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Indian parents fear Swedish citizenship application will leave children stateless

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
Indian parents fear Swedish citizenship application will leave children stateless
File photo not related to the article. Photo: Isabell Höjman/TT

Gouri Natrajan and her husband will be eligible for Swedish citizenship next year. They would apply, if it weren't for the fact that they fear Indian law would then render their five-month-old son stateless. And they're not alone.


Several Indian parents or parents-to-be in Sweden told The Local that they are putting their long-term plans on hold out of uncertainty about their children’s legal status if they apply for citizenship.

India does not allow dual citizenship, so anyone wishing to become a Swedish citizen must also renounce their Indian nationality and surrender their Indian passport. And according to India’s Citizenship Act from 1955, if a parent gives up citizenship, their children automatically lose it too.

That would not be an issue if the children were to receive Swedish citizenship instead. However, long delays as well as tougher migration rules make many Indians worry that their children will be left stateless for an extended period in-between losing their old nationality and gaining a new one.

To be eligible for Swedish citizenship, non-EU citizens first have to have permanent residency. As of July 2021, each applicant for permanent residency needs to meet the permanent residency requirements individually, which means that children can no longer get it through their parents.

Previously, children could in theory become permanent residents almost as soon as they were born, and then be able to apply for citizenship three years later (children have to live in Sweden for three years before becoming citizens, whereas it’s currently five years for most non-EU adults).


Now, however, children need to have lived in Sweden with a valid residence permit for four years before they qualify for a permanent permit (you have to have lived in Sweden for three years to get permanent residency, but as permits are granted for two years at a time, it’s four years in practice).

“I just had a son in Sweden – he is five months old today,” Natrajan told The Local. “Me and my husband got permanent residency recently, so we are eligible for citizenship next year, but now as my son needs his own permanent residency we need to wait at least four years to apply for citizenship.”

Once processing time is added, a child could reasonably expect to be granted permanent residency – finally becoming eligible for citizenship – after around five years living in Sweden.

If waiting times for Swedish citizenship are also taken into account, an Indian child born in Sweden can expect to receive Swedish citizenship somewhere between their seventh and eighth birthday.


“During this time we can’t travel to India if my son's residence permit is up for renewal,” said Natrajan. “With aging parents back in India, this is an emotional situation to be in.”

Another reader told The Local his child was born after he applied for citizenship, but shortly before he was granted it. He said he didn’t know at the time that India’s rules would lead to his child potentially being left stateless. He wasn't alone in not being aware of this rule.

“I can’t apply for her citizenship yet as she has not lived here more than three years,” the reader said about his daughter. “But she won’t be able to get her passport renewed, and without a passport, the Migration Agency won’t approve her residency permit, so I’m stuck in an infinite loop.”


He hopes that Sweden and India will come to an arrangement to solve this issue before his daughter qualifies for permanent residency in 2026, otherwise he will try to apply for an alien’s passport from Sweden on his daughter’s behalf, which may allow her to apply for permanent residency. In the meantime the family are avoiding travelling so she does not get stuck.

The issue has put life on hold for a lot of people. A number of Indian parents got in touch with us to confirm that they were putting off applying for Swedish citizenship despite qualifying for it, or even putting off having another child in order to make sure their children do not become stateless.

“If we decide to have another baby, I need to wait another four years from then for my citizenship,” Natrajan said. “So we need to decide between expanding our family or getting citizenship.”

Some readers said that they had managed to secure Swedish citizenship for their children despite them not having lived in Sweden long enough – but not everyone was comfortable taking that risk.

“It’s messy, because they have approved some of my friends in the same situation, so every case officer is doing whatever they want to do,” another reader complained, claiming his citizenship application had been put on hold as his Migration Agency case officer was unsure of what to do. “Some people are still giving citizenship to kids who are less than two or three years old.”


Migration Agency spokesperson Vera Björk told The Local they did not have any applications on hold due to a decision over whether to include a child in their parents’ citizenship application.

But she did confirm that the permanent residency requirement for children can be overlooked in some cases, so it’s not a certainty that Indian children get left behind when their parents receive Swedish citizenship, even if they technically do not yet qualify for citizenship themselves.

“That requirement is not absolute, and the best outcome for the child will also be assessed. The first stage of that assessment is establishing what the best outcome for the child is. In the next stage, the best outcome for the child will be weighed up against other legally relevant interests, through what is called a ‘proportionality assessment’,” Björk said.


She said the permanent residency requirement still weighed heavily as a general rule above all else, but added: “A situation where a child risks becoming stateless if the parent is awarded citizenship and the child is not would carry enough weight that a child could be granted citizenship together with their parent even if he or she does not have permanent residency.”

“That applies to all children who risk becoming stateless, although an individual assessment will always be made.”


According to the reader whose application is still being processed, the Indian embassy until recently was turning a blind eye to applicants, in some cases allowing Indian children to hold onto their citizenship until they qualified for Swedish citizenship.

“But now it has blown up in their faces, because they weren’t following the rules strictly. So now they’ve updated the website saying ‘your kids will become stateless if you give up your citizenship’, in a very obvious way, which they were not doing before,” he claimed.

The Local has contacted the Indian embassy for comment but has not received a response, but when we checked the Wayback Machine for cached web pages, it appeared the embassy only recently updated its website to warn parents that their minor children could lose citizenship.

The reader, who preferred to remain anonymous in this article, said he had tried contacting Swedish embassies in India and the Indian embassy in Sweden to no avail. The couple plans to stay in Sweden permanently and want to raise a family here, but this could make them reconsider.

“I really want my son to grow up in Sweden, even if we go back to India at some point to take care of my parents. I want him to come back and study here, have a Swedish partner, I want him to grow up in this country. But it’s been quite challenging in the last six months to love the country so much.”

Article by Becky Waterton and Emma Löfgren.

Are you in this situation or know more? You're welcome to reach out to our editorial team at [email protected]. We might not be able to reply to every email, but your experience helps us cover this issue and other stories that matter to Indians in Sweden.


Comments (1)

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Sachin Sharma 2024/05/24 09:23
Thank you so much for brining this up. This really shows that my subscription for THE LOCAL is fully worth it. You're writing about the topics that actually matters to us.
  • emma.lofgren 2024/05/24 10:08
    Many thanks for that comment which made our day.

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