Well over four years now, I still remember the first time meeting Lina. I was a 19 year old American sailor, fresh off the ship and ready for an adventure. I was touring on a bus in New Zealand when the guide announced we would be picking up two Swedish girls at the next hostel. My first memory of her was embarrassingly walking down the aisle after being introduced to the bus by our driver. She was strikingly beautiful and ever since that moment I've been hooked on her.
Over the last four years, I've slowly been working my way over into Sweden. After meeting Lina in New Zealand, I spent some time in school and then worked another tour. I decided one night floating in the Pacific that after that tour I would be going to Sweden to meet Lina again. I flew over in the spring of 2012 to spend a few weeks seeing Lina again and meeting her family. I had the opportunity to walk in and see Swedish life and it has been the single best opportunity of my life. My first impression was how impressive it was that so many Swedes could speak perfect English. I loved their curiosity about the similarities and differences between our cultures and who could forget their first tangle with surströmming. It was such an incredible time, I felt very welcome and comfortable here. That experience and my love for Lina set the idea in stone, I was going to move to Sweden and live with Lina.
Sweden has been an incredibly rewarding challenge. I received my two year temporary residency in the spring of 2013. I quickly enrolled in Svenska för Invandrare and began learning Swedish. Right about that time Lina decided to pursue her dreams of becoming a midwife, she was already a nurse but wanted to fulfill her life long goal. Being a sailor I had the opportunity to go back to the United States and work on cargo ships for a few months at a time. The competitive pay helped to finance ourselves while she was going to University. We contacted Migrationsverket to see how long I could spend out of the country before I left so I wouldn't jeopardize the opportunity of losing my permanent residency in two years.
Sailing on ships were challenging times, anyone who has been in a long distance relationship knows the toll spending months apart can take. To get through those times, we worked hard together and relied on each other for support. I cant tell you how many dropped calls I've had sailing around the Great lakes. When we did have a good connection we got through those times by dreaming about our future together. While we were apart from each other we realized two things. One was that we knew our futures were going to be together, and two was that I couldn't keep sailing in the future. Not only was the time apart was an obstacle, but the physically demanding lifestyle was taking it's toll on my back. Lina encouraged me to start looking at University in Sweden.
I always wanted to go to college. The great recession was in full swing when graduating from high school in 2009 and options were slim. The American University system was incredibly expensive and at that time I wasn't sure what I wanted for my future. I made the difficult decision to go another route and went to a trade school and became an engineering US Merchant Mariner. Through hard work and dedication I was able to quickly rank up to a high paying career. At young age I was able to make more money in a month than I ever dreamed of. They were great times but I always knew I wanted more out of my life. With Lina's encouragement I realized business school was where I wanted to be.
We planned it out together, when she finished school to be a midwife I would give up the life at sea and pick up the pencil. This way we could work our future here in Sweden without experiencing financial stress. We slowly made solid achievable goals and we have been accomplishing them one by one. With each passing goal it became clear I would marry Lina. I proposed a few days before Christmas in 2013. She said yes.
In the spring of 2014 Lina finished school and I was accepted to the Jönköping International Business School. I spent the summer of 2014 working on my last ship. I had a wedding to pay for and college immediately starting after so I worked ever hour of overtime I could. I was proud, I was marrying the girl of my dreams and going to college. Together we were financially independent and it felt amazing. I started believing for the first time in my life that any goal that Lina and I set we could accomplish. It wasn't easy to pull off but our wedding was beautiful. 15 American friends and family members made the journey to Stockholm and then up to Örnsköldsvik for the marriage. Lina's family and really all of the Swed's have been incredibly kind showing my family around and making them feel welcome. I was really excited that I could show my family my new life and share my experience.
After the wedding, Lina has worked at the Jönköping hospital delivering babies and I have been studying economics. The school has sparked my desire to follow my families footsteps of entrepreneurship. Any of my friends and especially my wife could tell you that I am always cooking up some plan and I'm confident one day we will start a business here. It recently hit me that I was living my American Dream right here in Sweden. Never had I ever thought I would fall in love with a beautiful girl and move to Sweden but now that I am here I wouldn't change it for the world.
This January I closed in on living officially in Sweden for two years so I began applying for my permanent residency. The time has flown by and it's been remarkable to think of all the opportunities I've had in Sweden. With all of the experiences of success and opportunity I had here I was really surprised and shocked when I received my response. Migrationsverket had denied my permanent residency. When I received the letter with the response it was very confusing to understand and it became clear that Migrationsverket left out a page.
After traveling to an office and requesting another letter of my decision, the forgotten page was the page with the explanation of the rules I violated. The missing page revealed the reason for my denial was because I had spent too much time outside of Sweden. This came as a shock because in 2013 we talked with Migrationsverket and specifically asked how much time I could be outside of Sweden. We were told that four months a year was the amount of time for an individual with my type of residency. I left to sail for two ships over the last two years, 2013 was three month tour and 2014 was four month tour. I decided I should gather my evidence and make an appeal.
Lina had saved the email from Migrationsverket stating the guidelines in case we ever needed them. When Lina married me she changed her last name as well as her email address. Unfortunately the email was lost in the exchange. Undeterred we sent a letter to Migrationsverket and asked them again how long someone in my circumstances could be out of the country and still eligible for permanent residency after two years.
The response we got surprised the both of us, it stated I could be out of the country for up to six months and usually be able to get permanent. That left me with a sour taste in my mouth. They explained that they also look at what you have been up to over the last two years. I couldn't think of a better reason to leave Sweden then to help financially support your partner while she was in school. Over the last two years I married a Swedish girl, finished SFI and now am going to College. I rationalized that if I wrote an appeal and explained my case that I followed what I was told by Migrationsverket on how long I could be out of the country and what I have been up to over the last years that I could get my decision overturned.
After about a month after filing my appeal and no response I found out by calling in that my appeal had been denied without explanation and my case had been forwarded to the migrations court in Gothenburg. My case was quickly thrown out there because there wasn't a specific rule allowing my type of case to be appealed. I am now here writing to you as I have no further options. Becoming a permanent resident symbolized to me earning my right to call Sweden home. Lina and I have worked very hard to make this happen and denying my permanent residency with out proper justification has been a huge setback. Over the last few years Sweden has become my home. I love my life here, I have my beautiful wife and she given confidence to accomplish my goals.
We will continue to keep working hard but I hope by sharing my story with you that you can help us. I know the people at Migrationsverket work very hard to do the best that they can. However, I feel that my case fallen through the cracks. I've run out of options to pursue so I am sharing my story to raise awareness in the hopes that people working hard to become Swedes don't get sidelined in the future. I want to thank all of you for taking the time to read my story and more importantly for allowing my the opportunity of coming to live my life in Sweden.