The proposal is part of a major report by a parliamentary Migration Committee, which was set up last year to suggest new migration laws that would replace a temporary law which is due to expire next summer.
It is important to note that the fact that it has been proposed does not mean that it will automatically make it into Swedish law, or even to the next step of the legislative process. There are several hurdles along the way, not least the fact that Sweden's centre-left coalition government is split on many of the report's proposals.
But as Sweden is one of the few countries that does not even require language tests for citizenship applicants, it would be a major change to the lives of many foreign residents in Sweden, so we'll explain what it means.
The Migration Committee's full report, which is more than 600 pages and contains a series of other proposals, including temporary permits for asylum seekers and new family maintenance exceptions, which you can read about here. It explains the new proposals for permanent residence permits as follows:
“The Committee proposes that permanent residence permits should only be granted to aliens who meet the requirements of Swedish-language skills and civic knowledge, who can support themselves, and where there is no doubt, with regard to the alien's expected way of life, that a permanent residence permit should be granted.
“A permanent residence permit should also be conditional on the alien having held a temporary Swedish residence permit for at least three years.”
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Would there be exceptions?
Yes. Children and people who are entitled to receive a national pension or guarantee pension should be exempted from the requirements regarding language skills, civic knowledge and maintenance, according to the committee's report.
It should also be possible to exempt others if there are “exceptional grounds” for doing so.
The committee also proposes that it should be possible for the applicant to appeal a decision not to grant a permanent residence permit.
How would language skills be tested?
The report does not go into depth into how a foreigner's language skills would be assessed, but suggests that organising tests may be too demanding on resources and that an alternative option could be to link it to the applicant passing a Swedish For Immigrants (SFI) level C course.
But the matter is deliberately left open-ended.
A separate ongoing government inquiry into introducing language and civic tests for citizenship applicants is set to present its report later this year and next year, so the Migration Committee suggests awaiting that, and that the government or an expert authority should then come up with detailed requirements for how language skills could be assessed.
What happens next?
What would normally happen is that Sweden's government would prepare a bill on the back of the proposals, then send it out for a consultation round, and then put it to parliament for a vote.
However, Sweden is ruled by a Social Democrat-Green centre-left coalition government, who disagree on most of the proposals. The Social Democrats back them all, but the Greens only a few, arguing that the majority of them are too strict, including the language requirement. Bridging that gap in order to put forward a legislative proposal will prove difficult for the government.
But they are pressed for time. Sweden's current temporary law is set to expire on July 19th, 2021. Unless parliament manages to agree on a new law to replace it, Sweden will return to the more generous laws that were in place before 2016, which the Social Democrats have said they do not want.
The Migration Committee's report is split into several proposals, so one potential scenario could be that the government only moves forward with some of the proposals for now. Since language requirements would be a completely new measure, it is less time-sensitive than some of the other proposals, and the government will likely choose to await the outcome of the separate inquiry into language and civic tests for would-be citizens.
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