Today I thought that I should share about my experience applying for this special Sambo visa that has granted me the right to live, work and study in Sweden for the next two years. It is going to be quite long and wordy so please skip this post if it doesn’t interest you!
This Sambo visa is definitely not new and I remember that while waiting for a decision, I got quite a bit of advice from friends who already went through the process, read The Local Sweden’s forum pages quite frequently and also came across a few bloggers who shared about their experience. If you are interested, you can read about their experience here: Chris from America and Hana from Singapore.
To be honest, in spite of everything that I heard/read, everyone’s experience is unique and there is no formula to predict each person’s journey to visa approval BUT there are definitely some things that you could look out for if you are planning to apply for one.
So, what is this visa?
Sweden issues resident permits (Uppehållstillstånd) to people looking to move to someone in the country if you fulfill certain conditions. In this case, as a non-EU citizen, I am allowed to apply for this “Sambo” visa based on my relationship with Jens, a Swedish citizen. This visa would allow us to put an end to our long distance relationship and at the same time grant me the right to work and study in Sweden. Hence unlike the visas typically given out in my home country (Singapore), this visa is neither based on an employment offer nor marital ties. After two years, this temporary residence permit can converted to a permanent residence permit and is subject to another round of approval.
Throwback to our first picture taken together in 2012.
There were many reasons that led us to make this decision, which in my opinion is the biggest decision I have ever made in my life so far. For one, the Sambo visa allows us to be together without having to rush into marriage. We are still young and both want to spend more time developing our careers and building our relationship at our own pace (in the same country). I know that Jens could have applied for a work visa in Singapore if he received a job offer but I don’t think he is eligible to apply for what he is interested to pursue because he is not a Singapore citizen.
In addition, I have spent six months living and studying in Sweden before so I have had a taste of what life in Sweden is like while Jens on the other hand is not so accustomed to city life and being a nature lover/country boy, our concrete jungle might drive him a bit mad (haha, I kid). That being said, who knows what the future would bring?
How to apply?
It is best to apply online through the Migration Board website because web applications are suppose to be processed faster than paper applications. There is quite a bit to prepare for the visa application so it is good to get everything ready.
On my part, I prepared: 1) Proof that I am not married through the Registry of Marriage in Singapore. 2) Photographs with my partner over the course of our relationship at different places. 3) Evidence to proof our trips/visits were real – eg ticket stubs, aeroplane tickets, hotel bookings etc. 4) Evidence to proof that I studied in Sweden before because I was there for 6 months while on exchange. 5) My family details – eg full name, birthday etc 6) A long letter detailing our relationship and how we came to the decision to apply for the permit. For my boyfriend Jens, he helped me collect personal information of his family members – eg their full name, address, personnummer, birthday etc.
To be honest, I did do more than what was required but I wanted to have everything in place so that I could easily pull out any evidence if they wanted to do further checks.
As a tip, preparing for these questions would help you complete the application form faster: 1) Listing all the exact dates and reasons for your past visits to Sweden. 2) Describing your background, interests and current situation. 2) Describe your partner’s background, interests and current situation. 3) Describe in detail how you first met your partner. 4) Describe in detail how you have maintained your relationship. 5) What is your plan when you move to Sweden.
After filling out the online application, I simply attached all the relevant scanned documents and paid the application fee of about SGD$300. Shortly after that, Jens received an email with the same application but in Swedish. He then filled it up and submitted it online.
This part is a bit of a blur but I remember receiving an email that said that our application was received together with a control number. In the next email, approximately one month later, I was asked to contact the local Swedish embassy within 14 days to set up an interview and I simply called them up and set up an interview at the earliest date.
What happens during the interview?
To be honest, the interview was really simple and straightforward because it was a verbalization of the online application. The only thing that made it seem “scary” was the fact that you are separated from your interviewer by a glass window and you have to hand over documents through a small slot. Otherwise the interviewer in my case was really nice and very experienced in handling visa applications.
What happens after the interview?
You wait. Unfortunately, apart from doing the interview, the local Swedish embassy is not able to do much to aid the approval process. This is because everything is in the hands of the migration office in Sweden and the case officer assigned to your case. If you refer to my timeline below, you would notice that I had a very long waiting time (in comparison to most bloggers and friends) and it was extremely frustrating and painful.
To anyone looking to apply for the visa, my advice would be to: 1) Ensure that you are planning to move to Sweden soon. 2) Ensure that you have your accommodation ready. 3) Have loads of patience.
Best thing to do while waiting is to save up and travel! Here is us on a month long road trip along the West Coast of USA.
For our case, we did try calling and emailing in to enquire but neither of which was very helpful. In the end, we decided to just focus on our relationship and met up in different parts of the world every few months (it was quite fun to be honest!). We were really blessed to have very understanding bosses and enough leave days from work to tide us through the waiting period. It was also nice that Jens was able to make a few trips to Singapore (since I was told not to enter Sweden during the waiting period) and that gave him the opportunity to get to know my family, friends and home country better.
In case you are wondering how long the entire visa process took, here is a summary of our timeline:
Submission of Application Online: 22nd September 2013
Registered as received by Swedish Embassy: 18th October 2013
Interview at Swedish Embassy in Singapore: 5th November 2013
Application approved: 28th November 2014
We never heard from the Migration board throughout the waiting period but a week before I received the phone call from the Swedish Embassy in Singapore to let me know that the application has been approved, Jens did receive a phone call from the Migration board in Sweden to clarify a few points. It was good that my friend Irene had a similar experience so I told Jens to look out for any phone calls from numbers he did not recognise (of course we didn’t know that it meant waiting by the phone for more than a year but that is okay).
I went down to the Swedish Embassy in Singapore to pick up the decision letter but took awhile before I bought my one way ticket to Sweden because funny enough Jens and I had already planned and booked a Singapore and Bali trip from late December to early January.
To be honest, getting a decision is really just the first step to the start of this brand new (and unpredictable) journey. In the process of getting ready for the big move, I have to admit that I was quite nervous about leaving the comforts of home. I am really thankful for the amazing support system that I have and also grateful for this opportunity to be on this new adventure in a country I consider my second home.
Whenever you are ready, hop on over to PART TWO of my story on moving to Sweden and settling in.
Till the next time!