It's Wednesday, the clock is about to strike the beginning of a new hour (15.00). My friend who returned from an exhausting event earlier that day is napping on my couch. I am taking the building elevator to the basement where the shared laundry room (a rather common thing in Swedish residential buildings) is located, so I can use the two hours I booked to do some late laundry.
I looked at my phone and noticed an email notification from Migrationsverket; my heart almost stopped beating on the spot. The subject of the email informs me there has been an update to my case, but the body offers little details and zero information about the update itself. I quickly logged into my account and checked what changed, and to my surprise, my case had been decided, and it was granted. I am now officially a citizen of the Kingdom of Sweden. Hurray!
I haphazardly loaded the washing machines, put in the detergent and softener, and started the programs before proceeding to dance like an idiot inside the cold, damp room deep below the building. The dancing didn't last long as the emotions and realization of what just happened hit me and there I was, sitting on a table next to a loud washing machine, sobbing as if I lost a dear friend. This has been a long journey, and it's finally (sort of) over. Here is a short rundown of how it all went and some advice that might help someone is embarking on the same daunting journey.
Swedish citizenship constitutes a legal contract between the State and the citizen. Citizenship strengthens your affinity with Sweden and unites the Swedish people. Being a formal member of society is a foundation of Swedish democracy. (Migrationsverket)
I moved to Sweden back in 2016 to study a master's degree in Information Security at the second north most university in the world (Luleå University of Technology). It was the first time I lived outside my home country, let alone a country so far north with a drastically different culture and climate. Many friends and my family were convinced I would stay there for the master duration and then run out of there as soon as I can, boy were they disappointed.
I genuinely enjoy the harsh Luleå winters, the moderately warm summers, and by the time I was gearing towards the end of my degree, I had already half-made my mind to stay. Having lived here for more than seven years, I am still glad I made the move. The personal growth, experiences, challenges, and delight I have experienced living here gave life an entirely new perspective; and so it wasn't a hard decision when I applied for citizenship, after all, I intend to live here for a long time.
Like most countries around the world, there are multiple paths to becoming a Swedish citizen. The circumstances of how you moved to Sweden and your legal status while living here determines many things, including how long you need to live in Sweden before you can apply etc. I won't go into many of these paths (you can read more about them here), but will detail the ones I had to fulfil before submitting my application.
I had to be 18 years or older; be able to show my home country passport to prove my identity: have lived in Sweden for five continuous years, four of which must be under a valid work permit, and finally, I had to have no criminal record or payment marks.
Having went through the process of obtaining permanent residency not a year before, I expected way more requirements and many more documents to find and upload. I must say, it was a pleasant surprise to see how a more simple and streamlined process. The only aspect I found stressful was collecting all of my travel dates to prove that I haven't lived outside Sweden for longer than allowed for any year.
If you read any of my other posts about moving to Sweden or gaining permit residence, you will know that all of these applications entail lots of waiting, some longer than others. I have personally always had it good regarding waiting times, with the longest being a couple of months, but the citizenship case took the throne.
I applied around the end of February and got a decision around nine months later. Despite some unpleasant periods of stress and anxiety while I waited, I still count myself lucky. I heard of some people who waited years for the decisions, something that I simply can't imagine that I would endure and remain fully sane.
Now, I am not blaming Migrationsverket for the waiting; I am well aware of how understaffed they are compared to the volume of applications they receive every month. As I am writing this post, there are 96995 people citizenship applications in progress, with a whopping 79192 applications decided in the past 12 months.
What gets me isn't the few months of waiting I had to endure, but rather the extreme variances in decision times. My friend applied a few months after me and got his positive decisions in less than a week. While I am sure there is a logical reason for this variance, it doesn't really help with the bitter feeling you are left with when you learn about it, especially if you had everything in order.
I had no issue waiting and was truly hoping the application will be decided within a few months and that would be that. But as the months went by, I realized things were dragging on, so I made use of a very useful and important legal process one can invoke in such situations, the request to conclude.
Simply put, after waiting a certain period for an application to be decided (six months for citizenship applications), I was entitled to submit a request to Migrationsverket asking them to conclude the case. I could have done this myself but opted for hiring an excellent lawyer recommended by my friend to file the request on my behalf. I must say, probably the best $700 I ever spent in my life.
So here we are. The request has been submitted, and another game of waiting just began. Weeks after, I had no updates, so I reached out to the lawyer, who informed me the request was promptly declined and that I should have got a letter in the mail confirming that. I got no such letter, and PostNord had zero luck trying to figure where it went.
This post delivery issues went on, I missed the letter asking me to submit my passport and almost missed the deadline for sending it. Once again, PostNord had no clue what was happening to my mail.
Shortly after, my lawyer filed a request with the Migration court, which decided everything was in order and asked Migrationsverket to decide on the application as soon as possible. It took less than a month after that court decision before I got my positive application decision.
A few days after the positive decision, I got a letter from Migrationsverket confirming my status as a citizen, thank God PostNord didn't misplace this one.
I was visiting my family in Saudi Arabia and had a long stopover in Doha, Qatar. While there, I stepped out to explore the city. The ease with which I received a Visa On Arrival in Doha – a process completed in mere seconds and at no cost – sparked a profound realization. As a Swedish citizen, I now possess a privilege that dramatically simplifies travel, a stark contrast to the lengthy preparations required just a year ago. It's the same me, yet the experience is worlds apart.
This privilege, while immensely liberating, also highlights the disparities in global travel and immigration systems. It's a bittersweet reflection, leaving a lingering thought that such ease of movement should be a universal right, not a privilege limited to a few.
Now, as a Swedish citizen, I feel a deep sense of gratitude and joy. The journey here has been long and tiring. I cherish my new home in Sweden and embrace the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship. It's a happy ending to a significant chapter of my life. So, with a heart full of hope and a mind aware of the broader context of my privileges, I celebrate this new beginning. Hurray!