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Sweden sees drastic rise in waiting time for citizenship applications

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Sweden sees drastic rise in waiting time for citizenship applications
Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel (far left) participate in a National Day ceremony welcoming Sweden's new citizens. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/SCANPIX/TT
15:39 CEST+02:00
Over the course of just a few years, average waiting times for Swedish citizenship applications have increased dramatically, and currently stand at over two and a half years, new data reveals.

There were 86,853 citizenship applications in processing at the end of June this year, according to the Migration Agency's figures.

On Monday, the agency's website showed that applications for citizenship could expect a 30-month (or 913-day) waiting time, adding that this did not necessarily mean all applicants would get a decision within that time. This is two months longer than the estimated waiting time as shown back in January this year, and much longer than was the case a few years ago.

Although the website states that this number "shows how long it has taken for people with similar applications to receive a decision", a press officer for the Migration Agency told The Local that it represented "the longest expected time if you apply for citizenship today".

Press officer Mardin Baban told The Local in an email that people receiving their decision on citizenship in July 2019 would have waited an average 284 days, well below the expected 913-day waiting time for those submitting their application in July 2019. 

The average processing time for citizenship applications which have already been concluded in 2019 is 292 days, according to Migration Agency figures. This is up from 230 days in 2018, 185 in 2017, 176 in 2016, and 177 in 2015. 

Two key factors behind the long wait are, as expected, a rise in the number of citizenship applications, and reductions in the Migration Agency's staff numbers.

"Since the refugee situation in 2014-2016, many of those who were granted asylum in Sweden have now reached the criteria to be granted Swedish citizenship. Between 2014 and 2016, 131,109 people were granted asylum in Sweden, which is the most ever in such a short time," said Baban.

"So the easy answer to the question is that there are very many at the moment who want to apply for citizenship in Sweden, which is why the processing time has almost doubled."

The number of people becoming Swedish citizens has soared over the past decade. In 2010, a total of 28,100 people were granted citizenship, a figure which reached a peak of 65,562 in 2017 and was 61,312 last year.

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The Migration Agency's general director Mikael Ribbenvik has said that cuts to resources have also been an issue, telling the TT news agency: "If you have limited resources, you have to invest in certain areas. You can't invest in all areas if there aren't sufficient resources."

However, he added that citizenship cases were now being prioritized, saying that the agency had allocated more staff to work on these cases as well as digitalizing parts of the process. The Local has contacted the Migration Agency for comment.

Earlier this year, the agency began prioritizing applications from British citizens in order to avoid additional paperwork and delays in the event of Brexit. 

People of over 170 different nationalities became Swedish in 2018, with Syria the most common country of origin. Syrians, Somalians, stateless people, Iraqis, and Afghans accounted for almost a third of the total number of new citizens, and the next most common nationalities were Eritrean, Polish, Iranian, Thai, and British.

 
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