The Government of Sweden announced additional requirements for citizenship applications from 2025 onwards, subject to parliamentary approval. Applicants for naturalisation will need to take a language test and a societal knowledge test before they can become Swedish citizens.
The assimilation debate and citizenship
Sweden has long been a safe haven for many migrants who escape war, political persecution, and poverty, a history that spans World War II, Vietnam War and the Yugoslav Wars.
However, since the European migrant crisis of the 2010s, a fierce debate has erupted around the apparent inability of some migrants to assimilate into society, as well as the appearance of “parallel societies” around certain ethnoreligious groups that enforce rules in conflict with the general Swedish society.
At present, unlike neighbouring Denmark or other countries like the United Kingdom, naturalisation as a Swedish citizen requires only a continuous legal residence of 5 years, permanent residence status (obtainable with 2-5 years of residence depending on situation), good conduct, plus an interview with an immigration officer. With the surge in immigrants, it became apparent that Sweden needs to require higher standards of its prospective citizens.
The new requirements
From 1 January 2025, applicants for naturalisation between the ages of 16 and 66 will require (in addition to present requirements):
- A language test, and
- A citizenship test with societal knowledge in focus.
The language test requirement can be met by taking the exam at the end of SFI Course D, the highest level of the Swedish language course for immigrants. Tisus, the language test for university admission, will also be accepted.
The citizenship test requirement will also be considered as fulfilled through completing adult education (komvux) courses in societal knowledge (samhällskunskap).
Unified tests will also be available for all applicants who don’t meet the requirements, but these will have to be paid for by the applicant, costing approximately 2500 kronor (€247).
Citizenship tests: not easy to create one nor pass one?
Citizenship tests are often required of naturalisation applicants to ensure they understand life in the host nation. But a fair citizenship test is not that easy to create, let alone pass.
In 2018, for example, the UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid criticised his country’s citizenship test as a “pub quiz” that doesn’t fit its intended purpose. The UK citizenship test is in a multiple choice format that tests basic knowledge in British history, society and culture.
The Danish citizenship test, which has a similar format and context, is infamous for a pass rate as low as 32%, with the government blaming candidates for “not preparing properly”. Questions include, for example, the year in which the first Olsen Gang film was premiered.
It isn’t yet known how the Swedish citizenship will look like, but the government knew it takes time and so gave four years to the task of creating one, debuting from 2025.