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RESIDENCE PERMIT

What’s the difference between being a resident and a citizen in Sweden?

Once you've lived in Sweden for a certain amount of time, you'll become eligible for permanent residence and, in many cases, Swedish citizenship. Either status grants you more security to stay in Sweden long-term, but there are some important differences between the two. Here are the key factors to be aware of, in The Local's guide.

What's the difference between being a resident and a citizen in Sweden?
Do you want to stay in Sweden forever? Here's what you need to know. Photo: Faramarz Gosheh/imagebank.sweden.se

In order to move to Sweden in the first place, you'll need right of residence. This applies automatically to Nordic citizens and to EU citizens who are employed, self-employed, a student or have sufficient means to support themselves, while EU citizens who don't fall into that category but are moving to Sweden to join a Swedish partner or family member can apply for right of residence.

Non-EU citizens must apply for a residence permit, either as a worker, a student, for family reunification, or as an asylum seeker. Initially, these are temporary. Temporary residence means your right to live and work or study in Sweden is time-limited and subject to certain conditions. As a resident, you'll get a personal identity number or personnummer which gives you access to many services such as subsidised healthcare.

But after living in Sweden long term, you may become eligible for permanent residence and/or Swedish citizenship. So what benefits do you gain from these statuses, and what are the differences between the two?

LIFE IN SWEDEN GUIDES:

 


Photo: Lina Roos/imagebank.sweden.se

Permanent residency

A permanent residence permit (permanent uppehållstillstånd or PUT) makes your status in Sweden more secure. Permanent residence is granted to EU citizens after five years living in Sweden (even if some of that was spent unemployed), and you can apply to the Migration Agency for a certificate of permanent residence. 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.

Permanent residency comes with a few benefits, the most noteworthy being that you don't need to apply to renew your permit in order to continue living, studying, and/or working in Sweden. This means, for example, that it's easier to change jobs if you have a PUT, since holders of a temporary residence permit need to reapply for a work permit in order to change profession.

Students with a PUT are exempt from the international student fees that usually apply to non-EU/EEA citizens. Even students with a temporary residence permit for reasons other than studies are exempt from these fees.

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Photo: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

Another benefit of permanent residency is that family members can apply to move to Sweden to join you under so-called family reunification laws, which is not the case if you are in Sweden with only a temporary residence permit. 

However, the name might be misleading, since your right of residence can still be withdrawn.

The most likely reason for this to happen is if you leave Sweden. With a PUT, you may move abroad for up to two years, but if you want to live abroad for longer than this – or if you fail to inform the Migration Agency of your move, even if it's two years or less – your right of residence may be withdrawn.

Permanent residence permit holders can also face deportation from Sweden if they commit certain crimes; however, this punishment is only issued in the case of extremely serious crimes.

Citizenship

As mentioned above, citizenship is the only way to gain certain rights, and there are a few crucial extra benefits you get from citizenship compared to permanent residency, which make it well worth considering for those who plan to be in Sweden long-term.

The key thing is that Swedish citizens have the 'absolute right' to live and work in the country. 


Photo: Alexander Hall/imagebank.sweden.se

You can vote in all elections in Sweden as a citizen, and you can join the Swedish police force and army or work as a judge if you wish.

You will also be entitled to a Swedish passport, and as a Swedish citizen you have increased rights of travel compared to many other countries. This includes the rights you gain as an EU citizen, such as the ability to move to other EU countries to work under EU freedom of movement, which might make it especially attractive for non-EU citizens even if you're not committed to living in Sweden long term. 

Unlike many countries, Sweden does not currently have a test for citizenship, so there are no requirements of language, social, historical or any other kind of knowledge in order to become a naturalized Swede. That might change in the next few years though, with the government having said they’ll investigate the possibility of introducing a language test for would-be citizens.

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The existing requirements include having “conducted yourself well” during your time in Sweden, which usually means you must not have neglected to pay taxes and fines, or committed crime in Sweden. If you have committed crimes, there is a waiting period before you can apply for citizenship, which varies based on the severity of the crime.

Another possible complication is the fact that if you want to retain your existing citizenship, you'll need to look into include whether you're able to hold dual citizenship, which will depend on your original nationality. From the Swedish side, dual citizenship is permitted with no restrictions, but not all countries allow this, so gaining Swedish citizenship could cause complications in your home country. Alternatively, you might consider renouncing your original citizenship after becoming Swedish.

