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IMMIGRATION

How to get Swedish citizenship or stay permanently in Sweden

Like Sweden so much you want to stay forever – or even become a Swede? The process can seem daunting, so The Local has looked into what you need to know about getting Swedish citizenship or the right to stay in Sweden permanently.

How to get Swedish citizenship or stay permanently in Sweden
A child waving a Swedish flag. Photo: Emelie Asplund/imagebank.sweden.se

Exactly how to obtain the permanent right to live in Sweden depends on your citizenship and any existing permits.

The processes can appear complicated, but here are the key things to know about the main routes to permanent residence and citizenship.

First, it’s worth knowing that if you’re an EU citizen who is studying, working in Sweden or you otherwise have the means to support yourself, you automatically have right of residence in Sweden without needing to apply for any specific permit or proof. But there are a few benefits to applying for permanent residence, including added security in case you find yourself no longer fitting in those categories in future.

As for non-EU citizens, again permanent residence gives extra security once you are eligible to apply.

Permanent residence: EU citizens moving to Sweden to live with a partner

An EU citizen without the right of residence in Sweden (i.e. someone who is not working, studying or able to support themselves in the country) can apply for a resident permit if they have a family member who lives in Sweden and wish to live together.

This is a good option for people who want to move to their partner but do not yet have their own job or studies set up – or even people who do have a job or studies lined up, but want the added security of permanent residence from day one.

In that case, if you’ve lived together with the person for at least two years outside Sweden, Sweden’s Migration Agency says you “normally receive a permanent residence permit” – provided you apply “as soon as possible after your relative moves to Sweden”. If it’s a longer time since the move, that means “it is normally not possible” to obtain the permit, however.

The relative already in Sweden also needs to meet a maintenance requirement by having a sufficient salary to support both of you. In 2021, that’s judged as at least 8,287 kronor per month after all housing costs for two adults living together.

Applications are filled out online, and are free of charge for all EU citizens. The application can be found here. If a permanent residence permit is not granted, a two-year temporary residence permit may be issued instead.

Permanent residence: EU citizens who have lived in Sweden at least five years

As previously mentioned, all EU citizens working, studying or with the means to support themselves have the right of residence in Sweden without applying for a permit (your own EU passport is all you need), but after five years of living in Sweden, people in this category can also apply for “permanent right of residence”.

This secures your right to stay in the country even if you stop being able to support yourself, so some people who may not yet be eligible for citizenship, for example if you are not able to get dual citizenship or cannot yet afford the fee for citizenship, may choose to apply for this status.

A certificate confirming that permanent right of residence can be issued for no fee upon request by filling out the form “Intyg om permanent uppehållsrätt”, found here.

If you have right of residence as a family member of an EU citizen and have lived together with a close relative in Sweden for at least five years, then you may also meet the criteria for permanent right of residence.


The Swedish Migration Agency office in Solna. Photo: Adam Wrafter/SvD/TT

Long-term resident status: non-EU citizens

There are several different options for non-EU citizens, which depend on which type of permit you have previously lived in Sweden on.

Non-EU citizens who have lived in Sweden for five years with a valid residence permit and can prove they were capable of supporting themselves and their family during that time can also apply for long-term resident status by filling in the form “Ansökan om status som varaktigt bosatt”, found here.

Long-term resident status is valid for as long as the person resides in Sweden, but your long-term resident status may be withdrawn after six years of living away from the country.

Permanent residence: non-EU citizens

You can only apply for permanent residence after a minimum of three years in Sweden as a general rule, with exceptions for self-employed people who can apply after two years and quota refugees who receive permanent residence permits from their first application. The exact time and requirements depend on which type of permit you are on, but in practice, most people can only apply for permanent residence after at least four years in Sweden.

If you moved to Sweden to live with your partner or close family member, you can apply for permanent residence after three years. However, permits are usually issued for two years at a time, so usually the application will be done after four years. The fee is 2,000 kronor.

