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RESIDENCE PERMITS

What rights do the Sweden Democrats want to take away from foreigners?

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats are on the cusp of power following the right-wing bloc's victory in Sweden's parliamentary election. What rights and benefits do they want to take away from foreigners in Sweden?

What rights do the Sweden Democrats want to take away from foreigners?
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson. The screen next to him reads "lowest immigration in Europe". Photo: Christine Olsson / TT

The right to some social security benefits

In a document on the party’s website, titled Gör din plikt, kräv din rätt – en uppvärdering av medborgarskap (Do your duty, demand your rights – an appraisal of citizenship), the Sweden Democrats outline their plans for limiting residence-based social security benefits to Swedish citizens and EU citizens only.

The document is dated April 2021, but appears to have been uploaded to the party’s website in July 2022, and is still listed under the heading “what we want”.

Benefits will still be available to EU citizens, the document states, due to “certain EU legal conditions where special regulation for Swedish citizens could entail a renegotiation of the European Convention”.

The document further states that “the proposals in the report intend to restrict residence-based social security benefits so they are only available to Swedish citizens, as much as possible”.

Residence-based social security benefits which would no longer be available to non-EU citizens if this proposal were to become law include child benefits, adoption benefits, sickness benefits in the form of a guarantee benefit, housing benefits, disability benefits, nursing benefits, cost compensation benefits, rehabilitation allowance, parental leave pay at minimum or basic levels and dental care benefits.

Note that this proposal would not affect the rights of non-EU citizens to employment-based benefits, such as compensation for injuries sustained at work, income-based maternity or paternity pay, pregnancy pay, income-related unemployment or sick pay, or pay for taking care of a sick child (VAB).

The Local reached out to the Sweden Democrats for comment on this document, as well as to ask whether it is still current. A press officer informed us that the party “will not be participating at this time”.

Permanent residence permits

The Sweden Democrats also want to abolish permanent residence permits, arguing in a separate document on their website, titled En bättre framtid för Sverige (A better future for Sweden), that “the institution of permanent residence permits clashes with the idea of increasing the value of citizenship”.

“Under the current rules, the difference between the two institutions is small, and in practice is nothing more than the right to vote,” the document says, arguing that “citizenship has become an upgraded version of a permanent residence permit.”

“In order to preserve the sanctity of citizenship, the right of foreigners to stay in Sweden should never be allowed to approach that of Swedish citizens,” it reads.

Instead of granting permanent residence permits after a certain amount of time in the country (currently at least three years, in most cases four), the Sweden Democrats propose phasing them out completely in favour of “temporary residence permits of varying length”.

The party addresses the high level of resources which would be necessary if the Migration Agency were tasked with renewing temporary residence permits in perpetuity, but do not believe it would cause issues, stating that “the Migration Agency’s experiences with permit extension cases under the temporary law have shown good possibilities of fast and efficient procedures, especially in many similar cases”.

Current waiting times for temporary residence permit renewal at time of writing range from five months to 27 months, depending on the type of permit.

The right to citizenship after five years

Under current rules, immigrants to Sweden can apply for citizenship after living in the country for five years (three years in some cases). 

The Sweden Democrats believe this is too short, stating in a migration policy document that they want instead to introduce a minimum qualifying period of ten years before immigrants are eligible to apply for citizenship in Sweden.

In addition to this, the party wants to introduce “well-regulated requirements for citizenship applications,” such as “mastery of the Swedish language and knowledge of fundamental facts about Sweden, our society and our history, as well as current laws and rules, responsibilities as well as rights”, which “can and should be confirmed via testing before citizenship can be granted”.

The party wants to further require that prospective applicants include an “explanation that they have understood the responsibilities and duties citizenship entails” in their citizenship application.

Further to this, the party states that “respect for and loyalty to Sweden are a natural part of citizenship” and that “citizens of Sweden should also be part of Sweden and see Sweden as their homeland”.

The right to move to Sweden to be with a family member, in some cases

In the document titled En bättre framtid för Sverige, the Sweden Democrats also suggest that they want to limit the right to residence permits based on family reunification, also known as anhöriginvandring or occasionally a ‘sambo visa’.

In this document, the Sweden Democrats state that “the rules for family reunification should be adapted to the minimum levels under European law. It should therefore only be possible for refugees”.

This would mean that it would no longer be possible for immigrants to be granted a residence permit to move to Sweden to be with a spouse or cohabiting partner who is already living in Sweden, unless that spouse or cohabiting partner was in Sweden as a refugee.

