How I got my visa in < 1 week (or 4 months depending on how you count ;)

Success! Visa obtained! These words were frantically texted to all of my friends and family when I received confirmation of my visa to move to Sweden. See the thing is I had been trying to get the paperwork to apply for a visa for over 4 months…

It started with a trip to Sweden at the end of May 2012 for my cousin’s wedding. I met with my future boss in person and we discussed work and timelines for my defending my PhD in the US and visa paperwork… So I looked up the form for a “work visa” on the immigration board website and sent it to my future boss/professor…here’s where I am not sure what happened…it was summer in Sweden and people tend to take long vacations so at first I assumed delays were due to the “right” people being out of the office. Then, classes started at Lund University on September first and I thought, YES! they will all be back in their offices and can fill out my forms. Almost a month and many emails later I finally got a copy of my letter proving I had a job from the University. Now it was for a different kind of visa (a “visiting scientist visa”) so maybe that was part of the problem.

By the time I got the paperwork I was desperate for my visa, so I turned in my part of the application for my visa online the night I received the paperwork (Tuesday night Chicago time). The next morning (Wednesday) I called the Swedish Consulate in Chicago (where I live) to ask how to schedule an appointment to get fingerprints and photos taken for my id, because the immigration website said that if you did this while your visa was being processed you could move to Sweden faster after your application was approved…the consulate didn’t know what I was talking about …they don’t do that there… you have to go to DC…wait we will call you back…

After waiting 30min for a return phone call and some frantic searching on the Swedish Embassy in DC and the Immigration Board websites (both of which say you can apply for your visa at any consulate or the embassy in DC and then you need to go back to get your picture and fingerprints…I assumed this meant you could go to the consulate) I decided just to call the Embassy in DC. After waiting on hold to talk to a person in the visa office, I finally got some answers…though not what I was expecting:

-1st he could pronounce my last name with out my “its like the boys’ names FRED and DEAN smashed together” …so nice 😉

-yes, you can apply for a visa at any consulate

-no, you can only do “biometrics” at the embassy in DC ….or as a US citizen you can do it once you get to Sweden (whew)

-also they could see my application in the system and gave me a confirmation number (good sign)

When I asked about expediting my visa they told me the only people who had control over visa approval were at the Immigration Board…in Sweden…Then I looked at the clock and realized @11:36am Chicago time the immigration board had closed 36 min earlier @4pm Sweden time…ok I could call the “next day”

Thursday @1:30am Chicago time (8:30am Sweden time) I called the immigration board…after over an hour on hold I got to a person. After a very sweet comment about my Swedish last name, she proceeded to tell me that yes she could see my application and yes it looked like I had included all the right parts but she couldn’t confirm that. And that she was only allowed to say that a visa could take up to 5 months to be processed but of course if you had an easy application it would be much faster. Hmm what else to ask to get detailed information…no, a visa officer had not been assigned my case yet and she couldn’t tell me how long that would take. I just kept asking if there was anything I could do, and saying that it had taken the University a long time and I was supposed to already be there…are you sure there is nothing I can do…

totally defeated I got off the phone at about 3am and went to sleep.

When I woke up in the morning (Friday) there was an email from the immigration board saying a decision had been made for my case and to contact the embassy in DC…. obviously they took pity on my pathetic self and because I was unfailingly nice but really annoying they looked at my application quickly! Thanks Swedish Immigration Board!

A visa processed in less than a week! Success! Visa Obtained!

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