Migrating to Sweden

Relocating to Sweden Amidst the Covid-19 Pandemic

Will we be allowed entry to Sweden without having a resident permit card or UT (Uppehållstillstånd) card to present when it clearly says that we need to have this card upon arriving in Sweden? What if we got infected with Covid during our flight or travel? What if immigration decides not to allow us to leave the PH because of the increasing number of cases in Covid in the Philippines? Are all of our documents and requirements complete before our impending travel? How do we find an apartment ASAP when we’re not even sure if we’ll be allowed entry to Sweden at the last minute? The Swedish police has the final say if they’ll be admitting or denying entry, what if we got denied at entry point in Sweden? Would the risk all be worth it if we were denied of an entry? – lots of expenses paid like flight ticket, swab tests, visa applications, hotel and Airbnb accommodations… These are just some of the major and mind-boggling questions swirling in our heads as we embarked on this journey of our relocating to Sweden amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. But before I share our story, kindly read the disclaimer below.

DISCLAIMER: Please don’t quote me on these. I’m just sharing all the things that we have experienced hoping that these would also shed light to all our fellow Filipinos who had the same situation as us. Please remember to always double-check with all the concerned government institutions for all the requirements that you need before flying and also please remember, they all make decisions on a case-by-case basis and that we all have unique situations. It really helps to do your own due diligence. =)

So Marc, my husband, was hired by a company based here in Sweden last March 2020 and they’ve hired Alfa Moving , a Scandinavian mobility services Swedish-based company to help us with our immigration papers. April 15, our Immigration Consultant sent us an email informing us that all our documents (both my husband and I) have been submitted to Migrationsverket and that the estimated processing time is 2-3 weeks for a decision (case specific and may vary). There was also one important reminder for us which was “Please note that you cannot be in Sweden while your application is being processed by the authorities.” and these were written in bold letters. On the email it also stated that, only Alfa Moving is to contact the Migrationsverket regarding our application since they’re a certified company with the Swedish Migration Agency and to also avoid any delays and complication in the process. We were assigned control or check numbers that we could use also to check on the status of our application on the Migrationsverket website.

And so came April 24 (after 9 days), we received an email again from our Immigration consultant giving us already the great news that Marc and I have been both granted a residence and working permit visa with a validity date of 1 June 2020 – 1 June 2022. We received an electronic copy of the Decision Letter from Migrationsverket indicating that they’ve made the decision last April 21. Now the only thing is that we need to be able to process our resident permit card and this is needed to be presented when we arrive in Sweden. This card is important and must be carried all times especially when in contact with authorities and healthcare.

Now, we were advised to process our biometrics and photo for the resident permit card in the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok (because our Swedish Embassy here in Manila doesn’t have this capability in their office and this is what I was told when I called them) and that it takes approximately 3-4 weeks to produce and send the residence permit cards to the local embassy or to be picked up depending on their instructions. We were also reminded that we needed to be in Sweden within 4 months from the start date of the validity period.  We were told that if our start date and arrival in Sweden is delayed beyond 4 months of the start date stated in the decision letter, this will cause problems if and when we apply for permanent residence. If there is such a delay, it is recommended that the work permit be recalled and that a new application is submitted.

So this definitely gave us the pressure to be in Sweden on or before September 30th of this year so that our resident and working permit will not be revoked or forfeited. So while we have been waiting for the travel ban to be lifted in Thailand, I kept busy with my research of the requirements needed to be presented at the Philippine Immigration should we continue with our travel to Sweden. This was the most arduous part of our migration journey. There were so many things needed to be processed but to top it all off, we were confused in what specific exit clearance should we present.

Since my husband was a direct hire by an employer from Sweden, we thought that OEC clearance was needed to be presented. So we called POEA to check on the requirements and informed them of our situation. POEA told us that they’re handling people with work permits only and because we were granted for residence permits already, we were both referred to CFO. When we called CFO, we were told that my husband was a direct hire by an employer so we were referred back to POEA. Because we’re getting these contradicting information, we decided to contact Bureau of Immigration to verify and explained to them our situation. We were advised and referred back again to CFO.