In addition to this, the Sweden Democrats state that only the following family members would be eligible for this type of permit:

  • A foreigner who is the spouse or cohabiting partner of the refugee
  • An underaged unmarried foreigner who is the child of the refugee or the refugee’s spouse or cohabiting partner
  • An underaged unmarried foreigner who is the child of the refugee if the refugee has sole custody of the foreigner, and if the foreigner is financially dependent on the refugee
  • An underaged unmarried foreigner who is the child of the refugee’s spouse or cohabiting partner if the refugee’s spouse or cohabiting partner has sole custody of the foreigner, and if the foreigner is financially dependent on the refugee’s spouse or cohabiting partner

Finally, the Sweden Democrats propose that the relationship between the refugee and the family member must have been established before the refugee entered Sweden, and that the refugee must have been living in Sweden legally for two years to be able to bring their family member to Sweden under this permit.

In the document, the Sweden Democrats state that “Swedish citizens living abroad must have special opportunities to return home with their foreign family members, chiefly regarding to priority in processing and the possibility of applying within Sweden,” although it is not clear whether foreign family members would be able to apply to move to Sweden to live with a Swedish citizen already living in the country.

In addition to this, the Sweden Democrats state in the document that “a residence permit should be rejected for:

  • foreigners who are the spouse or partner of someone who lives in or has been granted a residence permit in Sweden, or
  • foreign children who are unmarried and have a parent who is married to or the partner of someone who is living in or has been granted a residence permit in Sweden, if one of the spouses or partners is under 21 years old”.

The document also states that “residence permits should also be rejected for foreigners who are applying to move to Sweden to live with a relative who is living in Sweden or has been granted a residence permit, for reasons of public order, safety and health”, and finally that “residence permits shall also be denied if the foreigner or person they are applying to move to refuses to follow integration measures”.

The Local has reached out to the Sweden Democrats’ migration spokesperson for comment and clarification on this topic.

Member comments

  1. Firstly, thank you for this article, it’s deeply frustrating but I’m glad I know the consequences.

    As someone who moved from the UK to Sweden in 2020, (and has residency) I’m guessing I’m considered a non-EU citizen now?

    1. Hi Llewelyn,

      That depends, do you have post-Brexit residence status (uppehållsstatus)? If so, you’re considered an EU citizen. If you have uppehållstillstånd (a residence permit), then you’re considered non-EU, and if you have uppehållsrätt (as the partner of an EU citizen, for example), you’re also considered an EU citizen.
      See this article for detail on the different kinds of residence status.
      I also just want to underline that these are just policy suggestions, they have not been proposed in parliament and it’s unclear whether a majority in parliament would vote in favour of the law, so nothing is changing just yet.

      Let me know if you have any questions,

      Becky

  2. When SD’s leader is a college dropout himself, it’s no wonder why he and his people couldn’t care less about the negative consequences of such proposals on the high-tech industries and academia. Why on earth would a talented person want to come here to study and work with such draconian immigration policies?

  3. As someone who works and pays taxes in Sweden, I can’t bring my spouse in because I’m not a refugee?

    Also, waiting times for migrationsverket are not only way too long but unlike Germany for instance, you are not given any temporary travel document and people are stuck in Sweden for months if not years at a time. So perpetual temporary permits are really not the way to go.

    If you wanna make Sweden unattractive then people will stop coming and others will start leaving in droves. Then see how you’re gonna fill those high-yield high-paying IT jobs for instance.

    There should be no difference between an old Swede or a new Swede considering they are both law-abiding tax-paying people.

    Not good.

  4. If this party gets it’s way with these proposals I believe it will have many unintended affects. Denying non-EU immigrants these basic rights, the extreme curtailing of the sambo visa, the abolition of permanent residency will create a parallel society. And to get these rights among others will take 10 years?

    I believe it will just increase the number of immigrants who wish not to assimilate. Those who come may increasingly see Sweden as a stop-over country. Other countries offer more stability. The brain drain as mentioned above has already started in academia with the recent decision regarding non-EU PhD students in Sweden and will increase in other sectors as well. Who would want to settle here if your status is always in question, especially with the recent policing proposals that include DNA collection for those who can’t prove they have a right to reside in Sweden?

    And the Migration Agency is extremely slow already. I know of many people who have been unable to come to Sweden for work or study because of the processing time. Relying solely on temporary permits would make it even worse, and the wait times for citizenship can currently be over a year or more!

    I predict non-EU immigration may as well slow to a halt (which is what they want). But, it may also dissuade more new immigrants from learning Swedish and integrating into society. Even now, both EU and non-EU residents already feel unwelcome in this country from my experience. But the silver lining is that perhaps it will get Swedish society thinking more seriously about the immigrant experience if they find they cannot hire workers or live together with their partners. Or maybe not, as it is hard to know the path such apparent disdain can take.

