‘The idea is to convert permanent residency into Swedish citizenship,’ Migration minister says

Sweden's Migration Minister has responded to criticism of the government's proposal to abolish permanent residency, telling an interviewer that the hope is that holders will gain full citizenship rather than get downgraded to temporary status.

'The idea is to convert permanent residency into Swedish citizenship,' Migration minister says
The interview with Maria Malmar Stenergard was published in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper on Sunday. Photo: Stefan Jerrevång/TT

“The main idea behind the [Tidö] agreement is that we should convert permanent residency to citizenship,” Maria Malmer Stenergard, from the right-wing Moderate Party, told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.”You should not be here forever on a permanent residence permit. A clear path to citizenship is needed.”

I envision that you will receive individual plans for how to achieve this,” she continued. “Learn the language, earn a living, and have knowledge of Swedish society, so that you can fully become a Swedish citizen.” 

Malmer Stenergard said it was still unclear whether a planned government inquiry into the possibility of “converting…existing permanent residence permits” would also open the way for those who have been given a permanent right to live in the country to be downgraded to a temporary residency permit. 

“We’ll have to look at that,” she said. “There is a problem with positive administrative decisions and changing them, which the Migration Agency’s director general Mikael Ribbenvik has been aware of. We also state in the Tidö Agreement that basic principles of administrative law shall continue to apply.” 

READ ALSO: What do we know about Sweden’s plans to withdraw permanent residency?

In the Tidö Agreement, the deal between the far-right Sweden Democrats and the three government parties, it says that “asylum-related residence permits should be temporary and the institution of permanent residence permits should be phased out to be replaced by a new system based on the immigrant’s protection status”.

It further states that “an inquiry will look into the circumstances under which existing permanent residence permits can be converted, for example through giving affected permit holders realistic possibilities to gain citizenship before a specified deadline. These changes should occur within the framework of basic legal principles.”

Malmer Stenergard stressed that the government would only retroactively reverse an administrative decision (over residency) if a way can be found to make such a move compatible with such principles. 

“This is why we state in the Tidö Agreement that basic principles of administrative law must apply,” she said. 

She said the government had not yet come to a conclusion on what should happen to those with permanent residency who either cannot or are unwilling to become Swedish citizens. 

“We’re not there yet, but of course we’re not going to be satisfied with people just having an existing permanent residency, which in many cases has been granted without any particularly clear demands, if they don’t then take the further steps required for citizenship.” 

This did not mean, however, that those with permanent residency permits should be worried, she stressed. 

“If your ambition is to take yourself into Swedish society, learn the language, become self-supporting, and live according to our norms and values, I think that there’s a very good chance that you will be awarded citizenship.” 

She said that even if people couldn’t meet the requirements for citizenship, everyone with permanent residency should at least have “an individual plan for how they are going to become citizens”, if they want to stay in Sweden. 

When it comes to other asylum seekers, however, she said that the government’s aim was for residencies to be recalled more often. 

“We want to find a way to let the Migration Agency regularly reassess whether the grounds for residency remain. The aim is that more residencies should be recalled, for example, if a person who is invoking a need of asylum or other protection then goes back to their home country for a holiday.” 

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Sweden launches digital passport checks for (some) work permit applicants

In a new scheme by the Migration Agency, applicants for a Swedish work or student permit will be able to verify their passport digitally instead of having to travel to a Swedish embassy – but so far only if they come from one of the 23 countries involved in the pilot.

Sweden launches digital passport checks for (some) work permit applicants

“Some applicants will now be able to download an app, scan their passport and perform facial recognition to identify themselves for their residence permit applications for studies and work,” said Fredrik Larsson, from the Migration Agency’s foreign operations unit, in a statement.

Applicants who may be able to take part in the pilot scheme, including those who have already made an application in 2024 but haven’t yet shown their passport, will receive an automated email a few days after applying, containing a link to an e-service that’s valid for one week.

It means they won’t have to make in some cases long and expensive journeys to a Swedish embassy to have their passport checked. 

“The whole aim of the project has been to make it easier for applicants. Since it became a requirement to show your passport during a personal visit, more people have been forced to visit a mission abroad, which may be in another country,” said Larsson.

Freja eID Group AB, which is one of the companies that provide digital IDs in Sweden, is responsible for carrying out the check.

The new scheme is expected to benefit around 19,000 work permit applicants and 5,000 students a year from the following countries: USA, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, UK, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, North Macedonia, Georgia, Ukraine, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Albania, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The countries involved are all ones where people don’t need a visa to travel to Sweden, so some major work permit countries such as India are excluded. The Local has contacted the Migration Agency to ask if and when the pilot scheme might be rolled out to other countries.