If you have lived in Sweden with a residence permit for doctoral students for at least four years out of the past seven, you can also apply for permanent residence. Again, you must be able to prove you can support yourself financially. This application costs 1,500 kronor.

If you have lived in Sweden on a work permit, you can apply for a permanent residence permit when you extend this permit if you have worked for at least four years out of the last seven. You need to meet the same requirements as for an extension of your temporary work permit (for example, meeting minimum salary requirements) and you also need to meet the special requirements for permanent residence, including being able to support yourself financially and having lived an “orderly life”. It costs 2,000 kronor to extend a work permit, plus an extra 1,500 kronor per adult and 750 kronor per child if you have family members applying with you.

If you are self-employed, you can apply for a permanent residence permit after two years when it is time to renew your temporary permit. You need to be able to support yourself financially on the income from the company, spend more than six months of each year in Sweden, own at least 50 percent of your Swedish company, and be living an orderly life. The fee is 2,000 kronor.

There are a few exceptions to the fees for permanent residence permits. Citizens of Japan are exempt from all application fees; doctoral students with certain scholarships are exempt from the fees; and family members of non-Swedish EU/EEA nationals are exempt from the fee for family member permits, for example.

Citizenship: Nordic citizens

There are special rules for Nordic citizens when it comes to applying for Swedish citizenship: citizens of Denmark, Finland, Iceland or Norway who have lived in Sweden for at least five years can often become Swedish citizens through notification, which is a simpler and cheaper process than the standard method outlined above.

For that process, the form “anmälan om svenskt medborgarskap för medborgare i Danmark, Finland, Island eller Norge” is filled out here and sent to the local country administrative board, along with a fee of 475 kronor. The alternative is to submit a standard application for citizenship to the Migration Agency at the standard cost, which Nordic citizens can do after living in Sweden for two years.

Citizenship: EU citizens

The rules for becoming a naturalised Swede are not as complicated as they may seem, though there are a few important points to understand. For EU citizens there are two scenarios to be aware of.

The first is that as an EU citizen living in Sweden for five continuous years with right of residence, you are eligible to apply for citizenship. The second is that as an EU citizen who has lived together with a Swedish citizen for at least two years, and who has lived in Sweden for a total of three years, you are also eligible to apply.

An automated test (in Swedish) can be filled in here to see if you meet those requirements. If you do, then a citizenship application can be filled out online here, and a fee of 1,500 kronor paid for processing.

Meeting the various requirements listed above isn’t a guarantee you’ll be granted citizenship however. You must also have “conducted yourself 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. More details can be found here.

File photo of a Swedish passport. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Citizenship: non-EU citizens

For non-EU citizens, the process for getting citizenship is very similar as for EU citizens, except there is an additional requirement for a permanent residence permit as well as having lived in Sweden for a continuous period of five years.

Non-EU citizens married to or living in a registered partnership with a Swedish citizen can apply after three years, provided they have been living together with the Swedish partner in Sweden for two years. If the Swedish partner was previously the citizen of another country, they must have held Swedish citizenship for at least two years – in this case, you must also have “adapted well to Swedish society”, and the Migration Agency will consider other factors like length of marriage or relationship, knowledge of the Swedish language and ability to support yourself.

In practice, this usually means that you have to have been living in Sweden for at least four years to apply for citizenship despite being eligible after living with your Swedish partner for three years, as a permanent residence permit can only be granted at the same time as a temporary residence permit is renewed, and temporary residence permits generally last for two years at a time.

If you are stateless, you can apply to become a Swedish citizen after residing in Sweden for at least four years. The same time period applies for people who were granted a residence permit as a refugee “in accordance with Chapter 4, section 1 of the Aliens Act“.

Exceptions for the period of residence requirement to obtain citizenship can be made for “people married to a Swedish citizen abroad for at least ten years who do not live in their country of origin,” the Migration Agency notes, provided the person has “strong ties with Sweden” through for example regular visits to the country, or a “strong need” to become a Swedish citizen.

