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Citizenship Acquisition in Sweden

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Citizenship Acquisition in Sweden

Bernd Parusel

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In comparison with many other countries, Sweden has a fairly liberal citizenship law. It offers immigrants the possibility to naturalize after only a few years of residence in Sweden.

Immigrant voting for the swedish parlament 2010. Since 2001 Sweden has had a fairly liberal law on citizenship. It emphasizes both elements of the right to nationality based on parentage and the principle of birthright citizenship. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Since 2001 Sweden has had a fairly liberal law on citizenship. It emphasizes both elements of the right to nationality based on parentage and the principle of birthright citizenship. According to the parentage principle (ius sanguinis), it is the parents’ citizenship that is decisive as to which citizenship is conferred upon the child at birth. If a Swedish woman gives birth to a child, then that child automatically receives Swedish citizenship.

In addition to ius sanguinis, there are strong elements of the principle of birthright citizenship (ius soli) as well as a generous possibility of acquiring citizenship by naturalization. Any foreigner resident in Sweden for at least five years who is of full legal age, provides proof of his or her identity, possesses a permanent residence permit and has committed no criminal act can apply for Swedish citizenship. Language skills or special knowledge of the state and social systems are not required. There are even exceptions applicable to the minimum residence period of five years: stateless persons or recognized refugees can apply for Swedish citizenship after three or four years in Sweden, respectively. Danes, Finns, Icelanders and Norwegians can even become Swedes after two years of residence. Whereas the earlier Swedish law did not permit dual citizenship, since 2001 foreigners have been able to retain their former citizenship when acquiring Swedish citizenship. Dual (and multiple) citizenship is accepted without exceptions.

Between 2009 and 2013, almost 200,000 people who were previously citizens of another country or who have been stateless, acquired Swedish citizenship. In 2015, a number of minor changes to the Swedish Citizenship Act came into force. The Citizenship Act now includes a preamble stating that Swedish citizenship stands for affinity with Sweden and links all citizens. It also states that Swedish citizenship consists of rights and responsibilities. In addition, all Swedish municipalities are now obliged to hold annual citizenship ceremonies for new citizens in order to celebrate their new citizenship. This change to the nationality law was intended to emphasize the symbolic value of becoming a Swedish citizen.

In addition to these provisions, which mainly aim at clarifying the significance of Swedish citizenship, rules regarding the automatic acquisition of citizenship at birth were changed so that a child now always acquires Swedish citizenship at birth if one of the child's parents is a Swedish citizen. Before this reform, the child of a Swedish man and a foreign women could not automatically become a Swedish citizen if the child was born abroad or the parents were not married. Children and young people's opportunities to obtain Swedish citizenship were also improved. Children of foreign citizens can now become Swedish citizens if they are under 18 years old and have resided in Sweden for at least three years with a permanent residence permit. Young people between 18 and 21 years can acquire Swedish citizenship if they have resided in Sweden with permanent residence since the age of 13.

This text is part of the Interner Link: country profile Sweden.

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Dr. Bernd Parusel is a political scientist and migration and asylum expert. He works for the European Migration Network (EMN) at the Swedish Migration Agency and as a research officer at the Swedish Migration Studies Delegation (DELMI) in Stockholm. Email: E-Mail Link: bernd.parusel@migrationsverket.se