How to move to Sweden and become a Swedish citizen

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Thomas Fabian/Flickr

Alison Gerber, an American living in Sweden, recently posted a lengthy Twitter thread about what life is like in the small country’s “socialist nanny-state hellscape.”

That is, if a hellscape includes top-notch healthcare, low (or non-existent) childcare costs, and rapid service to deliver it all. The thread, published yesterday, has gone viral – especially among FOMO-filled Americans.

“I don’t remember anything at all about the costs,” Gerber wrote of her experience giving birth in a Swedish hospital, “because there were none, basically. Mothers’ and children’s’ health care is free. We did have to pay for gas to get to that faraway hippy hospital, so that’s probably like $40 round trip.”

She also describes the free, open-access facilities filled with kids’ toys, books, and trained staff that parents and their children can visit together, and the $125 child allowance she gets in her bank account each month.

True to Gerber’s descriptions, the idyllic land boasts some of the happiest people on earth, thanks to the country’s egalitarian values, paid parental leave policies, single-payer healthcare system, and breathtaking scenery – all of which leads thousands of people to immigrate each year.

Applying for citizenship requires you to live in the country for five years and have a “proven” identity – which also means you’d have to adjust to wintertime darkness.

For those who weren’t born there, here’s how you become a Swede.


Be at least 18 years old — unless you know someone.

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crabchick/Flickr

While the age requirements are hard and fast for adult citizenship, kids are given some leeway.

Parents of kids under 12 years old can apply for their child’s citizenship as long as the parent is already a Swedish citizen. Kids over 12 must sign a consent form saying they want to become a citizen.

Once a child reaches 15 years old, they have to show they’ve been living in Sweden for at least three consecutive years “and have conducted themselves well,” according to Sweden’s immigration office.


Be able to prove your identity.

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Flickr/jpmatth

A passport or similar document with an accompanying photo is fine.

Alternatively, a relative or loved one can vouch for your identity, provided they’re already a Swedish citizen. According to the immigration office, for a loved one to prove your identity, the two of you must have lived together before moving to Sweden.

“You must have lived together for such a period,” the requirements read, “that your spouse has knowledge of your background and life story so that your identity can be attested to without doubt.”


Have a permanent residence in Sweden.

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Jess Pac/Flickr

If you’re planning on spending more than 90 days in Sweden – for work, studying, or starting a business – you have to submit an application for a residence permit.

This is what you’ll eventually need to become a citizen.


Spend five years at that permanent residence.

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Flickr/Casey Fleser

If you want to be an actual Swede – a citizen – you have to prove you’re in it for the long haul.

There are certain circumstances when you can cut the five years short, like when you’ve already been living with a Swedish citizen for two years somewhere else. In that case, you only need to live in Sweden for three consecutive years.


Be on your best behavior.

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David Goehring/Flickr

Sweden makes it clear in no uncertain terms: Citizens obey the law.

“In order to become a Swedish citizen, you must have conducted yourself well during your time in Sweden,” the immigration office says. “The Swedish Migration Agency looks both at how you have previously conducted yourself and how we believe that you will conduct yourself in the future.”

The agency looks at whether you have any outstanding debts in Sweden, committed any crimes, or pose any security threats.


Learn Swedish (even if you don’t technically have to).

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bengt-re/Flickr

Swedes are no slouches when it comes to speaking English.

That’s comforting at first, but can become an obstacle if you’re trying to fully integrate into Swedish culture.

That’s to say nothing of the fact that Swedish is extremely difficult to learn. (Thankfully, you don’t have to take a language test to become a citizen.)

Consider signing up for the free language-learning course, Swedish for Immigrants.


Prepare for lots of coffee.

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Drake Baer/BI

The Swedes are an industrious folk, but they can’t get by without taking a break or two.

Each day, people sit down for a cup of coffee and find something sweet to nibble on as they catch up on life.

It’s a tradition known as fika, and it’s just as much about the socializing as it is about the sustenance.


Buy a high-quality winter coat and get ready for darkness.

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Michael Caven/Flickr

Swedish summers can offer 20 hours of daylight. During the winter months, meanwhile, nighttime can grip the country for just as long.

These stretches of cold weather mean lots of darkness and below-freezing temperatures, so best to brace yourself for the absence of sunlight.

At least the country is beautiful even when it’s not lit up.


Don’t bring fancy clothes.

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Shutterstock.com

Formal attire in Sweden looks more like professional attire in the US, which means everyday office employees – unless they’re high-ranking professionals – don’t wear dress clothes.

For the most part, jeans will get you by. So pack one suit or dress – it’s too casual (and too cold) for much else.


Start setting up your new life.

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SteFou!/Flickr

Ikea is just as much a one-stop-shop for inexpensive furnishings in its home country as it is in the US.

Even if you can’t speak the language, Ikea can help make your transition to becoming a full-fledged Swede a smoother one.