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.