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SWEDISH CITIZENSHIP

EXPLAINED: How are Sweden’s cities celebrating new citizens this year?

After two years of virtual celebrations, this year Sweden's cities will once again celebrate the new citizens with a ceremony. Here's what different cities have got planned.

EXPLAINED: How are Sweden's cities celebrating new citizens this year?
A family celebrating at Malmö's citizenship ceremony in 2017. Photo: Richard Orange

Under a 2015 law, all municipalities in Sweden are required to hold a ceremony to welcome new citizens. 

The ceremony is intended to convey to new Swedish citizens that their citizenship is “the most important legal link between the citizen and the state”, that citizenship brings “freedom, rights, and responsibilities”, and that citizenship is one of the grounds of folkstyrelsen, or “government by the peoplein Sweden, and stands for samhörighet, or “belonging” in Sweden. 

Municipalities are reimbursed for part of the cost of hosting the ceremonies. 

Stockholm

Stockholm is once again celebrating new citizens in a ceremony in the Stadshuset building. Around 1,300 of the 6,701 new citizens invited to the ceremony have said they will attend, and they have invited a total of 900 guests to accompany them. All citizens over the age of 18 are allowed to bring one guest and all under the age of 18 two guests. 

The 30-minute ceremony will start with a short musical concert, followed by a speech from the city’s mayor Anna König Jerlmyr and city council chair Cecilia Brinck. 

The ceremony will end with a rendition of Sweden’s national anthem, after which all invitees are invited for fika (coffee and a cinnamon bun) in the building’s Golden Hall or Gyllene sal. 

Only those who became citizens during 2021 are invited to the ceremony, as those who became citizens in 2020 and 2019 were celebrated with a digital ceremony. 

Gothenburg 

Gothenburg is pulling out all the stops, inviting 6,063 new citizens to a ceremony in the Slottsskogen park, on the grass in front of the Björngårdsvillan pavilion in the park. 

The ceremony will involve a performance by the multicultural Dream Orchestra, a group rendition of Sweden’s national anthem, a speech by Gothenburg’s mayor Axel Josefsson, and a concert by the Gothenburg symphony orchestra. 

Malmö 

Malmö has decided to hold a shorter ceremony in 2022 than those it held before the pandemic struck, with a two-hour ceremony outside in the city’s Stortorget Square which are part and parcel of the city’s larger National Day celebrations. 

Some 4,000 new citizens have been invited to the ceremony, but the organisers expect only a few hundred to attend. 

The event will start at 12am, and will start with a speech by Anneli Hultén, Governor of Skåne. The Malmöflickorna dance gymnastics group will march in holding Swedish flags, and a choir will perform. 

At 12.40, Carina Nilsson, chair of Malmö’s city council, will give a speech directly to the city’s new citizens. 

Only those who became citizens in 2021 are invited to the ceremony. Those who became citizens in 2020 were invited to a symbolic planting of flower bulbs at the Ribersborg beach on October 3rd to celebrate Malmö gaining its 350,000th resident. 

Uppsala 

Uppsala is holding a citizenship ceremony in the Uppsala Slott, the castle in the city centre, for everyone in the city who became a citizen in 2021.  Around 2,050 people have been invited, of whom 415 are children, and the city expects around 580 new citizens to attend the ceremony. 

Sweden’s Social Security minister Ardalan Shekarabi will give a speech, as will Eva Edwardsson, chair of the city council, Linda Eskilsson, chair of the city’s cultural committee, and Kholod Saghir, the editor of the freedom of expression organisation Svenska Pen. 

The city’s La Cappella women’s choir will perform. 

Västerås 

Våsterås is holding a ceremony for those who became citizens in 2021, with the chair of the municipality’s council, Anders Teljebäck, holding a speech, and a “flag parade” to the Djäkneberget park where the city is holding its National Day celebrations.

Södertälje 

Södertälje, the satellite town outside Stockholm, has decided to invite everyone who has become a citizen in 2019, 2020 or 2021 to a ceremony at the city’s Torekällberget open air museum and the Råby stage. 

They will get speeches from the mayor Boel Godner, and from the chair of the city council Peter Friström. 

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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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