The days between April 5, 2020 and June 22, 2021 felt like an eternity for us. We applied for Chad’s residence permit to move to Sweden in April of 2020 and received the positive decision the following June. Every “step forward” felt like a step back, but the relief we felt when we saw that positive decision was immense.
Considering the timing of when we applied for Chad’s ability to move to Sweden, many people wondered if the long waiting period was due to COVID. This was not the case. In response to the refugee crisis of 2015, Sweden passed a new migration law that has contributed to these wait times. One of the changes was a “maintenance requirement” for Swedish citizens who are trying to “sponsor” a partner to move to Sweden. It created a lot of extra bureaucratic hoops to jump through with the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket). Therefore, people have been experiencing these long wait times since about 2016.
What does one need to be able to apply for a residence permit in Sweden?
Of course there are different rules for different situations, but here was ours: Emma is a Swedish citizen since her mom is from Sweden. She renewed her Swedish citizenship when she turned 18 and will be able to keep it for life because she demonstrated that she speaks the Swedish language and has strong familial ties in Sweden, despite being born and having grown up in the US.
We lived together for two years in Lawrence, KS, before deciding to move, which meant that in the eyes of the Swedish government, we are “sambos.” This basically means that you are in a committed relationship and live together. “Sam” coming from the word “samma” meaning same, and “bo” meaning live. So, we live together. We therefore qualified to apply for a “residence permit to move to a spouse, registered partner or cohabiting partner in Sweden.” (Quick note before we continue: a new law was passed and the rules are slightly different as of July 20, 2021. From our understanding, it is now a bit easier to obtain a temporary 2-year resident permit, but permanent resident permits, which is what Chad received, are no longer available when you first apply for a Swedish residence permit.. But don’t quote us on that!).
In order to qualify for this permit, we had to prove three things: our relationship, Emma’s income, and our apartment.
Luckily for us, it’s quite easy to prove our relationship since we have lived together. For couples who haven’t lived together, this can be more difficult. Several people asked us if it would just be easier if we got married, but this isn’t the case! It might have helped us if we hadn’t lived together, but living together really seals the deal in the eyes of the Swedish government. We additionally supplemented with flight tickets from Chad’s previous visits to Sweden, a photographic timeline of our relationship, and proof that we had a joint bank account together.
Emma signed her work contract for her job on March 30, 2020, so we applied just a few short days after that part of it was done. Her contract was a two year contract (until July 2022), which would fill the requirement that the Swedish partner prove income for two years.
When we applied for the permit, we didn’t have housing yet, but said we would be living with Emma’s grandpa while searching for a place. We got an apartment a couple months after we applied for the permit, and sent in the lease to Migrationsverket when we got it. The lease was for one year with a renewal every six months after. This would fulfill the requirement that the Swedish partner has housing secured for at least one year.
At the time that we applied for our residence permit, the waiting period for a residence permit was 7-9 months. We slowly saw those numbers climb as we waited, and then the drama began…
So, what was the problem?
A few months into our waiting period, we joined an incredible Facebook group filled with people going through the same process as us or had previously gone through the process. We quickly realized that the two years you have to prove employment and one year you have to prove housing that we mentioned earlier was from the decision date, not from the application date, which had previously been unclear to us. You of course have no control over when your decision occurs… so… yes, complicated. We started to lose hope that it would all work out smoothly in the end.
We had originally thought that with the 9 months waiting period, Chad would have his residence permit in January. When no one had contacted us by December, we decided Chad should come visit. Originally, we didn’t want to spend money on trips back and forth and figured we would just wait instead. But we were over being apart! So Chad came for Christmas and stayed for a couple months. (He ended up using all 90 days of his tourist visa throughout this waiting period.)
In mid-January, Migrationsverket finally contacted us to ask for some additional information. We were really frustrated because we had already sent in the information that our case manager asked for: Emma’s recent pay stubs and our lease on our apartment. You can only upload so many documents, so we uploaded what she asked for as well as a letter from Emma’s employer saying they’d be willing to extend Emma’s contract past the end date. We are really thankful Emma’s employer was willing to help with the situation. We had read in the Facebook group that people with contracts that weren’t permanent, but rather had an end date, that a letter from your employer stating they’d be willing to renew usually did the trick.
