For members


What’s the difference between being a resident and a citizen in Sweden?

Once you've lived in Sweden for a certain amount of time, you'll become eligible for permanent residence and, in many cases, Swedish citizenship. Either status grants you more security to stay in Sweden long-term, but there are some important differences between the two. Here are the key factors to be aware of, in The Local's guide.

What's the difference between being a resident and a citizen in Sweden?
Do you want to stay in Sweden forever? Here's what you need to know. Photo: Faramarz Gosheh/

In order to move to Sweden in the first place, you’ll need right of residence. This applies automatically to Nordic citizens and to EU citizens who are employed, self-employed, a student or have sufficient means to support themselves, while EU citizens who don’t fall into that category but are moving to Sweden to join a Swedish partner or family member can apply for right of residence.

Non-EU citizens must apply for a residence permit, either as a worker, a student, for family reunification, or as an asylum seeker. Initially, these are temporary. Temporary residence means your right to live and work or study in Sweden is time-limited and subject to certain conditions. As a resident, you’ll get a personal identity number or personnummer which gives you access to many services such as subsidised healthcare.

But after living in Sweden long term, you may become eligible for permanent residence and/or Swedish citizenship. So what benefits do you gain from these statuses, and what are the differences between the two?


Photo: Lina Roos/

Permanent residency

A permanent residence permit (permanent uppehållstillstånd or PUT) makes your status in Sweden more secure. Permanent residence is granted to EU citizens after five years living in Sweden (even if some of that was spent unemployed), and you can apply to the Migration Agency for a certificate of permanent residence. Non-EU citizens who have lived in Sweden for five years with a residence permit and can prove they were capable of supporting themselves and their family during that time can also apply for a permanent residence permit.

Permanent residency comes with a few benefits, the most noteworthy being that you don’t need to apply to renew your permit in order to continue living, studying, and/or working in Sweden. This means, for example, that it’s easier to change jobs if you have a PUT, since holders of a temporary residence permit need to reapply for a work permit in order to change profession.

Students with a PUT are exempt from the international student fees that usually apply to non-EU/EEA citizens. Even students with a temporary residence permit for reasons other than studies are exempt from these fees.


Photo: Ola Ericson/

Another benefit of permanent residency is that family members can apply to move to Sweden to join you under so-called family reunification laws, which is not the case if you are in Sweden with only a temporary residence permit. 

However, the name might be misleading, since your right of residence can still be withdrawn.

The most likely reason for this to happen is if you leave Sweden. With a PUT, you may move abroad for up to two years, but if you want to live abroad for longer than this – or if you fail to inform the Migration Agency of your move, even if it’s two years or less – your right of residence may be withdrawn.

Permanent residence permit holders can also face deportation from Sweden if they commit certain crimes; however, this punishment is only issued in the case of extremely serious crimes.


As mentioned above, citizenship is the only way to gain certain rights, and there are a few crucial extra benefits you get from citizenship compared to permanent residency, which make it well worth considering for those who plan to be in Sweden long-term.

The key thing is that Swedish citizens have the ‘absolute right’ to live and work in the country. 

Photo: Alexander Hall/

You can vote in all elections in Sweden as a citizen, and you can join the Swedish police force and army or work as a judge if you wish.

You will also be entitled to a Swedish passport, and as a Swedish citizen you have increased rights of travel compared to many other countries. This includes the rights you gain as an EU citizen, such as the ability to move to other EU countries to work under EU freedom of movement, which might make it especially attractive for non-EU citizens even if you’re not committed to living in Sweden long term. 

Unlike many countries, Sweden does not currently have a test for citizenship, so there are no requirements of language, social, historical or any other kind of knowledge in order to become a naturalized Swede. That might change in the next few years though, with the government having said they’ll investigate the possibility of introducing a language test for would-be citizens.


The existing requirements include having “conducted yourself well” during your time in Sweden, which usually means you must not have neglected to pay taxes and fines, or committed crime in Sweden. If you have committed crimes, there is a waiting period before you can apply for citizenship, which varies based on the severity of the crime.

Another possible complication is the fact that if you want to retain your existing citizenship, you’ll need to look into include whether you’re able to hold dual citizenship, which will depend on your original nationality. From the Swedish side, dual citizenship is permitted with no restrictions, but not all countries allow this, so gaining Swedish citizenship could cause complications in your home country. Alternatively, you might consider renouncing your original citizenship after becoming Swedish.

NOW READ: How to get Swedish citizenship or stay permanently in Sweden

Member comments

  1. Four years of work is enough to apply for a PR for non-EU citizens.

    > Permanent residence permit

    If you have had a work permit as an employee and worked a total of four years in the last seven years, you can be granted a permanent residence permit when you apply for an extension of your permit. You must have worked for the employer and in the occupation for which you have received a work permit.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


What could the Swedish civics test for permanent residency look like?

Sweden plans to introduce language and civics tests for permanent residency from 2027. What could the civics test entail and what topics will you need to know about?

What could the Swedish civics test for permanent residency look like?

These language and civics tests haven’t yet been drawn up, but here’s what they could look like based on the suggestions in a new proposal.

What topics will the society test cover?

The test on knowledge of Swedish society would be designed to “test basic knowledge needed to live and work in Swedish society”, the proposal states, and it will be based on material adapted from the website

It would test the following areas, according to the proposal:

  • Coming to Sweden
  • Living in Sweden
  • Supporting yourself and developing in Sweden
  • The rights and obligations of the individual
  • Starting a family and living with children in Sweden
  • Having influence in Sweden
  • Caring for your health in Sweden
  • Growing old in Sweden

Will it be in Swedish?

Yes. It will be at CEFR level A2, the same level of Swedish as the language test.

This is equivalent to SFI level C, and is classified as a “basic” level of Swedish.

It won’t be a formal test of your Swedish, but you will have to have A2 level skills in reading Swedish in order to understand the questions.

Here are the CEFR guidelines for an A2 level:

“Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.”

What would the test itself be like?

According to the proposal, the test would be held digitally and would consist of two parts each lasting 50 minutes, with a ten minute break in between. This is quite a long test – a digital driving theory test is only 50 minutes long for comparison – so there will be time to cover a lot of different topics.

The questions asked will be so-called “closed questions”, so you will not be asked to argue or explain, just choose an answer. Tests will be marked automatically, allowing for a quick turnaround.

They will be a simplified version of material on the website, adapted to A2 level Swedish and less comprehensive.

The proposal states that a glossary of terminology would be included for vocabulary above A2 level.

Although the exact layout of the test has not been confirmed, the proposal recommends that tests are held at the Swedish Transport Administration as they already have a system in place for handling large-scale digital driving theory tests.

Will there be a course or textbook I can use to study for the test?

There will not be a textbook, but there will be a website you’ll be able to access to read up on the topics covered in the test. This is due in part to the fact that websites are more easily updated than textbooks, and also the fact that a website is more accessible than a book you may have to pay for.

It’s worth bearing in mind that by the time you qualify for permanent residency you will have been living in Sweden for around four years, so there’s a good chance you will have picked up most of the information covered in the test just by living your daily life here.