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MIGRATIONSVERKET

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

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.

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

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

  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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SWEDISH CITIZENSHIP

EXPLAINED: How are Sweden’s cities celebrating new citizens this year?

After two years of virtual celebrations, this year Sweden's cities will once again celebrate the new citizens with a ceremony. Here's what different cities have got planned.

EXPLAINED: How are Sweden's cities celebrating new citizens this year?

Under a 2015 law, all municipalities in Sweden are required to hold a ceremony to welcome new citizens. 

The ceremony is intended to convey to new Swedish citizens that their citizenship is “the most important legal link between the citizen and the state”, that citizenship brings “freedom, rights, and responsibilities”, and that citizenship is one of the grounds of folkstyrelsen, or “government by the peoplein Sweden, and stands for samhörighet, or “belonging” in Sweden. 

Municipalities are reimbursed for part of the cost of hosting the ceremonies. 

Stockholm

Stockholm is once again celebrating new citizens in a ceremony in the Stadshuset building. Around 1,300 of the 6,701 new citizens invited to the ceremony have said they will attend, and they have invited a total of 900 guests to accompany them. All citizens over the age of 18 are allowed to bring one guest and all under the age of 18 two guests. 

The 30-minute ceremony will start with a short musical concert, followed by a speech from the city’s mayor Anna König Jerlmyr and city council chair Cecilia Brinck. 

The ceremony will end with a rendition of Sweden’s national anthem, after which all invitees are invited for fika (coffee and a cinnamon bun) in the building’s Golden Hall or Gyllene sal. 

Only those who became citizens during 2021 are invited to the ceremony, as those who became citizens in 2020 and 2019 were celebrated with a digital ceremony. 

Gothenburg 

Gothenburg is pulling out all the stops, inviting 6,063 new citizens to a ceremony in the Slottsskogen park, on the grass in front of the Björngårdsvillan pavilion in the park. 

The ceremony will involve a performance by the multicultural Dream Orchestra, a group rendition of Sweden’s national anthem, a speech by Gothenburg’s mayor Axel Josefsson, and a concert by the Gothenburg symphony orchestra. 

Malmö 

Malmö has decided to hold a shorter ceremony in 2022 than those it held before the pandemic struck, with a two-hour ceremony outside in the city’s Stortorget Square which are part and parcel of the city’s larger National Day celebrations. 

Some 4,000 new citizens have been invited to the ceremony, but the organisers expect only a few hundred to attend. 

The event will start at 12am, and will start with a speech by Anneli Hultén, Governor of Skåne. The Malmöflickorna dance gymnastics group will march in holding Swedish flags, and a choir will perform. 

At 12.40, Carina Nilsson, chair of Malmö’s city council, will give a speech directly to the city’s new citizens. 

Only those who became citizens in 2021 are invited to the ceremony. Those who became citizens in 2020 were invited to a symbolic planting of flower bulbs at the Ribersborg beach on October 3rd to celebrate Malmö gaining its 350,000th resident. 

Uppsala 

Uppsala is holding a citizenship ceremony in the Uppsala Slott, the castle in the city centre, for everyone in the city who became a citizen in 2021.  Around 2,050 people have been invited, of whom 415 are children, and the city expects around 580 new citizens to attend the ceremony. 

Sweden’s Social Security minister Ardalan Shekarabi will give a speech, as will Eva Edwardsson, chair of the city council, Linda Eskilsson, chair of the city’s cultural committee, and Kholod Saghir, the editor of the freedom of expression organisation Svenska Pen. 

The city’s La Cappella women’s choir will perform. 

Västerås 

Våsterås is holding a ceremony for those who became citizens in 2021, with the chair of the municipality’s council, Anders Teljebäck, holding a speech, and a “flag parade” to the Djäkneberget park where the city is holding its National Day celebrations.

Södertälje 

Södertälje, the satellite town outside Stockholm, has decided to invite everyone who has become a citizen in 2019, 2020 or 2021 to a ceremony at the city’s Torekällberget open air museum and the Råby stage. 

They will get speeches from the mayor Boel Godner, and from the chair of the city council Peter Friström. 

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