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Explained: What’s going on with Sweden’s record-long citizenship queues?

Explained: What's going on with Sweden's record-long citizenship queues?
If you want a Swedish passport, you may have to be prepared for a long wait. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT
As waiting times for Swedish citizenship applications climbed to a record high of over three years, The Local heard from one international resident about the impact of such long waits, and took your questions to the Migration Agency.

The current expected waiting time for citizenship applications recently rose to 37 months according to the Migration Agency's website. This estimate has been climbing steadily since at least 2017, and Migration Agency press officer Pierre Karatzian confirmed to The Local that the current waiting time is the longest ever.

READ ALSO: Waiting times for Swedish citizenship rise to over three years for the first time

What's more, the waiting time listed on the website is not a guarantee that applications submitted today will reach a decision within the time limit on the website. Rather, it is “the length of the longest-running cases where a decision was made in the last month”. 

Of the cases currently awaiting a decision, just four pre-date 2015, while three of them were submitted in 2015 and 301 in 2016, according to figures shared with The Local.

A total of 12,171 cases first submitted in 2017 are currently open. The Migration Agency was unable to share the date when the oldest currently-open case was submitted.


Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

One reader of The Local who submitted his citizenship application in 2017 says that the long wait has had an impact on him, and called for the agency to be more open about the order in which it assesses cases. 

An email sent to him from the Migration Agency in August 2019, seen by The Local, said that no decision making case officer had been assigned to his case at that point. A message from February 2020, more than two years after his initial application, showed that a case officer had been assigned and a decision expected “soon”.

“It's impacting me a lot both emotionally and economically,” the applicant, who asked to remain anonymous, told us. “With the increasing waiting time, it feels every day they are taking time because they might reject my application. Due to that stress I lost my job a year ago and am unable to focus on getting a new job due to stress. Always thinking about what will happen if they rejects my application.”

“The problem is that I don't know [the Migration Agency's] rules,” he added. “I've tried asking and every time the reply is different from what is written on their website.” 

So how are citizenship cases handled, and just why are waiting times so high?

“Every [citizenship application] is screened the same day it comes into the Migration Agency,” press officer Pierre Karatzian said. “A certain amount (around 25 percent) of the cases are assessed as early as this as ready for a decision; they can either be granted or rejected. These cases are normally processed within three months.”

In general, other applications are placed in a queue and processed in order of the date they were submitted, oldest first.

But certain cases are given higher priority. After waiting at least six months, citizenship applicants have the option (under Section 12 of the Administrative Procedure Act) to submit a request for the case to be concluded within four weeks.

In cases where such a request is made, and the Migration Court grants an appeal of the decision and requests the agency to make a decision on the case 'as soon as possible', these cases go to the top of the queue, meaning a longer wait for those which have been in the queue for a longer time.


Photo: Emelie Asplund/imagebank.sweden.se

The reader who spoke to The Local had made such a request for a decision in November 2019, however his request was rejected.

As well as citizenship applications, the agency is of course also responsible for a variety of processes including work permits, residence permits, asylum requests, and more. 

However, Karatzian said: “The citizenship activities are currently given highest priority, and have been strengthened significantly in terms of resources in 2019 and in 2020 so far.”

“The reason that waiting times have increased so significantly is above all the very large increase in [citizenship] applications over at least the past four years, which is due to the large number of asylum seekers who arrived in Sweden. The Migration Agency did not have the possibility during this time to prioritize citizenship cases,” he explained.

“Under the new Administrative Procedure Act from July 1st 2018, applicants are also given the chance to request that a case be concluded within four weeks. The large number of such requests took resources from the actual processing of citizenship cases. Since these cases must also be prioritized after any judgment from the Migration Court, and since very many applicants who requested a decision under Section 12 hadn't waited longer than six to nine months for a decision, this contributed to the fact that the oldest cases became even older.”

“The large recruitment that was done at the start of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020 is giving results, but training of new case workers takes time,” he concluded, but added that the agency expected a reduction in waiting times over the course of 2020.

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Member comments

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  1. Thanks for the article. However there are many questions related their handling of citizenship applications should be asked. when they say after first day screening of applications, certain cases are prioritized as ready for decision and rest been queued then what logic is applied to do this prioritization? there are plenty of examples when two identically same applications (in terms of everything including their conduct of living in Sweden etc) are treated differently. Now MV will say that every case is different, which is in theory true, but at the end the applicants are not stupid that they cannot identify the difference. In other words are they saying its a lottery which is done after collecting fresh application? I think you should ask the authority more tough questions about their mysterious handling.

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