For members


How united is Sweden’s next government on citizenship and residence permits?

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats have a raft of plans when it comes to reforming Sweden's immigration policy, but which policies are the other right-wing parties in their bloc likely to agree on?

How united is Sweden's next government on citizenship and residence permits?
Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Negotiations as to who will be in government are ongoing in the right-wing bloc, made up of the Sweden Democrats, the Moderates, the Christian Democrats, after their bloc won over the left-wing bloc in Sweden’s general election on September 11th.

The Sweden Democrats in particular have plans to introduce a range of strict immigration policies, such as making it harder to gain Swedish citizenship and abolishing permanent residency permits in favour of shorter temporary permits.

However, the other parties in their bloc have differing policy on all these issues, meaning that the Sweden Democrats will most likely have to compromise on their reform goals.

In some areas, the right-wing parties have shown an interest in moving in the same direction, although not going quite as far as the Sweden Democrats.

So, what areas do the right-wing parties agree on?

Changes to permanent residency permits

In general, the parties all seem to be in favour of making it more difficult to gain permanent residence permits, with the Sweden Democrats the only party in favour of abolishing them entirely.

The Liberals state that in the case of work permits, which are granted for two two-year periods, after which holders can apply for a permanent residence permit, that “there could be reasons for extending work permits by two years to a total of six years”.

The Christian Democrats are also in favour of making it more difficult to gain permanent residency permits, stating that if someone with a residence permit “integrates into Swedish society by learning the Swedish language, absorbing the Swedish culture and community, supporting themselves, proves their identity and passes a test of good conduct, they should be able to apply for and be granted a permanent residence permit”.

The Moderates are also in favour of changing rules regarding permanent residence permits, stating that “if you want permanent residency and want to become a Swedish citizen, it is therefore reasonable to learn Swedish”, adding that they want “basic knowledge” of the Swedish language to be a requirement for both permanent residency and citizenship.

The Sweden Democrats want to abolish permanent residence permits, arguing in a document on their website 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.

Changes to citizenship

The four parties in the right-wing bloc also seem to agree on the fact that it should be more difficult to get Swedish citizenship, with two parties proposing that immigrants must be in Sweden for longer than the current standard of five years (three years in some cases) in order to qualify for citizenship.

The Christian Democrats are in favour of introducing language and culture tests for citizenship, as well as exploring the possibility of refusing ciizenship to people who have committed serious or repeated crimes. They also want to be able to revoke citizenship to people who gained it “by fraudulent means”, such as through bribery, or for people with dual citizenship who have committed terror or war crimes.

The Liberals are also in favour of introducing language tests for citizenship, arguing that it “strengthens the status of citizenship and is an important symbol for the principle that everyone in society should be able to communicate with each other”.

They are also in favour of introducing a “society test”, which will be followed by a personal interview to “mark the personal commitment and familiarity with both language and the rights and obligations that citizenship entails”.

The Moderates also approve of introducing language and culture tests for citizenship, stating that “basic knowledge of society and Swedish should be required for citizenship”. In addition to this, they want to raise the time limit for qualifying for citizenship from five to eight years.

Finally, they also want to make it possible to revoke citizenship – in line with international law, so this would only be for those who would not be left stateless by such a decision – for those who have lied about their identity, provided fraudulent information or committed a serious crime, such as a terror crime.

The Sweden Democrats have the most restrictive plans for citizenship, wanting to raise the qualification period from five years to ten years, alongside “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 also wants to require that prospective applicants include an “explanation that they have understood the responsibilities and duties citizenship entails” in their citizenship application.

They state that this could include “knowledge of Swedish culture, history, democratic and secularised societal model as well as convincingly professing respect for Western standards of human rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of religion, the equal value and rights of both sexes and respect for people with different sexual orientation”.

What does this mean?

It is hard to predict what could happen in the next four years if Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson is successful in forming a government with the support of these four parties. However, the right bloc appear to be united on two fronts: language and citizenship tests, and making it more difficult to gain permanent residency in Sweden.

What exact form these reforms will take are likely to become a lot clearer when the four parties announce a common government programme, probably over the next few weeks. 

Member comments

  1. Looks like, we will most likely see some proposals on tighter requirements for permanent residency and citizenship. Isn’t there a proposal already in place which is in inquiry stage till next May, which was posted by the last government regarding the mandatory language requirements for permanent residency? And a similar language test which was proposed to be implemented in Jan 2025. What will happen to these?

    It is also possible that the current proposal raised by last government for language requirements for PR will likely be approved in May or June 2023, right?

    As a non-EU citizen, my case for a getting a PR is getting worse day by day. I have already held RP/WP for 4 years (also completed my 44 months of stay) in Sweden last month. But during my Resident Permit extension which I applied in March 2022, unfortunately got it extended till April 2024 due to rule changes which happened on 1st June 2022. Because of this, now I have to wait till April 2024 to apply for PR. I would have also completed my 5 years of stay in Sweden by August 2023, which means I would have qualified for citizenship by then. Without a PR in place, citizenship is not possible. Now, with all these new proposals are in talks, all my PR and Citizenship wishes will look like a distant dream. Now, I have to say myself that I must wait for 2 more years for a PR by learning Svenska which I’m doing it now. 🙂 How pity me.. 🙂

  2. The language proposals seem reasonable. In France, when applying as a non EU citizen for a 10 year titre de sejour there is a language requirement, I believe that level is A2, or maybe B1. It is not so hard to achieve. If one is over the age of 65 it is not required. There are also integration classes. Citizenship requires more. The other SD proposals will likely crash against EU regs.

