Swedish citizenship For Members

What we know so far about Sweden's new citizenship proposal

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
What we know so far about Sweden's new citizenship proposal
Paper copy of the Swedish law on citizenship. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

The Swedish government has launched a directive into tightening up citizenship, proposing an extension to the residency requirement, as well as a civics test and self-sufficiency requirement. Here's what we know about the proposal so far.


What aspects of the new law will be covered in this investigation?

In the inquiry directive, judge Kirsi Laakso Utvik has been tasked with providing suggestions for future policy on a number of different citizenship-related points.

These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • propose extending the residency requirement for citizenship 
  • propose what knowledge about Swedish society and culture should be required to be eligible for membership
  • propose extra requirements that applicants have a heder­ligt levnadssätt, or "upstanding way of life"
  • propose what requirements for self-sufficiency prospective citizens should have to meet
  • take a position on whether a citizenship interview, oath of loyalty, or other ceremony should be instituted as the final point in the citizenship process
  • decide on whether the procedure for considering the release of children from Swedish citizenship should be changed and submit the necessary constitutional proposals.

Utvik has just over a year to work on her proposal, which has a deadline of September 30th, 2024.


Let's look at these points in more detail.

Longer residency requirement

As a general rule, foreigners currently need to have been living in Sweden for at least five years in order to qualify for Swedish citizenship.

There are exceptions for Nordic citizens, who only have to live in Sweden for two years, as well as refugees and stateless people, who have a four-year residency requirement. People who cannot prove their identity have to wait eight years before they are eligible.

People married to or cohabiting with a Swede in a sambo relationship also have a shorter residency requirement of just three years.

In the new proposal, Utvik has been asked to evaluate whether it could be reasonable to implement an eight-year residence requirement, with a "significantly longer" period for people who have not been able to prove their identity.

The report detailing the topics of the investigation states that there may be some groups who may need to be exempted from a longer residence requirement, although it does not give specific detail on who could be included in these groups.

"As a starting point, the possibility to be exempted [from the residency requirement] should be restrictive," it reads.

Utvik should, it reads, take into account other countries' rules on residency with regard to citizenship, particularly with regard to the other Nordic countries "and other comparable countries". Neighbouring Norway and Denmark both have longer residency requirements than Sweden - eight and nine years, respectively.

Finland has a five-year requirement, with shorter periods for some groups, such as those who can prove sufficient knowledge of Finnish or are married to/cohabiting with a Finn, while Iceland has a seven-year requirement (three years for those married to an Icelander).

This would mean that an eight-year citizenship requirement for Sweden would not be entirely out of place among the other Nordic countries.

Interestingly, the directive states that Utvik should, "regardless of position" on a longer citizenship requirement, "propose a requirement for longer residence in Sweden for a foreigner to be able to acquire citizenship", meaning that it is likely this requirement will be proposed even if Utvik deems it to be a bad idea.

Utvik is also tasked with suggesting which groups should be exempt from this requirement, "due to Sweden's international commitments, for example", as well as submitting proposals for which rules they should be subject to instead.


Knowledge requirements

There are currently no specific knowledge requirements for prospective citizens, although there is a law proposal in progress to change that.

The proposal currently in progress suggests that prospective citizens must pass a Swedish language and civics test, with a possibility for applicants to show their knowledge in other ways. This would not, according to the proposal, apply for those under the age of 21, or Nordic citizens.

Utvik has, in this inquiry, been tasked with analysing the need for any further knowledge requirements of Swedish society and culture which could be necessary for citizenship, on top of those already suggested.


Self-sufficiency requirement

There is not currently any self-sufficiency requirement for those applying for Swedish citizenship, despite a similar requirement for applicants for permanent residence permits being in place since 2021.

In the new inquiry, the government has tasked Utvik with investigating to what extent there should be a self-sufficiency requirement, by looking at the rules in the Nordic countries and other similar countries.

In Denmark, applicants must not have received social benefits within the last two years, or a period of at least four months within the last four years. Pensioners, people receiving student benefits and people who are supported financially by their partner can still apply for citizenship.

In Norway, there is no specific self-sufficiency requirement for citizenship, but applicants must have met the self-sufficiency requirement for a permanent residence permit for the last twelve months.

Prospective Finnish citizens must provide "a reliable account of how you have earned enough money to live in Finland", which could include up to five years. This can be covered by employment, entrepreneurship, state benefit, or other sources of income such as a spouse supporting you, a foreign pension, or your own savings.

In Iceland, single applicants need to earn at least 217,299 Icelandic krónur a month (around 18,000 Swedish kronor), while married couples must earn at least 348,476 krónur (just over 29,000 kronor). Again, there are exemptions for children, those married to someone earning at least 348,476 krónur, and those over the age of 67 who are dependent on their child or children in Iceland. Bank statements showing savings of sufficient size are also accepted.

These comparisons make it likely that Utvik will determine a self-sufficiency requirement is necessary, although again, she has been asked to, "regardless of position", submit a proposal for a self-sufficiency requirement anyway.

She has also been asked to suggest ways in which the self-sufficiency requirement can be met, as well as who should be exempt from the requirement (although exemptions should, as above, be "restrictive").


'Upstanding way of life'

The directive also tasks Utvik with proposing a tightening of the requirement that applicants for citizenship have had an "upstanding way of life". At the moment, applicants must show that they do not have any debts to individuals or the state and have not committed any crimes -- although applicants who have committed crimes are not entirely barred from gaining Swedish citizenship, they can apply after a certain time has passed since they committed the crime in question.

In the new directive, the government suggests that there could be other situations which bar applicants from gaining citizenship entirely, such as being suspected for or sentenced for a major crime.

It also suggests that Utvik looks into whether those applying for citizenship through notification rather than naturalisation (people eligible for Swedish citizenship at birth or Nordic citizens), should also be assessed under the rules for having an "upstanding way of life", as well as making it clearer that crimes carried out in other countries should be included in this assessment.


An obligatory ceremony

Swedish municipalities have since 2015 held ceremonies for new Swedish citizens at least once a year, where those registered in the municipality who have gained citizenship within the last 18 months are invited.

These are not obligatory, and the directive has tasked Utvik with investigating whether they should be made compulsory, in order to "underline the meaning of citizenship", or whether there should be some sort of similar event, like a citizenship interview or declaration of loyalty, which applicants must attend before they can be granted citizenship.

It has also tasked Utvik with assessing what should apply for those who are unable to take part in the ceremony, whether certain groups should be exempt, and whether a "citizenship book" underlining the rights and responsibilities of Swedish citizenship should be introduced.


Releasing children from citizenship

Finally, the directive has tasked Utvik with assessing whether the current procedures for releasing children from Swedish citizenship should be altered.

This could for example include implementing a requirement for children to give their consent, stipulating that these decisions must go through a court, or making it possible to withdraw a decision to release a child from Swedish citizenship.

The goal of this would be to make it harder for children to be taken out of the country and forced to give up Swedish citizenship by their family in order to get married in countries where child marriage is legal, or to protect children from honour-related violence or oppression.


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