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SWEDISH CITIZENSHIP

How do Sweden’s citizenship rules compare to Denmark’s and Norway’s?

As Sweden considers tightening its rules for both citizenship and permanent residency, we take a look at how Sweden's citizenship requirements compare to other Scandinavian countries.

How do Sweden's citizenship rules compare to Denmark's and Norway's?
Photo: Erik Johansen/NTB scanpix/TT

Gaining citizenship of one Nordic country grants you rights in the others, such as making it easier to move there, work there, and even become a citizen. So, where is it easiest to become a citizen, and where will you be waiting the longest?

Photo: Erik Johansen/NTB scanpix/TT

Sweden

Length of stay: 2-5 years

EU and non EU citizens can apply for Swedish citizenship after living in Sweden for five continuous years with right of residence. 

In some cases, this period can be even shorter.

Nordic citizens who have lived in Sweden for at least five years can become Swedish citizens through notification. This involves filling out a form and sending it to the local country administrative board, with a fee of 475 kronor.

The alternative is to submit an application for citizenship to the Migration Agency, which Nordic citizens can do after living in Sweden for two years. No other requirements below are needed for Nordic citizens.

EU and non-EU citizens who have lived with a Swedish citizen for at least two years can apply for citizenship earlier, after three continuous years in Sweden. However applicants will be asked to show that they have adapted well to Swedish life. This could be shown through learning the language, proving you can support yourself, or through the length of your marriage.

The requirement for continuous residency in Sweden means that if you spend more than six weeks abroad in any given year, it will extend the period of time until you can apply for citizenship.

For non-EU citizens, the process for getting citizenship is just the same as for EU citizens, except there is an additional requirement for a permanent residence permit. Permanent residency for non EU citizens is usually granted after four years of living in Sweden.

Other requirements: No outstanding debts or recent crimes

In addition to length of stay, EU and non EU citizens must have “conducted themselves well in Sweden”, and the Migration Agency will request information on whether you have debts or have committed crimes in the country.

An application can be rejected if a person has unpaid taxes, fines, or other charges. Debts to private companies passed on to the Swedish Enforcement Authority could also impact the application, even if they are paid, as two years must pass after payment to prove you’re debt-free. If you’ve committed a crime, there’s also a qualifying period before citizenship can be granted which depends on the sentence. 

An automated test (in Swedish) can be filled in here to see if you meet those requirements. 

Language and citizenship test: May soon be required

While Swedish language skills and knowledge of Swedish society are not currently a requirement for citizenship, this could change in the future. In January 2021, the Swedish Ministry of Justice and Migration put forward proposals to introduce an A2 language exam for would-be Swedes, with exceptions for vulnerable individuals who have made a reasonable effort to learn the language. There are also proposals for a knowledge test about Swedish society.

These proposals will be subject to a long political process before they can be put into law, so at present the requirements are proof of identity, duration of residency in Sweden, and no record of serious criminal offences or debts.

Processing time and fees

The Migration Agency says applicants should expect an average of 39 months between submitting their application and becoming Swedish. Readers of The Local have reported the process taking anywhere between a couple of weeks to over three years. The application costs 1,500 SEK (~€150).

Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix/TT

Norway

Length of stay: 6-8 years

EU and non EU citizens can apply for Norwegian citizenship after living in Norway for eight years out of the past eleven years and if they have held residence permits that were each valid for at least one year during that time.

A new rule, which came into effect in January 2022, means that if you have sufficient income, you can apply after six years rather than eight. Currently sufficient income is 319,997 kroner (~€30,520), but this can change annually.

Those with Norwegian spouses, registered partners, or cohabitants can apply after living in Norway for three of the last ten years. 

Nordic citizens over the age of 12 can apply for Norwegian citizenship after two years living in Norway and do not need to fulfil any further requirements below.

Language test

EU and non EU citizens have to pass an oral Norwegian language test at either A2 or B1 level. A2 refers to an elementary level of Norwegian, and B1 is considered semi-fluent. 

The change to the language requirement from A2 to B1 will apply from autumn 2022 at the earliest, according to the UDI

Citizenship test

Applicants must pass a citizenship test (statsborgerprøve), or a social studies test if aged between 18 and 67. The tests must be taken in Norwegian, either Bokmål or Nynorsk.

For the citizenship test, applicants need to answer at least 24 of 36 multiple choice questions correctly to pass. Topics included in the test are history, geography, democracy, welfare, education, health and working life in Norway.

Other requirements

After filling in an online application, applicants have to deliver a series of documents in person, including birth certificates, marriage certificates (if applicable), a full list of entries into and departures from Norway, at least seven years of tax returns, and a police report certifying “good conduct”.

Processing time and fees

It costs 6,500 kroner to apply if you are over 18. However, the fee is cheaper or completely waived if you are a Nordic citizen, previously held Norwegian citizenship, or are under 18 years of age. 

