As an international student outside the European Union, applying for a residency permit is the step that ensures your travel to Sweden. And as important as this step is, for me it did present some challenges to overcome. I will now tell how the application process developed for me, but keep in mind that it is merely is my personal experience; for some people it goes much easier, for others much more difficult. Hopefully, some of the lessons I learnt will be useful for you too!
The first battle was in obtaining the right information before submitting the application. My first tried source was calling directly to Migrationsverket (the Swedish Migration Board), but the line seemed to be broken for weeks. Therefore I resorted to contact the Consulate of Sweden in my country, but since it is very small, it was difficult to get a hold of them; many of my calls went unanswered. Some emails were left without a reply too, while some others were answered with misleading information. At that point I directed my questions at different consulates and embassies, and when the information given to me was satisfactory, I felt safe enough to submit my online application.
The lessons to be learnt from this stage of the application process were:
1. Be persistent! If the call doesn’t go through, call again until it does. Contact other official sources if necessary.
2. Read thoroughly the information on Migrationsverket website, and always make sure that the information given through other sources match or complement what is stated there. But overall, keep in mind that the application procedures are different for every country! Make sure that the information you have received is valid for your country.
Once I submitted the online application, a weight had been lifted off my chest. All I could do at the moment was waiting, from which the following lesson came:
3. Be patient! Confirmation will come!
A few weeks later an email saying that my application had been approved reached me; which gave way to the most trying step in the whole process. In order to produce the residency permit card, it was now necessary to take my biometric data. At first it sounded simple, but it wasn’t as much as I thought! The biometrics had to be taken in a Swedish Embassy, while my country had a Swedish consulate. This meant I would have to cross the surrounding seas of my island to have the biometrics taken.
At first I was told that, as a Dominican, it was only possible to complete this step in the Swedish Embassies in Cuba and Colombia. However, I later found out that I could do it in the United States as well. Juggling between phone calls to three different countries attempting to get a reasonable date for an appointment was no easy task! It was already summer and all of the available dates were too late, making it improbable that my residency permit card would arrive on time for the start of the semester in Chalmers. Observing my woes, my brother decided to help, and incidentally in one of his phone calls he was informed that someone had cancelled their appointment, so I could obtain that earlier date! The resulting lessons in this stage were:
4. Start your application as soon as possible!! This can’t be said enough. For some people the process can be short, and for some other very long. Therefore it is essential that you have enough time for your residency card to arrive before class starts. The extra time also serves as a security factor in case that any problems arise.
5. If your appointment date is too far away, it won’t hurt to call a few more times. It is possible that an earlier slot shows up.
6. If you have set an appointment but don’t need it anymore, please make sure to cancel it! Someone might benefit from that open spot.
And after 15 days and probably dozens of calls, I was in the Embassy of Sweden in Washington. I probably looked like a very silly girl over the excitement of being surrounded with Swedes for the first time! But of course, also because my presence there meant that I was one step closer to Chalmers.
Taking my biometrics was a simple process: my picture, height, signature and finger prints were retrieved and saved in a fancy machine. The next step was to decide where my residency permit card would be sent… and this seemingly innocent detail was what caused things to go off-track for a while. But for now I will have to leave you with the same intrigue I suffered during this final step. You will know how everything worked out next week!