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RESIDENCY PERMITS

Sweden calls for language requirement for permanent residence permits

The ruling Social Democrats have said they want to introduce language tests for those applying for permanent residence permits in Sweden, as well as a test on knowledge of Swedish society. Migration Minister Anders Ygeman announced the measures in a press conference on Wednesday.

Sweden calls for language requirement for permanent residence permits
Minister for Integration and Migration Anders Ygeman announced the language requirements at a press conference on Wednesday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

“We have far too many people in Sweden who lack the language skills and lack knowledge of Swedish society,” he told TT newswire at the press conference.

“If you want to live here, you need that.”

Those applying for permanent residency in Sweden have had to fulfil special requirements, such as being able to support themselves, since July 2021. Now, the government is proposing to tighten up these requirements further.

READ MORE: How to get Swedish citizenship or stay permanently in Sweden

Ygeman stated that the reason behind the proposal is not for fewer people to be granted residence permits, even though it may have that effect.

“Obviously if you set the bar this high, fewer people will be granted residence permits,” he said.

“But this is about people who want to live in Sweden knowing what is required of them.”

How the tests will be carried out is unclear, but the government wants the language and knowledge about Sweden to be combined as one test.

The proposed language level required is the equivalent of level C at SFI (Swedish for immigrants), which means a fairly high ability to speak, listen, read and write Swedish in “ordinary situations” in everyday life, study and work life.

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

In 2019, the government appointed an inquiry into similar requirements for becoming a Swedish citizen. The proposed details were announced in 2021 and are still under consultation. 

Maria Malmer Stenergard, a Moderate party spokesperson on migration issues, was not impressed by the measure: “The Social Democrats are once again doing what they are best at and appointing an inquiry when what is needed are concrete proposals… language is a crucial part of integration,” she said. 

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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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