#BecomingSwedish: Have the goalposts to citizenship shifted?

Tomas Spragg Nilsson
Tomas Spragg Nilsson - [email protected]
#BecomingSwedish: Have the goalposts to citizenship shifted?
With Brexit and tighter Swedish rules looming, are the goalposts for citizenship changing? Photo: Tomas Spragg Nilsson

Between Brexit and Sweden's newly-announced integration reforms, Tomas Spragg Nilsson writes that his path to citizenship has become a bit less clear.


2019 is going to be a really big year for me. It's the year I get to put in my application to become a Swedish citizen. Between now and when I apply in September, I still have 68 adventures I need to go on to be able to cross off items from my #BecomingSwedish bucket list – my hinklista. To be able to work through the incredibly varied list of tasks though, and to really understand what it is to become Swedish (outside of my Stockholm bubble), I need to take #BecomingSwedish on the road!
More on that later though – as first I'd like to address the looming elephant in the room. Throughout this project I've largely shied away from discussing Brexit. I wanted this experience to reflect more on the positives of integrating into a new society – rather than complaining about the lack of political leadership of the place I came from. As one of 20,000 Brits currently living in Sweden without Swedish citizenship though, I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that I'm anxious of political developments back on the island.
When I started #BecomingSwedish, the draft UK/EU withdrawal agreement on the table would have allowed for Brits already living in Sweden to retain the right to live, work and study in Sweden post-Brexit. For better or for worse, the UK parliament shot down this agreement earlier this month – edging Her Majesty's Government closer and closer to a no-deal scenario.
This is surely not news for many – but what does this mean for Brits living in Sweden without citizenship? At the time of writing, the new Swedish government is considering a regulation that would cover a no-deal situation. The proposal is that Brits already living in Sweden on March 29th, 2019, can stay in the country and retain rights for one year – giving us time to apply for required residency and work permits, as third-country nationals. (For more up to date information, take a look at the Swedish government's advice on Brexit – currently only available in Swedish).
While this outcome was always a possibility – it feels rather far away from how discussions began two years ago (and certainly a million miles away from what was promised by some during the referendum campaign). There is potential that the sands of debate will continue to shift right up until the last minute – but for now it certainly feels like my path towards citizenship just got a little more unclear and certainly more complicated. 
And it's not just my home country that has changed the rules of the game either. The freshly anointed government here in Sweden has introduced new citizenship hurdles. In his first speech to parliament after being re-elected as Prime Minister this month, Stefan Löfven spoke of initial ideas for comprehensive integration reforms.  
The proposal will include an integration year, dubbed the 'Swedish New Start' that will "focus on intensive vocationally oriented Swedish language instruction, work experience, vocational education and training, obligatory civic orientation and a one-year mentorship programme".
A requirement to pass an examination in Swedish and basic civic studies will also be introduced for those who, like me, are seeking citizenship. Obviously it is too way too soon to know what the details of these new integration policies will look like, and whether they will delay my plans to become Swedish – but it once again feels like the road ahead of me has got a little bumpier.
Even if the goalposts have changed, and even if I have to delay my ambitions to become a Swedish citizen, my hinklista waits for no man. Therefore, I will be motoring forward with my challenge – which for the next couple of months means enjoying the wonderful winter landscape in and around Stockholm. I'm hopefully going to get out there and do some ice-skating, some skiing and other general outdoorsy wintery stuff.
Beyond winter, as I mentioned at the outset, I will be taking #BecomingSwedish on the road. If you live in any of the locations that I will be visiting, I would love for you to get in touch to join me on my adventure! 
In March, I'm coming to Gothenburg and Trollhättan. In April, I'll be in Jönköping and Ullared. May is all about Värmland. June is a big month, as I'll be visiting Södermanland, Östergötland and Dalarna. July will be spent exploring the vast and distant landscape that is Norrland and August is going to be spent on the wonderful island that is Gotland. Finally, in September, I'm heading to Tallinn (which I know technically isn't in Sweden, but the list wants what it wants).
As always, I'll be taking you along with me on every step of the journey here on The Local Sweden and over on my #BecomingSwedish vlog.
As a reminder, here's the hinklista in full:


Falun Mine
Höga Kusten
Göta Kanal


Ice Hockey (Djurgården and AIK)
Jumping in ice hole after sauna
Cross country skiing
Dog sledding
Outdoorsy stuff in winter
Ice skating
'Sladda med 245:a'
Midnight sun
Be on a styrelse
Play with reindeers
Sing in choir


Flygande Jakob
Masses of lingon
Falukorv with pasta and ketchup
Homemade cinnamon bun

Learn to

Exhale and inhale to say yes and no
Use English words when speaking Swedish
Memorize the weeks of the year
Become emotionally detached
Not brag
Complain about weather
Not talk to strangers
Stand in line
Cancel on a friend to spend time alone
Stop being loud in public
Master lagom
Du gamla du fria
Abba lyrics


Vår tid är nu
Swedish reality TV
Moa Martinsson
Millennium Trilogy
Mannen på taket
Astrid Lindgren
Nile City
Göta Kanal
Kalle Anka
August Strindberg
Selma Lagerlöf
Ture Sventon
Fucking Åmål
Torsk på Tallinn
Skrotnisse och hans vänner
Den bästa sommaren
Vilse i Pannkakan

Tomas Spragg Nilsson is a politics-obsessed communications professional and storyteller, based in Stockholm. In his spare time, he has embarked on an integration project that will have him travel the country in an attempt to understand what it means to become a Swedish citizen.


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