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IMMIGRATION

Country by country: Where do Sweden’s newest foreign residents come from?

More people moved to Sweden last year than the year before. But where do they all come from?

Country by country: Where do Sweden's newest foreign residents come from?
People with suitcases in the arrivals hall at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Immigration to Sweden increased year-on-year in 2021 for the first time since 2016, when around 163,000 new residents were added to the country’s population register, according to fresh data by national number crunchers Statistics Sweden.

In total, 90,631 people moved to Sweden last year, up 9.8 percent on 2020.

The largest group of immigrants, 11 percent, were Swedes returning to their country of birth.

This was followed by people born in India. A total of 6,017 people born in India moved to Sweden last year, an increase of 48.2 percent on the previous year.

The next largest groups were from Syria (3,538 people born in Syria became registered as residents last year), closely followed by Germany (3,501) and Pakistan (3,240).

Fewer people emigrated from Sweden last year, with 48,284 people moving out – a decrease of 1.3 percent compared to 2020, according to Statistics Sweden’s data.

Again, most of these were native Swedes – 16,975 in total – of whom 10.4 percent moved to the UK, 10 percent moved to Norway and 8.3 percent moved to Denmark.

More than half of all emigrants last year (55.9 percent), at least the ones who were not born in Sweden, returned to their country of birth. This was particularly common among people born in Finland, with 1,609 Finnish-born people returning to Finland from Sweden.

The number of foreign-born residents in Sweden grew to 2,090,503 people last year, an increase of 2.1 percent. Syria, Iraq and Finland make up the top three countries of birth. Sweden’s total population stood at 10,452,326 at the turn of the year.

If you are new to Sweden, welcome! We hope you’ll like it here. The Local has plenty of guides, analysis and features aimed at newcomers and long-term residents, and if there’s a topic you’ve got questions about or think we should cover, you’re always welcome to get in touch. And for anyone wondering how they can stay in Sweden forever, here’s our guide.

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RESIDENCY PERMITS

What do we know about Swedish language tests for residence permits?

Sweden's ruling party, the Social Democrats, has proposed bringing in Swedish language tests for residence permits. When could these come into effect, and just how good will your Swedish need to be?

What do we know about Swedish language tests for residence permits?

How good will your Swedish need to be?

The government is proposing that applicants for permanent residence will need to show an ability in Swedish equivalent to level C at SFI (Swedish for Immigrants), the third and penultimate level of the SFI programme. This means they will need to have reached a fairly high ability, and be able to speak, listen, read and write Swedish in the “ordinary situations” they will meet in everyday life, while studying and at work.

Children or very old people who cannot be expected to learn what is needed will be exempted from the new rules.

How can I prove I speak Swedish?

If you went to a Swedish school and passed Grade 9 or upper secondary school, this will count as sufficient proof of your Swedish skills, as will the same level of education at a Norwegian or Danish school. 

For those who moved to Sweden as adults or those who did not attend Swedish school, proof that you have completed SFI level C would be sufficient. Passing the TISUS test, which is used to show you have a good enough grasp of Swedish to study at university, will also be accepted under the proposals.

If you didn’t have any of those qualifications, there will be the option of taking a specific language test for a residence permit, which currently does not exist.

Is this for all residence permits?

No, this is just for permanent residence permits, also referred to as PUT from the Swedish permanent uppehållstillstånd.

In 2019, the government appointed an inquiry into similar requirements for becoming a Swedish citizen.

The suggested details of that proposal were announced in 2021 and are still under consultation, but under those rules, applicants would need to complete SFI level D, the highest level of the SFI course.

Are there any other tests you’ll need to pass?

Yes – the government are also proposing making those applying for permanent residence pass a so-called “citizens test”, making sure they have a basic knowledge of Swedish society and culture. 

It’s not clear exactly what this test will entail, but Sweden’s migration minister, Anders Ygeman, said when announcing the proposal that those seeking residence would be tested on their “basic knowledge on the laws and principles which are the foundation of Swedish society”.

When would the test be introduced?

It is likely that it will take at least a year, perhaps longer, for the new language requirement proposal for permanent residence permits to come into force.

This is due to the length of the process a proposal must go through before it is formally introduced.

The proposal is currently in the first stage, where the government launches an inquiry, or utredning, into what the language and knowledge requirements should be for those seeking permanent residence permits in Sweden. The deadline for this stage is May 22nd 2023.

After the results of this inquiry are announced, the government will send the proposal out for consultation from the relevant authorities. A bill, taking these responses into account, will then be submitted to parliament. This could take months or even years, meaning that the proposal would not become law until at least a year from now.

For context, the separate 2019 inquiry into the introduction of language tests for citizenship is still under consultation from relevant authorities, with a suggested implementation date of January 1st, 2025, meaning it will have taken six years to be implemented from the time it was first proposed. 

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