Even if we planned to go with CFO, Marc still tried to process the other requirements for OEC, just in case that PH Immigration will look for the document and because up until this stage, we were not sure if he should present an OEC or a CFO. So we contacted the Philippine Embassy in Stockholm to ask how the contract can be acknowledged and we just found out that we spoke with Consul General Raul Dado himself. He advised us to have the HR of his company to contact him so that they can instruct them on what to do. And so Marc just relayed the information back to their HR department to request for an Apostille document of his employment contract.

It was already end of July and still, Thailand is still not accepting foreigners unless it’s for essential purposes. We were already becoming worried of the fact that it’s already August and we needed to be in Sweden before end of September which was already by the next month. We took matters in our own hands already and we decided to contact Migrationsverket just to check if they could hopefully allow us to go to Sweden and process our resident permit card directly there instead. August 3rd, we called them up and explained our situation, and to be honest, I can hear myself explaining with a rattled voice because the answer we’ll be getting from her would determine if we would continue to go to Sweden or we needed to back off and perhaps re-schedule on a later date and on better times. Lo and behold, the person we spoke on the other end of the line allowed us to just process the resident permit card directly in Sweden.

This was the turning point for us as this set us truly in motion and spurred us on to continue with all of our plans and not just by doing pure research. We had to act fast because there’s a gazillion things that need to be processed and we have little time left as we’re looking at on our September 30 deadline. We completed our registration for CFO last August 13 and by August 19, we sent an email to CFO attaching our proof of payment, scanned passports, copy of the Decision Letter of Approved Residence and Work Permit in Sweden and also the Endorsement Letter of my husband’s company indicating why his presence is needed in Sweden. I also explained on the email our situation that we had to apply the resident permit card directly in Sweden because of the ongoing travel ban in Thailand. Thank heavens that on the same day, we received an email from CFO giving their confirmation that they’ve already received our payment and documents and attached to their email is our temporary sticker that we could already present to the Immigration.

By this time, we have already booked our flight to Sweden scheduled for September 18 via the Emirates Airlines. There were several reasons why we chose Emirates over Qatar Airways (more details about this on a separate post (as this blog is already quite long). We have also booked an appointment at St. Luke’s BGC for September 15 for our PCR swab testing as this is needed to be done within 96 hours before the flight as stated on Emirates terms.

While we’re trying to comply with the other requirements and because of the continuous updates regarding the entry bans all over the world because of the ongoing pandemic, our Immigration Consultant from Alfa Moving informed us that we needed to present something at border control for us to be allowed to enter into Sweden. We were advised to contact the Swedish Embassy in Manila because they wanted us to process a D-Visa instead. We tried calling the Swedish Embassy in Manila but unfortunately at this time, we were not able to contact anyone at all. We tried to check and saw that VFS Global was the accredited company in processing tourist visas to Sweden. We were told by our Immigration consultant that this is also a type of tourist visa however this is for a longer stay. The main difference is that the Schengen visa is good for only up to 90 days (more or less 3 months) whereas the D-Visa, you can stay in Sweden for more than 3 months up to 1 year.

When we checked on the VFS Global website, we can’t find anything about the D-Visa processing. So we decided to just process the requirements for a Schengen Visa filling-out the Schengen Application form. This was already August 27 (Thursday) and it was impossible for us to go to VFS Global the next day August 28 as we’re not yet complete with our documents. August 31 (Monday) is a national holiday and good thing that the next earliest available date was the day after which was September 1 (Tuesday) to set an appointment schedule with them. I immediately tried to request for a travel insurance via Paramount as this was one of the requirements (again, more details on this on a separate post).

