If you or someone you love has been in a serious relationship with someone from another country, you are well aware of the dreaded V word: v-, v-, v-, VISA!!!!
I don’t know what kinds of conversations people from the same country have about the future, but the conversations between my boyfriend and I were dominated by questions like, When will we see each other next? When will we be able to live in the same place again? And where in the world will that be?
Enter the answer to all of your location-based problems: the sambo visa. Bless you, Sweden, for this contribution to international migration policy. May all countries take this as an example. (cough *USA!* cough)
So here’s the skinny on the sambo visa: if you’ve been in a committed relationship with a Swedish citizen, preferably one where you’ve lived together before, then you can get a visa to live with that person in Sweden, plus the right to work. Oh yeah, and free Swedish lessons. And health care. (Pretty much the only thing you can’t get, actually, is the government stipend for full time students. You have to become a permanent resident for that.)
So let me tell you a little about myself: I was raised Catholic, in the suburbs, in the Midwest of the United States. In my high school health class, you could get extra credit if you wrote “Abstinence is the only 100% effective birth control method” at the top of your test next to your name and the date. Sleepovers were forbidden, and my 12:30 curfew remained in effect all the way through college. (Now that I’m thinking about it, I realized that it might still be in effect.)
Suffice to say, I find it totally mind blowing that there is a special visa for two young things to move to Sweden… and live in sin… with the full approval of the law. My “sambo” visa is essentially the equivalent of a marriage visa without pushing me to actually tie the knot.
I am so grateful that the country of Sweden is as welcoming towards unmarried couples as it is. In Sweden, however, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Living together with your boyfriend/girlfriend as a “sambo” is extremely common, especially when things get a little more serious. In fact, it’s considered more socially unacceptable to marry someone that you haven’t lived with than the other way around—you’re seen as making a major mistake if you commit to someone forever if you haven’t given cohabitation at least a trial run.
Stockholm University’s Center for Gender Studies conducted a survey on attitudes of 20-30 year olds and found that an overwhelming majority approved of sambo relationships even when the couple has children. This study* found that two-thirds of couples get married at some point after having their first child and that the most common reasons for getting married are for romance’s sake and as a way of demonstrating the seriousness of the relationship. The idea of getting married “for the sake of the children” or for economic reasons was explicitly seen as a bad idea… which is very different from the attitudes I’ve seen in the United States.
Sweden’s generous immigration policy is good strategy, too. Even though I certainly reaped more of the social welfare benefits than I paid for in taxes for the first year, a year later and I can speak Swedish, I’m working a couple of steady jobs, and I’m settling in more and more. Even though I miss home, there are a lot of advantages to living in Sweden, and if I stay, Sweden’s original investment in my integration is going to more than pay off in the long run. They didn’t have to spend the money to educate me, but I’ll be a taxpayer. Even in the short term, they’ve gotten a blogger to spread the gospel of Sweden throughout the world…
Tomorrow, I’ll share my experiences applying for (and getting!!) my sambo visa. In the meantime, let me know what you think of the sambo visa in the comments—or take this opportunity to get your questions out there! I’m no expert, but I’ve been through it once before, and I’m happy to help!
Follow the link to read The Low Down on the Love Visa, Part 2 .