  5. I work here, pay my taxes, and contribute to Swedish society as would any citizen. Why should my existing rights be taken away? I’m working hard at learning Swedish because I want to one day become a citizen. Why is that now more difficult for someone willing to work for it?

    Beyond being a bunch of racists, the SD are just plain short sighted. I came here from the US, partly to get away from this alt right nonsense. It’s been a dream of mine to live in a place like Sweden for over a decade.

  6. This is really sad and disturbing news. I have learnt the language on my own accord because I truly believed that the Swedish people were inclusive and work on consensus based society and the nonsensical xenophobic rhetoric wont be here. However, I guess the consensus now is that that they dont want people like me in spite of whatever contributions we make. Paying taxes, trying to integrate, learning the language is all immaterial now. Unfortunately for us , our voices will just remain as some forgotten text here while our future have been cast aside as garbage. This constant labelling of “free loading” immigrants in spite of working our asses off here is just stupid and I was stupid in believing that Swedes were kind blah blah …. I am afraid in the near future, we might start to see racist attacks as well . Yes , I know their standard response “Go back to where you came from if you dont like it” . Well I guess thats what it is , I guess the time for people who had the romantic vision of world of global citizens is up. Nothing could be more wrong and after a pandemic, all we learnt is to hate other people … really really sad. Hopefully, the next generation will have more sense. As for us friends, we have to back our skills and maybe humanity still exists somewhere else.

  7. What would be interesting to know is how likely would these policies be made into a law and what would it take for these policies to become a law.
    As Non EU citizen, we understand what could be the situation like but this instills more fear and pessimism than may be warranted. Adding the point of how soon or realistic these could become a law would make it informative for so many of us

    1. Hi,
      Thanks, that’s a really good point – I’m actually working on an article looking at how likely it is that the Sweden Democrats’ plans will actually be enacted, but it’s unlikely that that will be finished today.
      In terms of the policies in this article in particular, they would first need to get the other three parties in their bloc on board (Moderates, Liberals and Christian Democrats) – the Liberals would probably have issues with the citizenship plans and the permanent residence permit plans, in particular.
      After that, if they got the other three parties on side, the new law would need to be proposed, investigated, and voted on before it could be enacted, so I personally would be surprised if it was enacted within the next two years.
      Does that help?
      Best,
      Becky Waterton, The Local Sweden

  8. thanks for highlight – these are truly draconian rules and I would def move out of sweden if these were to come into effect, no questions asked. Im a citizen now but this is bullshit

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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

Sweden’s right-wing parties agree to bring back Norlén as Speaker 

The four parties backing Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson as prime minister on Sunday announced that they had agreed to keep the current Speaker, Andreas Norlén in place, when the role is put to a vote as parliament opens on Monday.

Sweden's right-wing parties agree to bring back Norlén as Speaker 

The parties won a three-seat majority over the bloc led by the incumbent Social Democrats in Sweden’s general election on September 11th, and are currently in the middle of negotiating how they will form Sweden’s next government. 

Sweden’s parliament meets at 11am for the official installation of the 349 MPs for this mandate period. The votes for the Speaker and three Deputy Speakers are the first item on the agenda, after which the parties each select their parliamentary leaders and then vote on who should chair each of the parliamentary committees. 

READ ALSO: What happens next as parliament reopens? 

In a joint press release announcing the decision, the parties also agreed that the Sweden Democrats would be given eight of the 16 chairmanships the bloc will have of parliamentary committees in the next parliament, and that MPs for all four parties would back Julia Kronlid, the Sweden Democrats’ Second Deputy Leader, as the second deputy Speaker, serving under Norlén. 

In the press release, the parties said that Norlén had over the last four years shown that he has “the necessary personal qualities and qualifications which the role requires”. 

The decision to retain Norlén, who presided over the 134 days of talks and parliamentary votes that led to the January Agreement in 2019, was praised by Social Democrat leader Magdalena Andersson. 

Norlén, she said in a statement, had “managed his responsibilities well over the past four years and been a good representative of Sweden’s Riksdag.” 

The decision to appoint Kronlid was opposed by both the Left Party and the Green Party, who said that she supported tightening abortion legislation, and did not believe in evolution.

The Green Party’s joint leader Märta Stenevi said that her party “did not have confidence in Julia Kronlid”, pointing to an interview she gave in 2014 when she said she did not believe that humans were descended from apes.

The party has proposed its finance spokesperson Janine Alm Ericson as a rival candidate. 

The Left Party said it was planning to vote for the Centre Party’s candidate for the post second deputy Speaker in the hope of blocking Kronlid as a candidate.

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