NOW READ: How to get Swedish citizenship or stay permanently in Sweden

Member comments

  1. Four years of work is enough to apply for a PR for non-EU citizens.

    > Permanent residence permit

    If you have had a work permit as an employee and worked a total of four years in the last seven years, you can be granted a permanent residence permit when you apply for an extension of your permit. You must have worked for the employer and in the occupation for which you have received a work permit.

    https://www.migrationsverket.se/English/Private-individuals/Working-in-Sweden/Employed/If-you-are-in-Sweden/Extending-a-permit.html

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WORK PERMITS

EXPLAINED: Why is it taking so long to get work permits in Sweden?

The Migration Agency is currently taking much longer than its target to process work applications for foreigners employed by so-called "certified operators". What's going on and when will the situation return to normal?

EXPLAINED: Why is it taking so long to get work permits in Sweden?

How long are work permits taking at the moment? 

The Migration Agency told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper in a recent article that in the first half of September the average work permit decision for those who have been hired by so-called certified operators — basically a fast-track for big and trustworthy companies — had taken an average of 105 days, while under its agreement with these companies, it is supposed to take only ten. 

The agency told The Local that this number, though correct, was misleading as the number and timing of applications varies so much from month to month, which is why it prefers to take an average over a longer period. 

According to tables provided to The Local by the agency, it has so far this year taken an average of 46 days to handle a first-time application for a work permit by an employee who has been hired by a company that is part of the certified operator scheme. This is nearly three times as along as the average of 19 days it took in 2021. 

Work permit extensions for employees at certified companies have taken 108 days so far this year, up from 43 days in 2021. 

First time work permit applications outside the certified employer scheme have taken 121 days so far this year, which is actually less than the 139 days it took in 2021. Extensions outside the scheme have so far this year taken an average of 327 days, up from 277 in 2021. 

According to the calculator on the Migration Agency’s website, 75 percent of first work permit applications for people in industries that are not considered high risk are currently completed within three months, and 75 percent of work permit extensions are completed within 14 months. 

For first-time work permit applicants who have been given jobs by or through a certified company, the agency also estimates that 75 percent of applications are processed “within three months”. 

What’s the problem? 

According to Fredrik Bengtsson, the agency’s director for Southern Sweden, who is also responsible for processing work permits, the agency has received far more applications in 2022 than it had predicted at the start of the year. 

“So far this year we have already received 10,000 more applications than our prognosis,” he told The Local. 

New rules which came into force on June 1st have also significantly increased the workload, particularly a new requirement that those applying for work permits already have a signed contract with their future employer. 

“That meant that tens of thousands of ongoing cases needed to be completed,” Bengtsson said.  

The new law also meant that instead of simply having to simply meet a minimum income requirement to bring over spouses and children, work permit applicants also needed to prove that they could support them and supply adequate housing. 

“With the new law, we need to do a much more fundamental analysis of the employee [‘s financial situation], if they want to bring their family,” he added. 

Although the agency has reduced the number of its employees from around 9,000 immediately after the 2015 refugee crisis to about 5,000 today, Bengtsson said this was something decided on by Sweden’s government in the annual budget, and was not directly linked to the current staff shortages, or to the pandemic as some have reported. 

Wrong-footed by war in Ukraine 

While the agency had been aware of these changes in advance, warned about them in its responses to a government white paper, and recruited more staff in anticipation, Bengtsson said that that the war in Ukraine had diverted resources, meaning that at the time the new law came into effect in June, the work permit division lacked sufficient staff to handle the additional workload. 

What is the agency planning to do? 

The agency is still recruiting and moving more staff to the division processing work permits.

It is also increasing the use of digitalisation, or automated systems, to process work permit applications, although there are limits under the law meaning that parts of a work permit decision still need to be made by case officers. 

The new requirement to assess applicants’ ability to support their families has made digitalisation more complicated, Bengtsson said: “As soon as we need to make judgements, we can’t digitalise”. 

He stressed that the agency was still managing to process work permits within the four-month time limit given to it under law. The ten-day goal was just “a service we offer companies”, he added, and was not something the agency was mandated to achieve. 

“We are working full out to bring down the processing time again, but it is possible that we won’t be able to return to the processing times that we had before,” he said. “We may have to say, we can only do it in a month, but we will have to see how it is with the new laws for a few more months, and then we’ll take a decision.” 

In the longer term, Bengtsson predicted that if the labour market test or a much higher minimum salary for work permit applicants is brought in, as seems likely in the coming years, this would speed up processing times. 

“There will be fewer applicants, and it will be easier for those big companies hiring people with a higher education level to get work permit,” he said. 

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