I’m writing my first-ever blog post from prison. The United States is my cell. I couldn’t even cross the border into Canada or Mexico if I wanted, because my passport is sitting on the desk of a Swedish immigration officer 5,300 miles (or should I say, about 8,500 kilometers) away in Stockholm.
After weeks of thoughtful analysis and careful contemplation earlier this year, Amanda and I came to the not-so-easy conclusion that we would spend at least the next three-plus years together in Sweden while she completes her education. It makes the most sense based on factors I’m sure I’ll explain further in future blogs.
I would need a residence permit to cohabit with a significant other. The permit provides virtually all the rights of a Swedish citizen but must be renewed periodically.
Government websites warn that the process of obtaining the permit typically takes six to eight months, start to finish. I should have assumed they don’t just throw that number out for fun.
I spent more than 100 hours in late March and the first week of April filling out form after form and preparing a packet of documentation that would blow any immigration official’s mind: a detailed history of our friendship before we started dating, photographs from our frequent vacations together, letters, Skype logs, phone bills, photocopies of plane tickets, passport stamps and other travel papers pertaining to our relationship.
If the immigration board is primarily trying to halt paid, contractual or other arranged relationships between people who haven’t met each other or lack a genuine, established situation, my submission to the Consulate General in San Francisco on April 12 clearly squelched any routine speculation. We were called back to the Bay Area on May 13 for what turned out to be painless interviews that were nothing like the comedic scenes with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in “The Proposal.” They didn’t ask her what toothpaste I use or how I like my eggs. None of my questions involved her favorite Starbucks drink or designer brand.
San Francisco sent its recommendation along with my passport and all the other documentation to the consulate in Washington, D.C. for further review. At some point, everything eventually made its way across the pond to the immigration board in Stockholm.
There was a lengthy questionnaire dated July 1 waiting for Amanda at her dad’s house when she returned to Sweden on July 10. She mailed it back to Stockholm the next day and based on what I’ve read on forums on thelocal.se, the website for Swedish news in English, we may be rapidly approaching approval. Many who have been in our boat have written of receiving their residence permit within two weeks of mailing back that questionnaire.
This process is “only” in its fourth month, and things do seem to be moving swiftly ahead of the six to eight month estimate. However, with very little help from our case officer over the phone, we really don’t know when to expect communication next. In reality, it honestly could be a few more months
Let me tell you, it’s one of the worst feelings I’ve ever known. I’m in a virtual holding pattern. I quit my wonderful job in Auburn at the end of June (perhaps far too early) and I feel trapped in the country. Granted, I still have plenty to take care of in coming weeks, including a yard sale to get rid of all the junk I’ve accumulated during five years in Sacramento, moving out of my downtown apartment and selling my car. It’s beyond frustrating, though, that I can’t even buy my flight until receiving the ultimate confirmation from the immigration board.
For now, I’ll stay restless at night and we’ll continue to wait. You gotta love bureaucracy.