We weren’t sure if this was the case, so we sent our case manager an additional email asking if she would prefer Emma had a permanent contract since Emma’s employer was willing to switch her over to a new contract since she had gone through the 6 month trial period which is standard at most Swedish jobs. We also asked if she needed extra documents from our housing authority stating that we are allowed to rent the apartment (housing is very complicated in Sweden… check out this article from The Local). We didn’t have these, but we were able to get them if needed. It wasn’t something she had asked for when she originally contacted us. She never contacted us again.
On February 18, 2021, we received a negative decision from the Swedish Migration Agency on the grounds that Emma did not have a permanent contract, we didn’t submit documents from our housing authority, and that with the 6 month renewal of our apartment lease, that would only be valid until January 31, 2022. Just shy of the one year from the decision date rule.
So… that’s that, then?
Not quite. We had the option to appeal the case to Sweden’s Migration Court. Which sounded scary and overwhelming, so we hired a lawyer. She gave us some advice as far as how to address the problem. Luckily, it was easy to get a permanent contract for Emma since her employer was aware of the situation, so that problem was quickly addressed. The other problem was the housing. The lawyer assured us that our current situation was definitely not going to fly, so we needed to find another solution.
To fulfill the housing requirement, the Swedish citizen can’t just live with family members, which is its own problem, but we digress. We were beyond lucky and privileged because Emma’s grandpa basically has an “apartment” in the basement of his house. To fulfill the requirements for an “apartment,” the space has to have its own private entrance from the outside, a bedroom, a bathroom, and a kitchen. Luckily, it has all these things. The only thing we were a little iffy about was the “kitchen” which is really just a small kitchenette that we hardly ever use except to store beer in the refrigerator when we visit. The lawyer assured us that it would fulfill the requirement.
We sent in a floor plan of Emma’s grandpa’s house, photos of the basement, a lease to prove that we were “renting” the “apartment” in the basement, proof that Emma’s grandpa is registered at the address and does not live in the downstairs “apartment.” We gathered so. many. documents. for this appeal, and we are forever indebted to Emma’s family for all their help.
Before the appeal goes to Migration Court, it first gets a second look from the Migration Agency. On March 23, 2021, the Migration Agency denied us a second time, because we did not submit the ownership certificate of the house to prove that Emma’s grandpa owns it….. which is public record…… but again we digress.
The case then went to court and we had the chance to submit additional documents, so we submitted the ownership certificate to the court… a screenshot of the online public registry. Yes… comical.
On May 6, 2021, we received a positive decision from the Migration Court that we do indeed fulfill the maintenance requirement. The case then went back to the Migration Agency for a final, official decision. There is a small chance that they deny you at this point, but we were feeling pretty confident.
The last step after you have fulfilled the maintenance requirement is to officially prove your relationship. In most cases, the Migration Agency wants the partner to do an interview at the embassy where they ask you questions about your relationship and why you want to move to Sweden. It seems like it’s low pressure, but something to check off on the list. We needed to know if and when Chad was going to do this so we could plan his trip to Washington, DC, which of course is quite the trip from Kansas City.
In June, we were wondering why no one had contacted us yet, and after a lot of digging and calling, we found out that our unit of the Migration Agency was backed up and currently working on cases that had been returned from the court in January 2021. Ours was returned in May.
There is one last move you can pull in this process. It’s called requesting to conclude the case. You can do this once in the entire process, and you can’t provide any additional information after that point in time. It’s also not recommended that you do this before an interview at the embassy has been done.
With the news that they were so backed up, we decided to pull this hail mary. We sent in Emma’s most recent pay stubs and submitted the request to conclude. At that point, the Migration Agency has one month to conclude your case. We submitted it on June 17, 2021. And we waited.
On June 22, Chad noticed that the status of the case had changed on the Migration Agency website, which he had been checking every day since. He contacted the embassy, and found out that we had received a positive decision and that Chad had been granted permanent residence in Sweden. We were shocked that it went so quickly and so smoothly at this point, but overjoyed at the result!
Chad moved to Sweden on July 13 and received his permanent residence card on July 21. Despite the many ups and downs, we are thankful that the process is over and we won’t have to go through anything quite that complicated again (we hope…). We are so happy and looking forward to building our life here in Sweden. Välkommen till Sverige, Chad!