What’s behind the long wait to renew Swedish passports?

In many parts of Sweden, it's now impossible to renew your passport until September, forcing many people to grumpily put off long-awaited breaks in places like Thailand. What's going on and what can you do about it?

A Swedish passport is held in front of an automatic check-in machine at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport.
A Swedish passport is held in front of an automatic check-in machine at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

How do you get and renew a Swedish passport? 

In Sweden, you apply for and renew your passport at a passport centre run by the your local police.

To get a Swedish passport, you need to be a Swedish citizen, and bring along your national ID card, driving license, or an identity card for those who are resident in Sweden. In normal times, it’s a very quick and convenient system, with a machine in place to take your passport photo and also, to the alarm of privacy advocates, to scan your fingerprints.

How long is the current wait to renew passports in Sweden? 

Extremely long. According to the Swedish police, in the worst affected regions, it is now impossible to book a time slot to renew a passport before September. 

Here’s how long you will have to wait depending on where you live: 

  • September: Halland, Västra Götaland
  • August: Blekinge, Jönköping, Kronoberg, Skåne, Östergötland 
  • June/July: Kalmar, Stockholm, Värmland 
  • June: Södermanland, Dalarna
  • May/June: Gävleborg, Västernorrland
  • May: Gotland 
  • April: Jämtland
  • March/April: Norrbotten, Västernorrland

Source: Police/SvD

What’s the reason for the delays? 

With pandemic restrictions severely limiting travel through much of 2020 and 2021, particularly to locations outside the Schengen area, a lot of people did not bother to renew their passports as they expired.

As a result, local police passport centres are now having to handle a large backlog of applications, at the same time as the usual applications from people whose passports are expiring this year. 

“Partly it’s because we’re about to go into high season, and partly it’s because people have not renewed their passports during the pandemic, but have waited until restrictions have been lifted,” Linda Ahlén, chief of the unit which handles passports in the Swedish police, told the TT newswire in February. 

Torben Pedersen, passport officer at the police in Helsingborg, told state broadcaster SVT that police estimated that about half a million people had put off renewing their passport during the pandemic. 

The booking system in Helsingborg is so overloaded, he said, that it crashes whenever the police try to add new times in the morning, meaning they have to trickle in new appointment times in the afternoon. 

What could be done? 

In the short-term, not much.

Those who are really desperate to renew their passports and are willing to travel can theoretically book a time in one of the regions with shorter waiting times. They can then choose to have the passport sent to a passport office back in their home region, where they can pick it up without having to make an appointment. 

A second-hand market has also sprung up, with people selling time slots for as much as 500 kronor. According to the police, this is not illegal, although they say people should not book times they do not need.  

In the longer term, the system could be reformed. Perhaps Sweden should set up a new passport authority separate from the police? Or perhaps, Sweden could make its passports valid for ten years rather than five years, bringing the country in line with US, the UK, France, and most other countries. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Scandinavian airline SAS plans to launch electric planes in 2028 

Despite a number of economic challenges, airline SAS has announced an agreement with a Swedish company that will enable it to purchase electric aircraft and add them to its fleet. 

Scandinavian airline SAS plans to launch electric planes in 2028 

SAS has signed an agreement with Swedish company Heart Aerospace that could see it operating electric planes from 2028, the airline said in a press statement.

The model of plane that SAS would purchase from Heart Aerospace seats 30 passengers and has a range of 200 kilometers, SAS wrote.

“Along with the entire industry, we are responsible for making air travel more sustainable,” CEO of SAS Anko van der Werff said in the statement.

“SAS is dedicated to transforming air travel so future generations can continue to connect the world and enjoy the benefits of travel – but with a more sustainable footprint,” he said.

The aircraft will be installed with a hybrid system enabling them to double their range, SAS wrote.

“This has the potential to be a significant step on SAS’ sustainability journey, enabling zero-emission flights on routes within Scandinavia,” the press release stated. 

SAS has previously been involved in the development of another electric aircraft, the ES-30, which it partnered with Heart Aerospace on in 2019.

“The electric airplane will be a good supplement to our existing fleet, serving shorter routes in Denmark, Norway and Sweden in a more sustainable way,” van der Werff said.

READ MORE: SAS cancels 1,700 flights in September and October