When we moved to Sweden, there were 3 things that made me anxious: residence card, job, and apartment.
I had none of these when I arrived in Sweden, and the following months, I lived with uncertainties.
Among those things, the apartment was the least of the problem, as we would find it a few weeks after we arrive. We were lucky though. If you’re not familiar with the housing situation in Sweden, one word that sums it best is hell. The housing shortage is a nationwide problem, and for immigrants without connection and/or ample knowledge of the system, the chance of getting an apartment to rent is even slimmer. By a stroke of luck, we got a small, basement apartment in the outskirt of Gothenburg 1 month after we moved here. We got even luckier when we found another place which would become our current apartment. It’s a much better place in a much better location, and one of the reasons I feel more at home here.
The view from our bedroom window. After living in a basement, having big windows with lots of light coming in feels like a luxury.
As for the job, I wrote about my woes here. It was a struggle, but I finally secured a digital marketing position in a PR company 5 months after moving here. Things got a lot easier after that.
The longest, hardest battle was to get a residence card. Migrationsverket (the Swedish Migration Agency) is notorious for their slow process. I was issued a temporary residence card that expired in November, and my application to renew it turned out to be a drawn-out process. Contacting Migrationsverket was useless, as it was clear they only copied and pasted the answers from a manual (without even bothering to read my inquiries, I’d venture to say). The responses to almost all my emails were like this:
Thank you for your e-mail. We received your application and a decision has not yet been made. Unfortunately, we cannot give an exact answer for when a decision will be made but we provide approximate waiting times on our website: [link].”
As if I hadn’t known that link. I’d been checking it every few days and it said the estimated time for a decision was 10-15 months, way beyond the deadline set by the EU.
Under the EU Directive 2004/38/EC, they had 6 months to conclude my application. When I pointed this out and reminded them (because, honestly, they’d been acting as if they weren’t aware of this directive), I got the most ridiculous BS as an answer:
“It is correct that an EU directive says that a person should get a decision within six months. Due to the fact that it is a directive, it is depending on the circumstances for example, if there is more applications than usual, the Swedish Migration Agency’s processing time might be longer than the directive says.”
Spoiler alert: the directive does NOT work like that. I’m not sure if they simply didn’t understand or they thought they could fool me.
So when the deadline was approaching and I saw no progress on my application, I sent an email to my caseworker to let her know that the deadline was in 2 days, and I would not hesitate to seek legal counsel if I didn’t have a decision by then.
And boy, did they sort it out quickly then.
Today I got my residence card. It’s been a long time coming, or in the words of my Brit guy, “About bloody time!”
It took almost a year since I moved to Sweden, and finally, finally I can feel at ease. I can stop worrying and actually enjoy living here.
The mark of a fresh start. These crocuses, and that residence card.
It just so happens that spring is coming too. We had a few sunny days last week, and the effect it had on people’s moods was apparent. Everybody was suddenly chirpy and smiley – a far cry from the subdued atmosphere in the winter.
Last weekend, H and I took a walk along the canal to enjoy the blue sky. Neither the gusts nor the cold deterred us, and that’s how you know when you’re truly desperate for a little bit of sun.
Ah, the highs and lows of living in the north.