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IN NUMBERS: How many people became Swedish citizens in 2021?

Processing applications for Swedish citizenship is still the Swedish Migration Agency's biggest job. But how many people became Swedish citizens last year, and how does that compare to previous years?

Swedish passports
Over 70,000 people were granted Swedish citizenship in 2021. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

In 2021, just over 76,000 citizenship applications were received by the Migration Agency, and 71,229 (not necessarily all from 2021) were approved. This is a decrease from 2020, when a total of 67,331 citizenship applications were approved. These figures do not include children who were granted Swedish citizenship alongside a parent, as children do not apply for citizenship directly.

Of those who became Swedish citizens in 2021 (including children receiving citizenship alongside a parent), 44 percent came from Syria (31,388). The next most common countries of origin for applicants were Somalia (5,011), Afghanistan (4,612), Eritrea (3,923), Iraq (2,459), Poland (2,174), India (1,676), Thailand (1,647), Germany (1,378), Iran (1,338), the UK (1,188) and Turkey (1,071).

In total, 86,889 citizenship applications were approved last year, including children as well as people whose application was rejected by the Migration Agency but approved by an appeals court.

Long waits for citizenship have been a hot topic of debate in Sweden in recent years. According to the Migration Agency’s website, 75 percent of “recently closed cases” received a decision on their application within 21 months.

In November 2021, Sweden had a population of 10,449,381, according to Statistics Sweden, meaning 2021’s new Swedish citizens represent less than one percent of the population.


In addition to citizenship applications, the Migration Agency received 12,625 applications from Brits applying for residence status before the deadline of December 31st 2021. Of these, 8,231 had been granted residence status at the end of 2021, with more still waiting to hear back.

More work permits were issued in 2021 than 2020, increasing from 32,379 to 39,270. The most common country of origin for those who were granted a work permit was Thailand, followed by India and Ukraine. The majority of work permits were issued for berry pickers and planters, as well as IT-related jobs. In addition to this, 25,842 work permits were extended in 2021.

In total, the majority of residence permits issued were work permits, followed by family connections (anknytning), with 24,189 individuals in the latter group receiving a residence permit.

Students were the next big group, with 14,034 study permits issued in 2021.

The next group of permits issued were for asylum seekers, with 11,443 permits of this type issued and 23,864 asylum permits extended in 2021.

Finally, 5,653 non-EU citizens were issued with residence permits as family members of an EU citizen. 898 of this type of permit were extended.

Note that these figures do not include EU citizens working, studying or supporting themselves, as they are not usually issued with residence permits.

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Country by country: Where do Sweden’s newest foreign residents come from?

More people moved to Sweden last year than the year before. But where do they all come from?

Country by country: Where do Sweden's newest foreign residents come from?

Immigration to Sweden increased year-on-year in 2021 for the first time since 2016, when around 163,000 new residents were added to the country’s population register, according to fresh data by national number crunchers Statistics Sweden.

In total, 90,631 people moved to Sweden last year, up 9.8 percent on 2020.

The largest group of immigrants, 11 percent, were Swedes returning to their country of birth.

This was followed by people born in India. A total of 6,017 people born in India moved to Sweden last year, an increase of 48.2 percent on the previous year.

The next largest groups were from Syria (3,538 people born in Syria became registered as residents last year), closely followed by Germany (3,501) and Pakistan (3,240).

Fewer people emigrated from Sweden last year, with 48,284 people moving out – a decrease of 1.3 percent compared to 2020, according to Statistics Sweden’s data.

Again, most of these were native Swedes – 16,975 in total – of whom 10.4 percent moved to the UK, 10 percent moved to Norway and 8.3 percent moved to Denmark.

More than half of all emigrants last year (55.9 percent), at least the ones who were not born in Sweden, returned to their country of birth. This was particularly common among people born in Finland, with 1,609 Finnish-born people returning to Finland from Sweden.

The number of foreign-born residents in Sweden grew to 2,090,503 people last year, an increase of 2.1 percent. Syria, Iraq and Finland make up the top three countries of birth. Sweden’s total population stood at 10,452,326 at the turn of the year.

If you are new to Sweden, welcome! We hope you’ll like it here. The Local has plenty of guides, analysis and features aimed at newcomers and long-term residents, and if there’s a topic you’ve got questions about or think we should cover, you’re always welcome to get in touch. And for anyone wondering how they can stay in Sweden forever, here’s our guide.