out. Getting nervous now!” wrote another Brit.

But there were also positive stories.

“It took about three months to get mine with a turnaround of a day to get my passport,” wrote Simon Linter.

Another said she had waited “just three weeks” when she applied in August.

And Scott Clarke, a Brit who applied for citizenship in January 2017 after 24 years in Sweden, said he only had to wait a total of five working days for a decision. “I was pretty surprised. Don't know if things have changed but I know a couple of others who were done in weeks rather than months,” he told The Local.

On Friday the Migration Agency's website stated, without specifying the nationality of the applicants, that those applying for Swedish citizenship today could face a 26 month wait for a decision.

It added: “Note that this is not a promise that you will receive a decision within this time. The time shows long long it has taken for people with similar applications to get a decision.”

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SWEDISH CITIZENSHIP

TEST: Is your Swedish good enough for citizenship?

To become a Swedish citizen, you may soon need to prove your language skills. Do yours make the grade?

TEST: Is your Swedish good enough for citizenship?

The Swedish government’s proposal that applicants for residency have to pass a language test is almost certain to get through parliament. The proposal — part of the January Agreement struck between the Social Democrats, the Centre Party, and the Liberal Party — has a big majority of parliamentary parties behind it.

So it might be time to sign up for SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) classes – that is, if you haven’t already. 

READ ALSO: Swedish language tests for citizenship: Here’s what we know about the proposal so far

What level of Swedish will you need for citizenship? 

An inquiry into bringing in the language requirement for concluded in January last year that applicants for citizenship should be able to listen to and read Swedish at B1 the second of the six levels in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), equivalent to having completed level D, the fourth-highest level in the Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) course. 

This is a fairly high level of Swedish, well beyond the simple nej, tack, (“no, thanks”) you might need when asked if you want a receipt at the supermarket, or the en kardemummabulle och en latte (“a cardamom bun and a latte”) you might need when ordering a fika. It’s enough to get the gist of what’s in Swedish newspapers, listen to the radio, or to follow a lecture without too much difficultly. 

When it comes to speaking or writing Swedish, the inquiry suggested requiring a lower level, A2. This is equivalent to SFI level C, and roughly the same as GCSE level in the UK.  

This is the same level which the government has suggested for those applying for permanent residency for reading and listening as well as speaking and writing.

READ ALSO: Is your Swedish good enough for permanent residency?

What are the CEFR’s A2 and B1 levels? 

According to the CEFR guide, someone at B1 level, “can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.” and “can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken.”

To compare this to school levels in European countries, this is roughly equivalent to getting an A-C grade at AS level in the UK. 

A2 is much more basic. According to CEFR, this is enough to “communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters”. 

People reaching this level should be able to “describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.”

So there’s no need to speak or write with perfect grammar, or to have a large Swedish vocabulary, but people at this level should be able to communicate in a basic way when writing or speaking. 

How can I test my level? 

If you want to do a thorough assessment of whether your Swedish is good enough for citizenship, you can do one of the free level tests provided by the Folkuniversitetet adult education school. You need to do the tests for Swedish level A2 and B1. 

The Swedish National Agency for Education (skolverket), also has sample papers for the national test for SFI level C and SFI level D.

Below are some excerpts to help you judge whether or not your Swedish is at the right level. 

Listening (level D) 

In this example listening test, you first have to listen to this recording.

Did that make any sense? Then here’s the question paper. 

Du får höra två personer som bokar en resa tillsammans. Lyssna och svara på frågorna. Läs först igenom uppgiften

A Vem ska de hälsa på?

□ En kompis.

□ En släkting.

□ En studiekamrat.

B Varför bestämmer de sig för att resa med tåg?

 □ Det är snabbast.

□ Det är billigast.

□ Det är trevligast

If that’s too much for you, then you’ve got some more studying to do if you expect to be applying in early 2025. 

Reading (Level D) 

You can find examples of various reading tests here. To give you an idea, we’ve put one below.  

Vem vänder sig texten till? 

Texten vänder sig till …

□lärare. □politiker. □elever. □chefer

Texten vänder sig till …

□lärare. □politiker. □ elever. □chefer.

Did you get that? Then maybe you’re ready for whatever future language test the government decides to put in place. 

Writing

This is the same level as has been suggested for permanent residency, so this repeats the example from the permanent residency test article

In this prompt for the writing test for SFI Level C, you are asked to write a letter to a friend about a recent trip.

It suggests telling them about where you stayed, what you did, and what you liked and disliked about the trip. You are asked to pay attention to how you start and end the letter.

Skriv ett brev till en vän och berätta om en resa du har gjort.

Du kan till exempel
• berätta om vart du reste.
• berätta om vad du gjorde.
• berätta om vad du tyckte var bra och vad du inte tyckte var bra med resan.

Tänk på hur du börjar och slutar brevet.

Can you understand the instructions at least? Now you need to show off your letter-writing skills. 

Speaking

In the solo portion of this section, you are asked to talk about an everyday topic based on something you have experienced – like a recent trip, or a party you attended. You are asked to speak for 5-7 minutes, and you may take some time to plan out your thoughts before starting.

The teacher holding the exam will say to you: 

Du ska få berätta om en något du varit med om.
Du ska prata i 5-7 minuter.
Om du vill kan du ta en liten stund och planera vad du ska säga innan du börjar prata.

In the paired portion of this section, you are given a topic – like what is most important in school – and asked to have a 10-minute conversation about the topic. It should be a discussion, with both participants speaking for an equal period of time, and you will have access to some prompts in a “prompt card” to keep the conversation going.

The teacher leading the test will tell you something like: 

Ni ska prata med varandra om vad ni tycker är viktigt.
Ni ska prata i cirka 10 minuter.
Det är viktigt att ni lyssnar på varandra, ställer frågor till varandra och frågar varandra om ni inte förstår.
Tänk på att ni båda talar ungefär lika mycket.
Jag kommer inte att vara med och prata utan bara lyssna, det är ni som ska diskutera med varandra.

Till hjälp får ni den här tankekartan (lägg den på bordet) på den finns några punkter som ni kan diskutera, ni måste inte prata om alla men ni kan använda dem som stöd under diskussionen (gå igenom tankakartan snabbt).
Frågetecknet betyder att det också kan finnas många andra saker som är viktiga, som inte finns med på tankekartan.
Okej, då kan ni börja prata med varandra!

Could you at least understand that? Could you keep a conversation going on these topics in Swedish? Then you might be ready for the citizenship test. 

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