The Swedish Migration Agency answers: how do you get Swedish citizenship?

In connection with Sweden’s National Day, the Swedish Migration Agency wishes to draw attention to the issue of citizenship and explain what happens when you become a Swedish citizen. This has long been one of the agency’s biggest topics – and this article will answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

Chart: citizenships

The chart shows the number of applications (upper line) and the number notifications for Swedish citizenship yearly 2019–2022.

How do you become a Swedish citizen?

There are different ways to become a Swedish citizen: by application, notification, or automatically by birth or adoption. A child becomes a Swedish citizen at birth if one of their parents is a Swedish citizen, but a child who is adopted by a Swedish parent also gains citizenship.

In this article, we will focus on the people who become Swedish citizens through an application or notification – as these are the most common approaches that account for the largest number of citizenship cases each year.

The requirements for becoming a Swedish citizen by application can be found in the Swedish Citizenship Act, which states that you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be able to prove your identity
  • Have lived in Sweden for a certain amount of time
  • Have lived anorderly life
  • Have a permanent residence permit, or have right of residence or a residence card, or have residence status

Having lived an orderly life means that you must not have debts or have committed crimes in Sweden. The Swedish Migration Agency collects information from the Swedish Enforcement Authority, the Swedish Police Authority, and the Swedish Security Service. If you have debts or have committed crimes, you can still become a Swedish citizen – but a certain amount of time must have passed after the debts have been paid and the sentences have been served.

A notification to become a Swedish citizen is a simplified procedure compared to application. Not everyone can submit a notification; only underage children, young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 and Nordic citizens can do so.

There are different types of notifications of Swedish citizenship and thus different requirements – and exemptions from the requirements. Here we limit ourselves to notification under Section 7 of the Swedish Citizenship Act, which applies to underage children. Such a notification can be submitted if the child:

  • Has a permanent residence permit, right of residence, a residence card, or residence status in Sweden
  • Has lived in Sweden for at least three years, or two years if the child is stateless
  • Is under 18 years old

For this group, there is no requirement for proof of identity or having lived an orderly life, as there is in the case of an application.

How many people became Swedish citi­zens in 2022

Last year, approximately 86,000 cases were received to become a Swedish citizen. During the same period, almost 92,000 cases were decided. These figures indicate that the agency decided more cases than were received.

The average processing time for decided applications was 519 days, and 84 per cent of applications were granted. As regards notifications, the average processing time was 82 days and the approval rate was 80%. In terms of numbers, nearly 90,000 people became Swedish citizens in 2022: 75,000 by application and 15,000 by notification.

Chart: Received applications about citizenship

The diagram shows how the distribution looked between received applications and notifications about citizenship in 2022.

Chart: Decided citizenship

The diagram shows how the distribution looked between decided applications and notifications about citizenship in 2022.

The ten most common nationalities.

The ten most common nationalities that received Swedish citizenship in 2022.

At the end of the year, there were just over 88,000 open applications and just over 6,000 notifications.

Of the people granted Swedish citizenship in 2022, Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq accounted for the five largest citizenships.

How long does it take to get a deci­sion?

For several years now, the Swedish Migration Agency has had long processing times for applications for citizenship. This is mainly due to the large number of applications that have been received in a short period of time – which can be linked to the large influx of refugees in 2015, when 163,000 people applied for asylum in Sweden, of which just over 95,000 were granted residence permits.

Of the citizenship applications that have been decided in the past month, 75 per cent have received a decision within 36 months. The remaining 25 per cent have had to wait longer than that. Of the notifications that have been decided in the past month, 75 per cent have received a decision within ten months.

Why does it take so long?

There are several factors that affect how long you have to wait for a decision. Here are some examples:

  • Whether an investigation is needed – all new cases undergo a so-called “screening” process. A categorisation is made based on how much investigation the case demands. A case that requires less investigation can often be resolved within six months.
  • Checks with other authorities – The Swedish Migration Agency is dependent on information from other authorities such as the Swedish Police Authority, the Swedish Security Service, and the Swedish Enforcement Authority. Depending on the applicant’s background, the register check may take different lengths of time – something that the Swedish Migration Agency cannot influence.
  • Request for a decision – according to Section 12 of the Administrative Procedure Act, you can request that a case be decided when you have been waiting for a decision for at least six months. The fact that many applicants submit such a request takes a lot of resources away from normal examination, which leads to longer processing times in general.

What the law says

When we talk about processing times, we are usually talking about statutory times – that is, the length of time that laws and ordinances say that an authority has to make a decision. When it comes to applying for Swedish citizenship, there is no such time limit. However, the Administrative Procedure Act applies: they must be handled as simply, quickly and cost-effectively as possible, and it must be done in a legally secure manner.

What is the Swedish Migra­tion Agency doing to shorten the proces­sing times?

The Swedish Migration Agency is constantly working to improve the situation and shorten the processing times. For example, the agency’s operations dealing with citizenship matters have been expanded from one locality to two. Today, almost 200 people work with the processing of these cases – a number that will increase further in coming years.

Another measure that has been taken is that the agency has asked for a temporary exemption from Section 12 of the Administrative Procedure Act, i.e., the possibility of submitting a request for a decision. The aim is to create a pause in the handling of so-called “delay cases” in order to shorten processing times and reduce the number of cases waiting in line.

Digitalisation is also an important part of the work to achieve shorter processing times. For example, the agency can make fully automated decisions in cases or carry out automatic checks and additions.

A Swedish citi­zenship cannot be revoked

The question of whether or not a Swedish citizenship can be revoked often sparks debate. Swedish citizenship is protected by one of our four constitutional laws and is therefore irrevocable. This applies even if you have committed a crime or have otherwise failed to live an orderly life.

Diffe­rence between revoca­tion and loss

It is common for revocation to be confused with loss of citizenship, which is something else. A Swedish citizen loses their Swedish citizenship on their twenty-second birthday if they were born abroad, have never lived in Sweden, and have never been here under circumstances that show that they have an affinity with the country.

Current policy propo­sals

The Government is working on proposals from the inquiry entitled Altered rules in the Citizenship Act (in Swedish) External link, opens in new window., and has now also presented its efforts to implement new inquiries with the aim of strengthening Swedish citizenship, which it believes can be done through stricter requirements. In addition to investigating the introduction of requirements for knowledge of Swedish and civics, the Government is investigating the possibility of starting an inquiry into the circumstances that could form the basis for the revocation of citizenship.

The Government also believes that there is a need for a more uniform regulation for applying for and declaring citizenship, as there is currently no requirement for an honest lifestyle in a notification case, as there is in an application case.