Friday, September 19, 2014

Adventures in Residence Permit Denial (or, That Time I Just About Shat Myself in a Government Office)

I applied for my residence permit, or visa, just over two months before moving. I applied as soon as I could (within days of receiving all of the paperwork I needed for the application from my home university) and I applied through the worldwide internet, which expedited the process quite a bit compared to sending in a paper application. (The visa application for Sweden doesn’t require a personal appearance at the embassy like some other countries do so yay for that!)  When I hit the “submit” button to send in the application, I was struck with anxiety about the adequacy of said application as though it was a lightning bolt thrown by Zeus himself.

Pretty much everyone around me assured me repeatedly that it would be fine: “You’re such a good student, you’ve never been in trouble, why would they deny you?” “Well, did you give them everything they asked for? What are you worried about then?” “Goddamn Tahni, it’s gonna be fine. Have a little faith, will you?” and the like.

Two months passed and I didn’t get any word about my application. By then my flight date was creeping ever nearer and I was quietly panicking about my visa on a daily basis. I emailed the embassy to inquire about the decision but I never heard back, so when the flight date arrived and I still had no answer my options were pretty limited: play it safe and skip the flight (having wasted the entirety of my savings on the ticket) and wait to hear back from the embassy, or get on the goddamn plane and sort it out when I arrived.

I opted for the later. After all, I had three months that I was permitted to stay in Sweden without a Visa, so what the hell?

When I arrived in Sweden and explained the situation to the kindly passport-checker-lady, she told me where I needed to go, and within a couple of days I had booked an appointment to go to Migrationsverket and sort all the bullshit out.

Upon arriving at Migrationsverket, I explained my situation to the (once again very kindly) man behind the glass, who looked up my case on his Computer of Infinite Wisdom and then – devastatingly – blinked at the screen.

“You never got a decision letter?” he asked.

“No.” I refused to feel my heart sinking.

“Well, I can print it out for you,” he said. “Just a second.” I watched him bustle around, printing out my decision letter, stapling all the pages together, and slide them through the slat under the glass. “It’s all in Swedish, but you can call the embassy in DC and they’ll explain everything to you…basically your residence permit application was denied.”

If you think this is the point at which I absolutely lose my shit, you would be right.

In my head it sounded an awful lot like this: “Denied? DENIED? What am I supposed to do – I don’t want to go back to shithole Eugene! I have classes I need to finish – I have things like personal growth and spiritual questing I need to do here!  Three months isn’t enough! I DON’T WANT TO GO BACK TO THE UO TO FINISH MY DEGREE!! Oh dear baby Jesus in Heaven – oh holy fucking shit, how did this happen? HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? YOU FUCKED UP THE APPLICATION THAT’S HOW THIS HAPPENED! You should never have listened to all of those coddling people with all of their reassurances! You knew better! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE???

In real life:

“Oh.” I take the paper and look at the Swedish, which has never looked so intimating. “Well. That’s not good.”

Kindly Man Behind the Glass: “Basically it says you didn’t adequately prove your funding.”

(Aside: to be granted a residence permit you need to prove you have enough money to do things like pay rent and buy food and generally NOT end up panhandling and living under a bridge somewhere.)

Me: “Oh. I thought I did. But, I mean, they said they take financial aid from the university, and since I applied by financial aid has been revised to take study abroad into consideration, so I actually have more money than I did when I applied.”

Kindly Man Behind the Glass: “The good news is you can appeal the decision.”

Me: “I can? How do I do that?”

Kindly Man Behind the Glass: “You’re going to have to call the embassy in DC, they can explain it much better than I can.”

Me: “Oh. Okay.”

Kindly Man Behind the Glass: “Appeals usually go pretty well. It sounds like you should be just fine. Just call the embassy and they’ll tell you what to do.”

Me: “Okay. Well…uh, thank you?”

Kindly Man Behind the Glass: “Good luck. Have a good day.”

I’m not gonna lie. I took my decision letter and went outside and paced and pulled on my hair for about five minutes, trying to sort out what to do next. Calling the embassy in DC, assuming they behaved like most US-based government agencies and put you on hold for half an hour to forty five minutes, was going to cost me something like $200 – which was, quite plainly, counter-productive to my ultimate goal of having all of the funds and not panhandling or living under a bridge. Getting in contact with people back home was, at that moment, complicated for various reasons, which mostly boiled down to my being out of communication with the most important people, especially the ones who could be of aid in that particular situation.

The best I could do was send my mom a message on facebook. So, after sending my mom a message on facebook with my almost-fancy Swedish phone, I got on my bike and cycled away from Migrationsverket. For a while I just kind of took turns as I pleased, with little care for navigation or thought for where the roads were taking me. Oh, and I cried while I did this.

Eventually I realized I was lost and stopped being sad/anxious/stressed/encapsulated in a cocoon of doom and horror and started being angry instead. I stopped, got out my map, figured out where I was, pointed myself in the right direction, and by the time I had arrived at the campus I had moved solidly into the emotion-less void that signals it is high time to get down to business and kick some serious ass.

Next time: Adventures in Residence Permit Denial (In Which I Get Down to Business and Kick Some Somewhat Serious Ass)

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