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

The Local Sweden
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What do we know about Swedish language tests for residence permits?
Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT/Scanpix

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?

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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.

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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 a government inquiry suggested applicants pass a test at a slightly higher level than proposed for residency. The inquiry proposed that citizenship applicants show that they can listen to and read Swedish at B1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), equivalent to having completed level D at SFI. 

The proposed level for speaking and writing was SFI level C, the same as suggested for permanent residency. 

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".

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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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Anonymous 2022/07/19 11:29
I retired to Sweden as my wife is Swedish. Prior to that I had never lived or worked in Sweden. I have not worked in Sweden or anywhere else since retirement and don’t intend to. I refuse to draw the Swedish State pension. I would not be able to pass this new proposed test. Too old to learn up to proficiency despite trying partly because all Swedes speak near perfect English. I obtained residency and then citizenship four years ago. So someone in my position would be unable to join their spouse if this law was passed. Or will there be exceptions for such cases?

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