September 1st came and we went to the VFS Global in Makati for our scheduled appointment. We had to fill-out Health Declaration forms and then we waited patiently for our names to be called. When we got our turn, we presented all our documents to the personnel and he was quite hesitant in receiving the documents because he told us honestly that they’re not processing a D-Visa application and that it should be directly to the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok. We gently explained our predicament and thankfully, he understood so he went inside in their main office and maybe he checked with his colleagues about our situation. By this time, I was crossing my fingers inside my head and praying incessantly because we’ve already come so far just to be declined at this stage. Gratefully, he went back to us and decided to accept all our documents. He specifically advised us to keep all our lines open as it’s possible that we might be contacted by the Swedish Embassy of Bangkok. We were told that the processing for this was 15 days. Good luck to us, our flight is in 17 days and we just gave our passports to them. Well, what can we do, it’s now or never.

Monday, September 7th, we received a call from Swedish Embassy in Bangkok and we were advised to submit a D-Visa Application form and to just reply on the email they sent us. We just indicated 6 months for our application (since we’ll be applying for the resident permit card immediately when we arrive in Sweden) and then we submitted the filled-out D-Visa Application form at 4:08AM (already September 8th, Manila time) and on the very same day at 3:36PM, we received a reply on our email informing us our D-Visa was granted. Whew! Thank you Lord! I got our passports back last September 14 and the next day, September 15, we had our PCR swab testing at St. Luke’s BGC in Taguig. With bated breath, we received our negative results, 2 days after which was September 17th.

September 18, the day of our flight and with heavy hearts, we said goodbye to our family. Again, constantly praying while inside the vehicle on our way to the airport, this was the day of reckoning for us. Our first step upon arriving at the airport was to check the combined weight of our luggage. Since we can’t find the weighing scale, we went to a luggage wrapping kiosk and bless this good man’s heart, he allowed us to weigh our luggage for free even if we will not be availing of his service. How do you pack a lifetime’s worth of belongings for both of us and for a total of 60 kilos only (30 kilos only for each of us)? Believe me when I say it was so stressful that I packed our bags in a span of almost 1 month, I swear! Thank goodness with the efficient help of my mom and my sister, we found out in the airport that there were still 2 kilos to spare and all the while, I thought we were already exceeding. As always, thank you ladies for helping me, love you Mame and Ate Jen2 and also to Kuya Biboy for helping us transport all our stuff back home!

Anyway, going back, after we secured our baggage, we informed the staff our flight details and then we were then directed to a separate window where the personnel asked for our Health Declaration Form and also looked for the printed negative results for our PCR swab testing to check if this came from an accredited hospital or clinic. Usually, the airlines have their own accredited clinics or hospitals as well so you also need to check with your own airlines respectively just to be safe. Please be very careful in choosing the hospital or clinic where you’ll be taking the swab test because there’s this incident that while we’re presenting our documents, the lady beside us talking to a different personnel was appealing her case. It turns out that the PCR swab test was done from a clinic or hospital that was not accredited.

Upon checking-in at the airline counter, we presented again our PCR swab test negative results and UAE Health Declaration form for Dubai (because we have the stop-over in Dubai), good thing I was able to see this on the website of Cebu Pacific and just to save some time if in case this was needed, I decided to fill-it out beforehand already. The significance of this part was that I was able to save time in filling-it out because we already started lining-up for the queue on the Airline counter immediately. Check-in was a breeze although we had to wait in a long line, but the most critical part on this journey, was the next queue we’ll be lining up for.

Honestly, we’ve heard so many things, read so many stories on Facebook groups and even watched some on the news where the people were not allowed to leave even if they have already their documents. Still, we chose to think positive and keep our faith on this. I lined up first and my husband after me. When it was my turn to be asked by the Philippine Immigration officer, he asked for my passport and looked at my D-visa. I was asked what was the purpose of my travel. I was honest and explained that we needed to process our resident permit card and because there was continuous travel ban in Thailand, we had no choice but to go directly to Sweden. He then asked me if I was travelling as an OFW and I said no, but as an emigrant because I will only be looking for a job there when I’m already in Sweden. I then immediately presented to him my temporary CFO sticker. He checked my passport for quite some time, checked on his computer, then checked again my passport and CFO sticker. He got up, went out of the cubicle, and talked to a colleague a few steps away. About after a minute, he went back inside the cubicle, checked again something on his computer and asked me if I was travelling with someone. I immediately pointed and said I was travelling with my husband who’s directly behind me. He then took a picture of me, asked for my biometric and then gave me back my passport.