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For members


EXPLAINED: How to apply for an after studies residence permit in Sweden

Ankita Sharma, a recent graduate with a Masters in Visual Culture from Lund University, explains how to get a permit to stay in Sweden and look for a job after graduation.

EXPLAINED: How to apply for an after studies residence permit in Sweden

If you, like me, came to Sweden for higher studies and are planning to stay for work, the chances are you have heard of the job-seeking permit, which is formerly known as the Swedish After Studies permit. 

The permit is meant to be the next step after a residence permit for students, and acts as a raft for those seeking employment after graduating. Here’s a look into the process of getting it, and what happens next.

Are you eligible for an After Studies permit?

The After Studies residence permit is granted by the Migrations Agency for up to a year from the point a student finishes their degree if they plan to stay in Sweden to find a job or start their own business.

There is a list of specific criteria that must be met by the applicant to be eligible: 

General requirements

According to the Migrations Agency’s website, only a person who has previously held a residence permit for higher studies in Sweden, or a residence permit for ‘mobility studies’ issued in another EU country is eligible to apply for the After Studies permit.

You must hold a passport that is valid throughout the period that you are applying for and apply before the expiration date of
your current permit.

The copies of your passport must clearly show your personal information, photograph, signature, passport number, issuing country, period of validity, entry/exit stamp, and the permission you have live outside your home country.

You must also state clearly in the application form whether you intend to look for a job or start your own business.

Study credits needed

In order to secure this particular permit, you must apply before the expiry of your current permit and after you have completed a higher education program that was at least two semesters long and based in Sweden. You must have completed and passed sufficient courses to gain at least 30 credits, which is equivalent to about two semesters. 

You must prove this by sending a copy of your diploma, excerpts from the Ladok register, or certificates from authorised staff at your university, stating that you have completed all the courses in your program successfully.

This means applicants have a very short window of time between being awarded their credits or diploma and making their application, something which is crucial to be aware of and a source of a lot of confusion for applicants.

Funds and Health Insurance

As with a normal residence permit, you as an applicant need to prove that you can support yourself through the entire duration of the permit, so proof of funds (such as bank statements and other documents) is mandatory.

The sum required for applications in 2022 is 8,694 kronor per month, and the documents provided must show the bank account holder’s name, and the current account balance. 

If you have continuous income from work, you must supply a copy of your employment contract and specifics of your salary. 

Comprehensive healthcare insurance is also a compulsory criterion for eligibility for this permit.

If you are registered as a citizen at Skatteverkat, the Swedish Tax Agency, and have a personal number, you only need to enclose a copy of your Swedish ID card, otherwise you need to include details of your insurance provider in the application form.

Extra criteria for those with spouses or dependents 

Candidates who are in Sweden with their spouse or families have extra criteria to fulfill

You must ensure that all the members of your family have valid passports, and documents verifying your relationship.

You must also show you are able to financially support them, by proving that, on top of the basic sum mentioned above that you have an additional 3622.5 kronor for your spouse and  2173.50 kronor for each child.

Here’s where it gets tricky

One of the most common mistakes made by applicants is not getting the calculation of funds right. Currency conversion rates are constantly changing; so for those of us using account statements from banks in our home countries, it is imperative to have a little more than the required amount stated by the Migration Agency.

My advisor at Lund University recommended having an extra month’s worth of funds in the account to ensure it holds up in the eyes of the Agency.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the balance amount is calculated from the date mentioned in your statement, so it is a good idea to attach a statement dated as near to the date of application as possible.

It is also acceptable to produce a combination of balance statements from your home country bank and your Swedish bank as long as they add up to more than the required amount.

The other tricky aspect of this application is the timing. The Agency specifically asks that we apply before the expiry date of the current permit, and after we have completed all our courses.

The catch of this situation is that a standard higher studies residence permit expires two weeks after university courses normally end, but results are only published 4-6 weeks after, and diplomas are issued only after a month.

The two criteria cannot simultaneously be fulfilled, so it is recommended that you submit the application before your previous permit expires, with a letter from your university Programme Coordinator stating that you have completed all your courses.

Then the Agency allows you four weeks to submit your diploma in addition to your application.

What happens after I’ve applied? 

Once the application is submitted, you are allowed to remain in Sweden until you receive a decision, but should you choose to leave the country, you may not be allowed to enter again.

This rule, along with the long queue times at the Migration Agency and no fixed time frame for a decision, means that applicants like me get stuck in Sweden with no permission to travel anywhere (within or outside the EU), and with no foreseeable hope of being able to travel to our home countries.

Waiting periods are close to six months as advertised on the website, and there is no clear way to get more information unless a case officer is assigned to you.

If you land a job while waiting for the decision on this permit, you can request to end your application and apply for a work permit, but that, as readers of The Local will know, comes with its own set of hurdles.