Boarding the commuter bus...
A few days ago, I had a whispered conversation with my future Swedish boss on my cell phone. The reason I had to whisper was because I was on the commuter bus, on my way to work in San Francisco.
I was hunched over, trying to shield the sound of my voice while we discussed an additional document the union needs in order to approve my work visa. (See my recent post.)
It got me thinking about the etiquette of riding the commuter bus here in the Bay Area. I will be using public transportation to commute from Uppsala to Stockholm in the near future and I wonder if there are also some unwritten rules there.
The San Francisco commuter bus is a whole different animal from a regular city bus. Commuter buses here are typically “coaches” rather than buses which means they’re larger, with upholstered seats, and big windows.
I currently work for a massive law firm in San Francisco’s Financial District. I have been a contract worker here for about eight months. Before that, I worked for another law firm for four months. One of the reasons I am moving to Sweden is that I have not been able to find a permanent job here for more than one year.
Waiting for the bus...
My commute takes around one and a half hours each morning and evening. Three hours is a large chunk of the day so it’s good to know the rules you’re supposed to follow during that time. There’s no manual that comes with being a commuter bus rider, one must simply watch and learn. Here’s what I have observed:
- The bus should be boarded in order of arrival at the bus stop. Usually there’s a queue.
- It’s tricky to figure out where the front and back of the queue is—the line seems to go in different directions depending on which stop you’re waiting at.
- Don’t use your cell phone unless it’s an emergency. This being 2011, of course people do talk on their phones, but usually they get a lot of nasty looks and they soon hang up. (It’s the last bastion of etiquette—a kind of rolling vehicle of good manners.)
- Don’t chat up the person next to you. Most people do work on their laptops or they nap. (I study Swedish.)
- Be extra kind to the bus driver. Greet him/her when you board and then thank him/her when you exit the bus.
- At least 90% of the time, women sit with women. Men sit with men. Welcome back to 3rd grade.
- Having a Translink card (a prepaid card that adds value to itself at designated intervals) speeds the payment process up. The bad news: So long anonymity! It is easy to track exactly where a person goes every day because of the card.
What is your commute like? Are you in Sweden or another country?
Don't look for me at my desk...I'm running for the bus!
This is how it feels, trying to get the work visa. I keep twirling dials and pressing buttons
…someday soon it will appear! Photo by: BiblioArchives (CC BY NC SA)
It’s been nearly 12 weeks since I applied for my work visa. My boss was told that my application is at the top of the list and that we are just waiting for union approval. (In order to grant a Swedish work permit to someone from outside the EU, the relevant trade union must be given the opportunity to express an opinion on the terms of employment.)
Twelve weeks is a long time for a company with an open position to wait to fill it. I have worried for months that the company that offered me a position would change their mind because of the fact that the visa is taking longer than their HR person thought it would (and because of the plummeting world economy). But so far they have stuck with me and we are in the final stretch.
The Stockholm software company I will work for is a small company. But big companies recently got some good news when it comes to hiring foreigners according to a recent article in The Local. The article said that the Swedish Migration Board is starting a new program that will cut processing times for work visas by permitting major companies to handle the process on their own.
Companies like IKEA and Ericsson won’t have to go through the Migration Board but will be able to process both applicants and the union approvals on their own. “[Big] companies don’t have time to wait,” Jonas Lindgren at the Migration Board told The Local.
The companies that will be allowed to handle the process on their own must regularly process at least 50 new employees per year. “This means that in the beginning, the new system will only affect around 500 of the Board’s annual 30,000 cases.”
But what about the smaller companies and their needs? And what about us employees?
My feedback to the Swedish Migration Board…
- It’s not how long it takes but rather the lack of transparency in the visa application process that is difficult. In other words, it would help a lot if both the company and the future employee were updated on how the visa process is progressing so that the employee, at least, can plan his/her large transition.
- The obtuse “No decision has been made on your case in the last month” message when you input your application number is really off-putting.
- For those of us in the US, why can we only call the Swedish Embassy (located in Washington, D.C.) office during one morning hour, several days a week? For those of us on the West Coast, that hour is between 8AM and 9AM which falls during my commute hour. But the embassy doesn’t know much about the visa status anyway. Instead, they recommend you call the Migration Board in Sweden.
- Calling the Migration Board in Sweden is even more difficult. They are open between 8AM and 4PM. With the 9-hour time difference, that means I can really only call when they first open, which is 11PM at night for me. Plus, my boss has been calling them weekly and rarely getting through so what are my chances of getting any kind of answer or even an estimate of how much longer it will take?
Well, at least these gals have water! (Photo by: Derek Key (CC BY NC SA)
So, here I sit in San Francisco, counting on the idea that I will be granted a work visa to work in Sweden soon. I am hoping it will happen by the first of November.
I received a job offer from an industrial software company in Stockholm in August. I will work as a Marketing Writer and Technical Writer for the company whose business language is American English. They need help re-writing their website content and other collateral, as well as interviewing clients for white papers, writing technical manuals, and other tasks.
It’s been nine weeks since the HR department helped me apply to the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) for my visas. At this point, I know nothing about how it’s progressing. I was assigned a number and I daily enter it into the Board’s website where you can check the progress of your application but all it ever shows is this enigmatic message: Read more » >>