Government measures to strengthen Swedish citizenship
To enhance the value of Swedish citizenship, the Government considers that the requirements that must be met to become a Swedish citizen need to be more stringent. For this reason, on Friday 5 May, Minister for Migration Maria Malmer Stenergard convened a press briefing along with the Sweden Democrats group leader in the Riksdag, Linda Lindberg. At the briefing, they outlined what measures the Government intends to take to strengthen Swedish citizenship.
“The value of Swedish citizenship must be respected and safeguarded more than it is at present. Citizenship, like the Swedish language, unites people in Sweden regardless of their background. It is a legal relationship between the citizen and the state that confers rights and obligations on both parties. Sweden therefore needs more stringent citizenship requirements, and the Government and the Sweden Democrats have many changes in the pipeline to achieve this,” says Ms Malmer Stenergard.
“We want to link Swedish citizenship to clear requirements of Swedish language skills, and also of knowledge of Swedish society and Swedish values. By enhancing the value of citizenship, we will create incentives for people to do their part. It will also create a sense of community, and an opportunity to become part of society,” says Ms Lindberg.
Continued work on the proposals by the Inquiry Ändrade regler i medborgarskapslagen (‘Amended regulations in the Citizenship Act’) and the appointment of new inquiries to strengthen Swedish citizenship were presented at the briefing.
Amended regulations in the Citizenship Act
The Government is working on the proposals presented in the report Ändrade regler i medborgarskapslagen (SOU 2021:54), with a view to upgrading Swedish citizenship and making the requirements for obtaining it more stringent. In concrete terms, this involves the following:
- There are currently two ways for aliens to obtain Swedish citizenship: by application to the Swedish Migration Agency, or by notification. Notification is an easier route to citizenship, and primarily applies to children and young adults. An application for citizenship includes an ‘honest lifestyle’ requirement, but this is not required in the majority of notification cases. More consistent regulation of these different cases is needed.
- At present, people aged over 15 who have committed offences can be granted Swedish citizenship through the notification process where the same person, if aged over 18, would have had an application rejected. The Swedish Migration Agency is also currently prevented from rejecting a notification of citizenship even if one of the requirements is no longer met at the time of the decision. This is because under the current regulations, the requirements must be met on the date of notification. The Government is therefore also considering changes in this regard.
- A further proposal being worked on is expanding the possibilities to reject applications for release from Swedish citizenship, with a view to combating honour-based violence and oppression. If it is suspected that an application for release has been made to weaken a child’s protection against, for example, being removed from the country and married off, it is important that the authorities have tools to prevent this.
New inquiry into more stringent requirements
The Government intends to appoint an inquiry to make the requirements that must be met to obtain Swedish citizenship more stringent. An agreement on such an inquiry can be found in the Tidö Agreement. The inquiry will consider matters such as:
- longer period of residence (i.e. the time that a person has been resident in Sweden);
- a self-support requirement;
- more stringent requirements of an honest lifestyle;
- a pledge of loyalty, citizenship interview or similar ceremonial element that would be obligatory and form the final stage of the citizenship process.
Requirements of Swedish language skills and knowledge of Swedish society
The Government considers it important to introduce requirements of Swedish language skills and knowledge of Swedish society for obtaining citizenship so as to enhance the status of citizenship and promote an inclusive society. Proposals to this effect were made in the inquiry report Krav på kunskaper i svenska och samhällskunskap för svenskt medborgarskap (SOU 2021:2), which has also been the subject of a consultation. These proposals will be analysed in relation to the upcoming proposals of the ongoing inquiry into requiring Swedish language skills and knowledge of Swedish society to obtain permanent residence permits. The Government will return to this matter as soon as possible.
Withdrawal of Swedish citizenship
Apart from in exceptional cases that follow from the Constitution, Swedish citizens enjoy absolute constitutional protection of their Swedish citizenship. Introducing a possibility to withdraw Swedish citizenship in certain cases would therefore require constitutional amendments. The circumstances in which citizenship could be withdrawn need to be carefully investigated, and the Government will return to the subject of an inquiry to that effect shortly.