Work visas and wait times: How to get hired in Stockholm (part 2)

The visa process

And now, for the not-so-fun part. Because of the refugee crisis in Europe, the Swedish Migration Agency is tight on resources, causing delays in all operations. So while the work visa used to be processed in as few as 2 weeks, estimated wait times were ranging from 2 to 5 months (which still pale in comparison to the 14-month wait time for a sambo visa!).

Knowing this, I negotiated a clause in my contract that said that if my visa took longer than 3 months to get approved, we would renegotiate the terms. This helped me feel confident that the company wouldn’t pull out the offer, and also gave me some flexibility. (Friends and family were skeptical that the company would be willing to wait so long for me to start, but remember that many Swedish employees have a 3-month notice period for resignation, so it really wasn’t much different than hiring someone already employed in Sweden.)

I can’t speak highly enough of the Recruitment Manager at my new company, who put up with all my questions and eased my nerves when it felt like the wait would go on forever. She clearly explained the visa process to me and kept me updated regularly.

After signing the contract, my company sent a copy to the Union, which had to approve the terms of our agreement. Basically they look at whether the offer meets the salary requirements and so forth. It took about 10 days to get approval from the Union, at which point my company could initiate the work visa application. They filled out an application on their end, and the next day I received my portion to complete. It called for pretty basic information like employment history and took maybe two hours to complete. I clicked submit and BOOM, I was on my way to getting a work visa.

The wait

The hardest part about waiting is you have no idea how long it could take. I wanted to take some time to travel, but didn’t want to be backpacking through the rainforest when my visa finally came through and have to scramble my way back home as quickly as possible. So I did some traveling here and there, but nothing farther than a 5-hour flight.

I started off calling MV every week or so for an update, but quickly learned that as the employee, I had little sway. When my employer called, however, they seemed to take it a bit more seriously. Still, each person we spoke with gave a different vague reply, mostly repeating what was written on the website. About 7 weeks in, the Recruiting Manager informed me that we had been assigned a case officer — finally!! — and I was thrilled. That didn’t last long, though, because we soon found out the case officer was on vacation for 4 weeks and on top of that, only worked one day per week! Ohhhh, Sweden… Still, having a direct contact at MV was helpful because we could target our pestering.

As part of a city-wide initiative to promote moving to Stockholm to join the tech scene, my company published a Q&A with me. I figured it couldn’t hurt to send the article to my case officer, and it might even lend some legitimacy to my case. After all, how bad would it look if Stockholm was trying to encourage people to move there, but the visa process took so long that we had to pull out?! While I can’t say for sure that sending the article helped my case, I magically received an email the next day confirming that my case had been settled.

Important: The email does not state whether my visa had been approved or denied, just that the case “has been settled.” My employer called MV and confirmed that indeed I had a visa! In total, I waited 11 weeks.

Things moved pretty fast from here. My company booked me on a flight to Stockholm that weekend and because I’m from a country that doesn’t require a visa to visit Sweden, I could fly over and visit MV to have my fingerprints/photo taken from there. (If you’re from a country that needs a visa to visit Sweden, I believe this must be done at the nearest embassy, prior to entering Sweden.)

I landed in Stockholm on March 1 and started work the next day.

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Work visas and wait times: How to get hired in Stockholm (part 1)

The job hunt

Stockholm is an exciting city to work in right now, especially if you’re interested in the tech scene. Some people have even gone as far as calling it the Unicorn Factory — a reference to the number of billion-dollar startups it produces.

With so many startups, there are ample employment opportunities. I had heard from other expats that it was nearly impossible to find a job in Sweden (especially if you don’t speak Swedish), but I think that entirely depends on your skill set and industry because I found quite the opposite to be true. Tech startups in particular are very English-friendly because in order to scale up in size, they likely have to expand internationally.

I had my eye on Stockholm for a while, so when I decided to seriously start job hunting here, I had a few ideas where to start. I hardly used any job sites to find openings, although The Local and Hyper Island job board both have a fair number of opportunities for English-only speakers. For the most part, I constantly checked the career pages of fast-growing companies I admired and did my best to network with people who worked there as well.

I found Twitter incredibly helpful when trying to network remotely. In one instance, I started up a Twitter conversation with a CMO at one of my target companies. (Note: a conversation does NOT mean asking about job opportunities.) A few weeks later, coincidentally or not, I was contacted by the company to interview. When we met on Skype, the interviewer mentioned that she heard I had spoken with the CMO. Ultimately, the job wasn’t a perfect match, but I was super impressed with the internal communication — a testament to the flat organizational structure that makes Swedish companies so appealing.

I had pretty good luck landing interviews, but it took a few months before I found a company and a role that was a fit: A content producer at FinTech growth company.

The original job posting required fluency in both English and Swedish, but a friend of mine (who happened to know a recruiter at the company!) encouraged me to apply anyway. I made it clear in my cover letter that while I don’t yet speak fluently, I thought I had other skills that would be very valuable in the meantime. I was contacted about a week later and began the interview process.

The interview process

The interview process was a bit more intense than I’ve experienced at New York companies. Perhaps that’s because in Sweden it’s much harder to fire someone, so the company needs to make sure you’re the best fit? Anyway, my first round interview consisted of a Skype call with the Head of Marketing, which I honestly thought went pretty poorly because he was calling from a noisy cafe in Barcelona where the wifi kept dropping, making it difficult to have an engaging conversation. But I guess it went well enough because he asked me to send over some writing samples and a week or so later, I was asked to take a few aptitude tests.

The testing — which consisted of a personality test and timed reasoning, creativity, and logical deductive tests — was the strangest part for me because I’ve never been asked to take more than an edit test in the U.S. But again, I made it through. As a next step, the company flew me out to Stockholm for face-to-face meetings. It was a long day of back-to-back interviews but I received a verbal offer before I left the offices. They sent through a formal offer letter the next day, which I was thrilled to accept. All in all, it took about 5 weeks from the day I applied to the day I accepted my offer.

Check back on Friday for more on the application process and the great wait.

Introducing a New Perspective

2015-08-28 20.03.17

Södermalm as seen from a rooftop. 

In June 2014, just a few months after launching Moving to Stockholm, I received an email from Meredith who had stubbled across the blog while searching for better information about attaining residency in Sweden. Following her initial email, for the next several weeks we went back and forth discussing Sweden, Stockholm, residency, work, and everything in between.

Fast forward a few months and eventually she arrived in Stockholm (by way of New York City) on a tourist visa to see if it actually was a place worth moving across the Atlantic, ultimately deciding to stay and give the Nordics a go!

As we have become good friends over the past two years I invited Meredith to share her experience attaining a work visa in Sweden. While our experiences were vastly different, we were each still granted residency. I hope publishing additional perspectives will continue to add value to those interested in moving to Sweden.

In the coming weeks look forward to more frequently updated content from Meredith and I – ranging from our fun experiences as expatriates abroad, to stories from the Swedish office, to our favourite places in and around Stockholm.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for articles – feel free to contact me.

-Karl