Applications take around 16 months to process but this can vary.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to apply for Norwegian citizenship

Photo: Fredrik Hagen/NTB scanpix/TT

Denmark

Length of stay: 9 years

Normally, you must have lived in Denmark for nine consecutive years (without living elsewhere for more than three months) in order to qualify for Danish citizenship.

This period is reduced in some cases: for refugees it becomes eight years, citizens of Nordic countries need a two-year stay and people married to Danes qualify after 6-8 years, depending on the length of the marriage.

Other exceptions are made for those who have taken a significant portion of their education in Denmark, who may qualify after five years. If you moved to Denmark before your 15th birthday, you can become nationalised after you turn 18.

EU and non EU citizens must have a permit for permanent residency in Denmark for a minimum of two years before applying for citizenship.

Language test

Applicants must have passed the national Prøve i Dansk 3 language test, the final exam in the national Danish language school system. This involves a reading, writing, speaking and listening test which equates to B2 Danish.

There are certain exemptions from the language requirements. Residents of Greenland and the Faroe Islands, as well as Swedish and Norwegian speakers, do not need to document Danish proficiency. Dispensation can be given for applicants with certain types of illnesses and disabilities, and different rules apply to children.

Citizenship test

A condition of getting Danish citizenship is to demonstrate knowledge of Danish society, culture and history, by having passed a citizenship test (indfødsretsprøve).

In April 2021, the existing citizenship test, consisting of 40 multiple choice questions, was supplemented with five extra questions about “Danish values” such as equality, freedom of speech and the relation between legislation and religion. 

The pass mark is 36/45 and at least four of the five Danish values questions must be answered correctly. 

Children under 12, Swedish and Norwegian citizens, and people from the Danish minority in German region Schleswig-Holstein do not need to take the citizenship test.

Other requirements

  • Sign a declaration pledging allegiance and loyalty to Denmark and Danish society and promising to abide by its laws.
  • Be free of debt to the public sector and be financially self-sufficient.
  • Have no criminal convictions.
  • Hold a full-time job or been self-employed for three and a half of the last four years. 
  • Attend a ceremony, declare you will uphold Denmark’s laws, values and principles and shake hands with an official.

You also need to submit paperwork to prove your identity, current nationality, residency and economic activity in Denmark.

Processing time and fees

At the end of 2021, the processing time for applications was approximately 14 months, according to the immigration ministry. The fee is 4,000 Danish kroner (~€537).

After this time, you receive a letter notifying you that you can expect to be accepted for citizenship at the next round of parliamentary procedure (which happens twice yearly), provided you still fulfil the requirements at that time.

Once the new law making you a citizen comes into force, you will be sent a declaration that you have been accepted for citizenship with one final condition: you attend a ceremony, declare that you will uphold Denmark’s laws, values and principles, shake hands with an official and become a citizen.

Roundup

Even if Sweden decides to include a language and citizenship test in their application process, the country will still remain the easiest and cheapest in Scandinavia in which to become a citizen, although there’s a downside – it also has the longest processing time for citizenship applications.

Here’s the roundup.

Swedish citizenship

Application Fee: ~€150 (1,500 Swedish kronor) 

Length of time living in country: 3-5 years 

Language level needed: None, but this may change

Citizenship test: None, but this may change

Other requirements: No record of serious criminal offences or debts

Dual nationality allowed: Yes

Processing time: Around 39 months

Norwegian Citizenship 

Application Fee: ~€250 (2,500 Norwegian kroner)

Length of time living in country: 6-8 of the past 11 years

Language level needed: A2 Norwegian, soon to change to the more difficult B1 Norwegian

Citizenship test: Yes

Other requirements: A full list of entries into and departures from Norway, at least seven years of tax returns, and a police report certifying “good conduct”.

Dual nationality allowed: Yes thanks to a law change in 2020 

Processing time: Around 16 months

Danish citizenship

Application Fee: ~€537 (4,000 Danish kroner)

Length of time living in country: 9 years

Language level needed: B2 Danish

Citizenship test: Yes

Other requirements: No record of serious criminal offences or debts and be financially self-sufficient; sign a declaration pledging allegiance and loyalty to Denmark and its laws; hold a full-time job or been self-employed for three and a half of the last four years; attend a ceremony.

Dual nationality allowed: Yes 

Processing time: 14 months – 2 years

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For members

SWEDISH CITIZENSHIP

TEST: Is your Swedish good enough for citizenship?

To become a Swedish citizen, you may soon need to prove your language skills. Do yours make the grade?

TEST: Is your Swedish good enough for citizenship?

The Swedish government’s proposal that applicants for residency have to pass a language test is almost certain to get through parliament. The proposal — part of the January Agreement struck between the Social Democrats, the Centre Party, and the Liberal Party — has a big majority of parliamentary parties behind it.

So it might be time to sign up for SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) classes – that is, if you haven’t already. 

READ ALSO: Swedish language tests for citizenship: Here’s what we know about the proposal so far

What level of Swedish will you need for citizenship? 

