Knowing how to help, because you’ve been through it too
Understanding the personal challenges of moving back to Sweden with a non-EU spouse
Moving back to your home country after a period of living and working abroad seems like it should be the simplest of things. Except for the emotional goodbyes and practical logistics of the actual move, what else is there to consider? You’ve weighed up what you want for the next phase of your life, you’re ready to return home and re-acquaint yourself with your mother tongue (how much easier that will be!), you long to reconnect with old friends and family and you’re excited about bringing back the skills and experiences you’ve developed in your international career. But if, like me, you fell in love and got married to a non-EU citizen during your time away, the move back to Sweden can actually be more challenging than you first imagine.
The tricky part lies in the fact that, as a Swede, you are required to prove that you have a stable income, as well as appropriate housing, before your spouse can even apply for a residence permit. This takes a lot of planning and often leads to long undesired periods apart from your partner, as the processing time for this type of application can take up to 18 months.
In July 2016, the Swedish Migration Agency implemented a new maintenance requirement for applications for family reunification of non-EU family members to Swedish citizens. This means that as a returning Swedish citizen you must be able to prove that you can support yourself and your family, as well as have a home of appropriate size and standard for you and your family to live in.
If you are living together with your partner abroad you must have already found a job in Sweden and have a lease agreement in hand, before the residence permit application can even begin. You must also be able to prove that you have been living together abroad, preferably by providing a rental contract covering at least two years previous joint tenancy. If you can, your partner will be approved a permanent residence permit after the application process. If not, your partner will initially receive a residence permit for two years, when they can then apply for a permanent residence permit at this point instead.
What therefore initially seems a natural step to return home, can soon seem quite a big, time consuming and stressful process. But when you both know it’s what you want, you’re willing to work through the process and make it as positive as possible. And that’s where K2 can help. Working now as a senior immigration specialist, I assist couples around the world facing just such issues with their relocation to Sweden. Drawing on my own personal experience and understanding, I find it very rewarding to help couples with the paperwork and complexities on their behalf, trying to alleviate some of the challenges I faced and supporting them through an initially difficult and sometimes lonely time to a more positive outcome.
Understandably, some time away from your place of birth – especially if you’ve been away for a good length of time in a completely different culture, as I had – means a return home can take time for you to re-adjust, as well as your partner. After living in China for over a decade, I found moving back to Malmö with a Chinese husband took me a while to fully settle back into the Swedish way of life, find new social circles and support my husband in getting a job (he couldn’t speak any Swedish at the time of our move).
On the flip side, where the application process took some time and preparation, once it was approved, Sweden had many new opportunities for us both – culturally, career wise and socially. Living in Malmö offers access to a wide range of international culture, making it easier for newcomers to adjust. And if your spouse still wishes to stay in contact with their homeland culture they can easily find local cultural communities and social clubs.
Once my husband was granted permission, he quickly enrolled for Swedish classes, which are free of charge for anyone approved a residence permit. He also found a job within a month of arriving in Sweden. And thankfully, with a spousal residence permit he was free to apply for any kind of work without needing a separate work permit.
Having been through this experience and now using it as a useful insight in my work at K2, where we not only offer assistance with the important immigration process but also relocation, housing and settling-in needs, I thoroughly enjoy supporting couples in achieving their goal and creating a life together in Sweden.
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