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Sweden: Parliament Adopts Passport Restrictions

(May 20, 2016) On April 15, 2016, new rules for obtaining a Swedish passport took effect. Swedish citizens may now only request three passports in a five-year period.  (Lag om Ändring i Passlagen (1978:302) [Act on Amending the Passport Act (1978:302)] (Svensk författningssamling [SFS] 2016:135), NOTISUM; 7a § Passlagen [Passport Act] (SFS 1978:302), NOTISUM.) Prior to the adoption of the new law, which was approved by the Swedish Parliament on March 3, 2016, there was no legal limit on how many passports a Swede could request during the five-year validity period. (Passlagen (SFS 1978:302), as in force prior to Apr. 15, 2016.)

The change in law comes as a response to an increase in reporting of missing passports in recent years, from 46,700 missing documents in the year 2009 to 59,000 in the year 2013.  In 2013, the police estimated that a total of 177,000 valid Swedish passports were outstanding as reported missing over the five-year period. The police reported that during the five-year period 2009-2013 more than 1,000 Swedes had requested five or more passports; one individual requested as many as 18.  More than 25,000 Swedes had requested the issuance of three to five passports during the same period.  The Passport Commission noted that Frontex, the European Union border protection agency, had found that the number of Swedish passports used by “look-alikes” was among the highest in the Schengen area, surpassed only by users of French passports.  (Departementsserie [Ds] 2015:12, Missbruk av svenska pass [Abuse of Swedish Passports] (2015) (Ministry Report), REGERINGSKANLIET, at 87 & 105.)

Passport Holders Younger than 12

The new legislation also amended the rules governing acquiring passports for children. Passports issued after April 15, 2016, will only be valid for three years for children younger than 12 years of age. (3 § Passlagen.)

Temporary Passports

Emergency passports and temporary passports will still be issued, but will be limited to use for the specific travel listed in the application. Moreover, a temporary passport will only be valid for travel to those countries specified at the point of application.  The issuance of a temporary passport will also automatically cancel the validity of the original passport, either temporarily or permanently (id. 12 §), which is also a new measure intended to prevent passport fraud.  There will be no limit on how many temporary passports a person may acquire during a five-year period.  The decision not to limit the number of temporary and emergency passports was intended to guarantee that a Swedish national always would have the right to leave the country as specified in the Swedish Constitution.  (Justitieutskottets betänkande 2015/16:JuU25 Åtgärder mot missbruk av svenska pass [Measures Against Abuse of Swedish Passports] , Riksdagen [Parliament] website (2015) (Justice Committee Working Report), at 7.)

Aliens’ Passports

Sweden also issues “aliens’ passports” (främlingspass) to persons (generally asylum seekers) who do not have a passport from their home countries.  These new provisions limiting the number of passports a person can obtain do not apply to these identification documents, but a new piece of legislation specifically targeting aliens’ passports is forthcoming, (Ds 2015:12, supra.)  According to the Passport Commission, violations of this form of documentation are less prevalent than abuse of ordinary Swedish passports.  (Id.; Proposition [Prop] 2015/16:81 Åtgärder mot missbruk av svenska pass [Measures Against Abuse of Swedish Passports], Riksdagen website (2015), at 10.)

Other Issues

The Passport Commission also voiced concern that the new rules do not prevent long-term fraud or trade in passports, and it therefore urged the Swedish Parliament to revisit this issue and address the task of formulating responses to systematic behavior indicative of fraudulent intent.  One example of such behavior would be when a person requests five new passports during a 10-year period.  (Id. at 8)  The holder of a Swedish passport is not subject to sanctions if another person fraudulently uses his or her passport.

Sweden will continue to lobby for a common solution whereby the EU adopts obligatory biometric controls at its borders. (Id. at 1.)