So I moved to Sweden. Sort of.
At the end of 2017, I applied for a residence permit. And, while I was waiting for a decision, I arrived in the country (where my wife Maja was already living) on a 90-day tourist visa. One of the last steps for the process is that you have to do an interview at the Swedish embassy in your home country — also when you get your permit, you need to pick it up in your home country and travel to Sweden on it — so I would have had to go back to the U.S. at some point. We just didn’t know when.
But then my application was initially denied. The reason was complicated (and the details are boring), but we felt it was a mistake and filed an official appeal. By then my visa was running out, so at the end of March I headed back to the states with no firm idea on when I could return. Unless I got a permit, I’d have to wait another 90 days before I could go back on another tourist visa.
I’m just going to pause here and acknowledge that my experience is framed through a prism of unique privilege. I’m not fleeing conflict or persecution. Maja and I don’t have children. I can do my job anywhere with an internet connection. We have a great support system of family and friends. And knowing all that makes this whole ordeal all the more enlightening. It’s stressful and frustrating beyond words to be in immigration limbo. Being separated from family by bureaucracy is a horrible experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone — especially someone who doesn’t have the advantages that I do.
ANYWAY, it looked like we wouldn’t get a decision on the appeal until the fall, so as soon I was stateside: I started the process to apply for a visitor’s permit that would allow me to get back to Sweden and stay there for up to 12 months. Like a residence permit, there were a bunch of hoops to jump through — including scheduling an appointment to drop off my application and do an interview at the embassy in D.C. — but I was on track to get back to Sweden in mid-May.
Then we found out (way earlier than we thought we would) that we won our appeal!
Aaaaannnnnnnddddd that’s when we learned you couldn’t apply for two different permits at the same time. Winning the appeal restarted my residency application, but I would I have to drop my visitors permit application…which meant it would take me longer to get back to Sweden.
I spent most of that time in New Jersey, staying with my mother and working every day from the local library. It was usually just me, nursing students, and some homeless people. Although, I did get to spend a night or two in New York every couple of weeks. Big thanks to Clarke Speicher and Sean Stapleton for both giving me places to crash at different times.
By the time I was notified to schedule my interview at the Swedish embassy it was June and the earliest available appointment I could get was in mid-July. I ground out another month and a half in New Jersey, did my interview (which was kind of a surreal experience), and got on a plane the next day.
I’m back in Sweden now (I’m staying on another 90-day tourist visa) and we’re just waiting for the final decision.
Fun fact: I legally can’t be in the country when they inform me if I’ve been granted residency or not. I may have to go to Copenhagen for the day (sending them proof that I’m there, like a selfie with that day’s newspaper) to get the final word.
Also, in order to be in the country while my application was being processed, I had to book a flight back to the U.S. as proof of intention to leave. My current visa runs out in October and that’s also when one of our good friends is getting married. It’s probably the only point in this entire ordeal when the timing worked out.
Maja and I will be back in the U.S. for a week and that’s when (we hope) I can pick up my permit, book a flight, and officially move to Sweden.