I went through inside and waited for Marc for him to be finished with his interview. He said that he was also asked the same question of what was his purpose of travel and he just repeated what I said about us processing the resident permit card and that we needed to be in Sweden within 4 months of the validity period of our resident permit. He then also presented his temporary CFO sticker and just like that, he got inside as well. Miraculously, he was not asked if he has a job already here in Sweden because had he been asked, he will definitely have to be honest that he was hired by a Sweden-based company and then he might be asked to present an OEC certificate (which unfortunately he wasn’t able to secure due to lack of time). But let’s not dwell on that matter because again, thankfully he was not asked anything at all about his employment.

And so we thought, the worst feeling is over with but wait, there’s more! We thought that we only have to line up 1 more time for the x-ray of our carry-on baggage but before we can even go there, there was this lady standing and her colleague sitting in front of a small desk. This lady asked me what was the purpose of my travel and again, I gave her the same answer I told to the Immigration officer. She asked me how long will I be staying there and I said our resident permit is valid for 2 years. She asked me again what I will be doing there and I gently explained again about the resident permit card and the travel ban in Thailand. She asked me if I have work there and I said that I will find work when I’m already there in Sweden. She also asked who invited me there, and I said there’s none. She asked who sponsored me and again repeated who invited me there. I said there’s no specific person who invited me there and I pointed to my husband and I told her that I will be travelling with my husband because we were both granted a resident and working permit. It was that time I saw that she let up because I honestly felt that she was baiting me or waiting for me to say something but I was just being honest with all my answers all the time. She then let me pass through and talked with my husband and also asked his purpose of travel. And again my husband explained about us processing the resident permit card and he confirmed he’s travelling with me, and that’s about it, she let him in as well. And just like that, when we’re done with the carry-on x-ray, my husband and I looked at each other and we said to one another, THIS IS IT.

During our flight to Dubai (via Emirates Airlines), we were all given a red Health Kit box and make sure you keep this and not leave it in the airplane because when we had a stop-over in Dubai airport, we were required to put on the gloves and there’s blue latex gloves inside the box. We just followed the directions for the transfers, and we lined up again for the x-ray of our carry-on baggage and no, we didn’t have any swab testings done to us in Dubai airport.

So after 6 more hours of flight and a little shut-eye, we finally arrived in Stockholm, Sweden. Honestly for some reason, we were more nervous in talking to the Philippine Immigration with all of the negative news that we’ve been hearing and reading especially during travels during this pandemic. Anyway, this time I asked if Marc and I can be interviewed at the same time and the Swedish police (this is their Immigration Officer at the airport) and said that’s fine. He asked us why we’re in Sweden and I still gave the same answer and explained our need to process the resident permit card. He asked if we have work and my husband said he was employed by a company here in Sweden. He just looked at our passports and our D-visas, and that’s it, just 2 questions, he just said Good Luck! and then he let us both through. Easy-peasy!

7 months of thorough research of requirements needed for processing. 7 months of stress-inducing hormones being constantly activated in our bodies with all of these uncertainties and questions and what ifs. 7 friggin’ months of trying to constantly play different scenarios and situations in our heads. But again with due diligence, keeping a positive mindset, love and support from our families and most importantly, keeping our faith, Marc and I were able to arrive here in Sweden, safe and sound. If we were able to do it, there’s no doubt in my mind that all of you guys who aim to also migrate here in Sweden or to any other country for that matter, can also definitely do it. I know it’s hard to migrate even in normal times how much more during these times of global pandemic, but one thing we can advise you is that, as long as you did all of your part, if God wills it, nobody can stop you from making this change in your life. And to answer my last question above, yes, we can both say, it’s all truly worth it. 💟

P.S. You can also check the blog I created for a more detailed timeline of all the steps we took regarding our relocation to Sweden. =)

Be grateful and kind,

websynne

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