Meeting the various requirements listed above isn’t a guarantee you’ll be granted citizenship however. You must also have “conducted yourself 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. More details can be found here.

Citizenship for children

If you have children, you can also include them in your citizenship application provided they are unmarried, under the age of 18, and reside in Sweden, and you have sole custody of them or the parent who has joint custody has given their consent.

Children who have turned 12 must also provide their own written consent in order for parents to apply for them to become a Swedish citizen.

A Swedish citizenship ceremony at Stockholm’s City Hall. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

What happens next?

If you’re granted Swedish citizenship, you have what the Migration Agency calls the “absolute right” to live and work in the country, which means you will always be able to return to live in Sweden however much time you spend away from the country, unlike with permanent residence. In addition, you can vote in parliamentary elections, stand for election to parliament, join the Swedish Police and Swedish Armed Forces, and also obtain EU rights if you weren’t previously an EU citizen.

As a final point: keep in mind that some countries do not permit dual citizenship, so check the rules for your home nation before applying.

Member comments

  1. A, we live most of the time in Israel and have a summer home and two daughters-in-law who are Swedish. We are citizens of all three countries.
    Somehow I got mixed up and renewed our membership in The Local France. Could you please change me to The Local Sweden?
    Thank you,
    P. Spectre

  2. So absolutely no information for students that come here to study but wish to stay after except for doctoral students. Okay. Great.

    1. Hi, as I understand students (other than PHD) cant stay more than 3 months after completion of degree. Thwy can stay if they start another degree or they start a job. When they start jib the time for residence starts from that point towards permanent residence or nationality.

      1. Hi
        How to apply for Swedish citizenship if exceptions for the period of residence requirements apply to me and do you need a solicitor to handle the application.
        Thank you

  3. How long does it take to get a decision on a permanent residence application for an American based on working and living here continuously for over 4 years? Thank you.

  4. What about the children who are born in sweden and have temporary residence permit. Do they havw to live in sweden for 3 years or they can apply with their parent even if they were born a few months beforw the application of citizwnahip of their parents?

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For members

SWEDISH CITIZENSHIP

How long can you leave Sweden for and not risk your permanent residency?

Several respondents to a recent survey by The Local said that one of the problems they faced in Sweden was uncertainty over how long they can leave the country without losing their right to stay. Here are the rules so far as we understand them.

How long can you leave Sweden for and not risk your permanent residency?

The length of time a foreign citizen is able to leave Sweden without jeopardising their right to stay in the country or their chances of being awarded citizenship or permanent residence depend very much on what grounds they have a right to be here.

Keep in mind that the only type of residence document which is truly permanent – as in, that cannot be revoked no matter how long you are away – is Swedish citizenship.

Every other type of residence expires if you are out of the country for long enough. 

If you have the right to stay in Sweden temporarily and want to keep it or make it permanent 

Non-EU citizens 

For this group (which also includes EU citizens in Sweden under Swedish law (uppehållstillstånd holders) rather than EU law (people with uppehållsrätt)), the amount of time you can be away from Sweden varies depending on which permit you are on while living in Sweden. 

Non-EU citizens in Sweden on work permits or as doctoral students, for example, need to provide documentation proving they have had a work permit as an employee (or have been carrying out doctoral research, in the case of doctoral students) and have lived and worked in Sweden for four years out of the past seven years when applying for permanent residency, so it is possible to leave Sweden for several years over this period and still qualify. 

But people should still check the rules very carefully and make sure they can prove they have been in Sweden long enough.

Those in Sweden on family reunification permits (often referred to as sambo permits) need to provide the Migration Agency with details of any trips abroad of more than three weeks when renewing a residence permit, as well as whether they were travelling with the partner or spouse they live with in Sweden.

There do not appear to be any official guidelines for permanent residence permit applicants in Sweden as refugees, although the agency says in general for all types of residence permit that “shorter visits overseas, for example for holidays, do not affect your residence time [when applying for a permanent residence permit]. This is the case for other journeys overseas long as you have not moved from Sweden”.