An inquiry into bringing in the language requirement for concluded in January last year that applicants for citizenship should be able to listen to and read Swedish at B1 the second of the six levels in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), equivalent to having completed level D, the fourth-highest level in the Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) course. 

This is a fairly high level of Swedish, well beyond the simple nej, tack, (“no, thanks”) you might need when asked if you want a receipt at the supermarket, or the en kardemummabulle och en latte (“a cardamom bun and a latte”) you might need when ordering a fika. It’s enough to get the gist of what’s in Swedish newspapers, listen to the radio, or to follow a lecture without too much difficultly. 

When it comes to speaking or writing Swedish, the inquiry suggested requiring a lower level, A2. This is equivalent to SFI level C, and roughly the same as GCSE level in the UK.  

This is the same level which the government has suggested for those applying for permanent residency for reading and listening as well as speaking and writing.

READ ALSO: Is your Swedish good enough for permanent residency?

What are the CEFR’s A2 and B1 levels? 

According to the CEFR guide, someone at B1 level, “can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.” and “can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken.”

To compare this to school levels in European countries, this is roughly equivalent to getting an A-C grade at AS level in the UK. 

A2 is much more basic. According to CEFR, this is enough to “communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters”. 

People reaching this level should be able to “describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.”

So there’s no need to speak or write with perfect grammar, or to have a large Swedish vocabulary, but people at this level should be able to communicate in a basic way when writing or speaking. 

How can I test my level? 

If you want to do a thorough assessment of whether your Swedish is good enough for citizenship, you can do one of the free level tests provided by the Folkuniversitetet adult education school. You need to do the tests for Swedish level A2 and B1. 

The Swedish National Agency for Education (skolverket), also has sample papers for the national test for SFI level C and SFI level D.

Below are some excerpts to help you judge whether or not your Swedish is at the right level. 

Listening (level D) 

In this example listening test, you first have to listen to this recording.

Did that make any sense? Then here’s the question paper. 

Du får höra två personer som bokar en resa tillsammans. Lyssna och svara på frågorna. Läs först igenom uppgiften

A Vem ska de hälsa på?

□ En kompis.

□ En släkting.

□ En studiekamrat.

B Varför bestämmer de sig för att resa med tåg?

 □ Det är snabbast.

□ Det är billigast.

□ Det är trevligast

If that’s too much for you, then you’ve got some more studying to do if you expect to be applying in early 2025. 

Reading (Level D) 

You can find examples of various reading tests here. To give you an idea, we’ve put one below.  

Vem vänder sig texten till? 

Texten vänder sig till …

□lärare. □politiker. □elever. □chefer

Texten vänder sig till …

□lärare. □politiker. □ elever. □chefer.

Did you get that? Then maybe you’re ready for whatever future language test the government decides to put in place. 

Writing

This is the same level as has been suggested for permanent residency, so this repeats the example from the permanent residency test article

In this prompt for the writing test for SFI Level C, you are asked to write a letter to a friend about a recent trip.

It suggests telling them about where you stayed, what you did, and what you liked and disliked about the trip. You are asked to pay attention to how you start and end the letter.

Skriv ett brev till en vän och berätta om en resa du har gjort.

Du kan till exempel
• berätta om vart du reste.
• berätta om vad du gjorde.
• berätta om vad du tyckte var bra och vad du inte tyckte var bra med resan.

Tänk på hur du börjar och slutar brevet.

Can you understand the instructions at least? Now you need to show off your letter-writing skills. 

Speaking

In the solo portion of this section, you are asked to talk about an everyday topic based on something you have experienced – like a recent trip, or a party you attended. You are asked to speak for 5-7 minutes, and you may take some time to plan out your thoughts before starting.

The teacher holding the exam will say to you: 

Du ska få berätta om en något du varit med om.
Du ska prata i 5-7 minuter.
Om du vill kan du ta en liten stund och planera vad du ska säga innan du börjar prata.

In the paired portion of this section, you are given a topic – like what is most important in school – and asked to have a 10-minute conversation about the topic. It should be a discussion, with both participants speaking for an equal period of time, and you will have access to some prompts in a “prompt card” to keep the conversation going.

The teacher leading the test will tell you something like: 

Ni ska prata med varandra om vad ni tycker är viktigt.
Ni ska prata i cirka 10 minuter.
Det är viktigt att ni lyssnar på varandra, ställer frågor till varandra och frågar varandra om ni inte förstår.
Tänk på att ni båda talar ungefär lika mycket.
Jag kommer inte att vara med och prata utan bara lyssna, det är ni som ska diskutera med varandra.

Till hjälp får ni den här tankekartan (lägg den på bordet) på den finns några punkter som ni kan diskutera, ni måste inte prata om alla men ni kan använda dem som stöd under diskussionen (gå igenom tankakartan snabbt).
Frågetecknet betyder att det också kan finnas många andra saker som är viktiga, som inte finns med på tankekartan.
Okej, då kan ni börja prata med varandra!

Could you at least understand that? Could you keep a conversation going on these topics in Swedish? Then you might be ready for the citizenship test. 

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