For all non-EU citizens wanting to apply for citizenship, the Migration Agency specifies that any periods where you have been outside of Sweden for more than six weeks will be removed from the period of residence that counts towards the five years in Sweden. 

This suggests that overseas trips of more than six weeks would probably be considered long enough to affect your residence time when seeking permanent residence, too.

EU citizens and non-EU family members

EU citizens who have lived in Sweden for five years or more and have either been working, studying, self-employed or self-supporting for that entire period automatically get permanent right of residence or permanent uppehållsrätt.

This also applies to non-EU family members of non-Swedish EU citizens in Sweden on an uppehållskort (residence card) due to their relationship with an EU citizen, and EU citizens who have switched from one category to another – such as originally arriving as a student and then getting a job after graduation – you just need to have been legally living in Sweden under one or more of these categories for the entire five-year period.

Under the EU Free Movement Directive, an EU citizen (or their non-EU family member) may be temporarily absent for periods not exceeding a total of six months within each year without affecting their residence status, with each year starting on the anniversary of the date when the EU citizen commenced residence in Sweden. 

So it seems that, under EU law, you can be out of Sweden for up to six months for each of the five years and still qualify for permanent uppehållsrätt. 

The Migration Agency told The Local that it “respects the commission’s statement on its judgement”, and that six months away from Sweden is “acceptable as a rule”. 

It also stressed that “it is difficult to give an exact time limit for how long a person can be outside Sweden because this is affected by individual circumstances”. 

“The assessment of every case is individual and will be handled according to the information relevant to the case”. 

To apply for citizenship as an EU citizen, you need to have fulfilled the criteria for uppehållsrätt, so it appears the six-month rule applies here too. 

UK citizens with post-Brexit residence status

The UK withdrawal agreement largely gives Britons living in Sweden with uppehållsstatus (post-Brexit residence status) the same rights when it comes to residence as when they were EU citizens. 

Brits arriving in Sweden after this date (or before this date under Swedish rules rather than EU rules) are subject to the non-EU rules listed above.

This means that British citizens with post-Brexit residence status can leave Sweden for up to six months each year and still count that year towards gaining a right of permanent residence or citizenship.  

If you have the right to stay in Sweden permanently and don’t want to lose it

EU citizens

EU citizens who have lived in Sweden for more than five years automatically gain “a permanent right of residence”. If they wish to, they can apply for a free certificate of permanent residence, which can be used to document this right, but this is not required. You can lose your permanent right of residence if you move away from Sweden for more than two years (see here).

Non-EU/EEA citizens living with a non-Swedish EU/EEA citizen

Non-EU/EEA citizens who are living with a non-Swedish EU/EEA citizen can get a permanent residence card (permanent uppehållskort) after five years in Sweden. Like their EU partners, they can lose their right to live in Sweden permanently if they move away from Sweden for more than two years

UK citizens with post-Brexit residence status

UK citizens who have a permanent residence status (permanent uppehållsstatus) in Sweden are treated more generously than EU citizens. 

According to this Q&A from the European Commission’s lawyers, “the conditions for losing the new residence status are more beneficial compared to those in EU law on free movement as United Kingdom nationals and their family members can leave the host EU state for up to five years without losing their permanent residence rights”. 

Other non-EU citizens 

Non-EU citizens who have a permanent residence permit (Permanent uppehållstillstånd or PUT), can lose their permanent residence permit if they leave Sweden for more than one year.  

If they inform the Swedish Migration Agency before they depart, however, they can be away from Sweden for up to two years without losing their residence permit.

The same rules apply for EU or UK citizens who have a permanent residency permit (Permanent uppehållstillstånd or PUT) rather than EU right of residence (uppehållsrätt) or post-Brexit residence status (uppehållsstatus) – i.e. those who live in Sweden under Swedish rules rather than EU rules or the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

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