UPDATED: When will Indians be allowed to travel to Sweden again?

India is still one of the countries affected by an entry ban to the EU via Sweden, but there are a few exceptions.

UPDATED: When will Indians be allowed to travel to Sweden again?
A staff member at Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru, India. Photo: AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi

Sweden never closed its borders to EU travellers at any point throughout the coronavirus crisis, and only closed its borders to non-EU tourists after the European Commission urged member states to do so.

The entry ban to the EU via Sweden has been in place since March 19th, with a number of exceptions.

From July 1st the EU started reopening its external borders to visitors from “safe countries”, and Sweden has generally fallen in line. So what's the situation for people who want to travel to Sweden from India?

European travel ban

As of August 5th, people from the following countries are allowed to travel freely to Sweden for any purpose: Australia, Georgia, Japan, Canada, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. As you can see, that list excludes for example the US, Russia and India.

Sweden has extended the entry ban for other non-EU/EEA visitors, including those travelling from the India, until August 31st – unless you belong to a number of categories exempt from the ban (see below).

It is possible that non-essential travel from India to European countries may be allowed later this summer, as the EU “safe countries” list is to be reviewed on an EU level every two weeks and adjusted depending on the latest coronavirus spread in each country. Each country is allowed to impose its own border restrictions, so the EU recommendations are not binding; however, Sweden generally follows them.

Countries can also be removed from the list, which has happened to Serbia, Montenegro and Algeria.

The EU criteria to decide which third countries to open up to depends on the coronavirus situation in that country, primarily the following criteria, quoted from this page:

  • number of new Covid-19 cases over the last 14 days and per 100,000 inhabitants close to or below the EU average (as it stood on June 15th, 2020)
  • stable or decreasing trend of new cases over this period in comparison to the previous 14 days
  • overall response to Covid-19 taking into account available information, including on aspects such as testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment and reporting, as well as the reliability of the information and, if needed, the total average score for International Health Regulations (IHR). Information provided by EU delegations on these aspects should also be taken into account

A man wearing a face mask takes a selfie at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT

Who can travel from India to Sweden?

These are some of the exceptions to the entry ban, for example:

  • Individuals with a residence permit in Sweden or another EEA state, and their family members
  • Holders of a national visa for Sweden
  • People travelling for urgent family reasons
  • People travelling to Sweden for the purposes of studying
  • People travelling to work in essential functions in Sweden such as health care professionals, the transportation of goods such as food and medicines, and seasonal workers employed in agriculture, forestry and horticulture.

Note that as of July 4th, residence/student permit holders no longer need to already be residing in Sweden in order to enter – having a permit is enough, even if you are moving to Sweden for the first time.

Read a full list of exceptions to the entry ban here. Whether or not other people will be able to travel to Sweden eventually will also depend on India's own travel advice and the availability of international flights.

What happens when I arrive in Sweden?

Sweden does not require travellers from any country to spend time in quarantine, you do not need to show a document stating that you have tested negative for the coronavirus, and there are no rules stating that you need to wear a face mask in public (you may however do so if you want).

However, there are several guidelines to be aware of, such as observing social distancing, staying at home if you have symptoms, and avoiding public transport if you are travelling through Sweden. There is a ban in place on public gatherings of more than 50 people, so many events and venues may allow pre-booking only.

If you find yourself in need of medical help in Sweden, or have other questions about the coronavirus outbreak here, print out or bookmark this article which contains several useful phone numbers.

Keep up to date with the latest coronavirus news here (paywall-free). 

The situation is changing fast so if you are planning to travel we recommend that you keep up-to-date with the latest information from Swedish and Indian authorities. Read more about Sweden's entry ban here. We may not be able to answer all questions, but you are always welcome to email our editorial team.

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EXPLAINED: What’s behind the queues at Stockholm Arlanda airport?

Travellers are reporting queues over an hour long at Stockholm's Arlanda airport. What's going on and how long is it expected to last?

EXPLAINED: What's behind the queues at Stockholm Arlanda airport?

What’s the situation at Stockholm Arlanda airport? 

On Friday morning, there were queues lasting over an hour at Arlanda’s security controls. By 10am, they had been reduced to below half an hour, according to the live update the airport operator, Swedavia, maintains on its website here

Swedavia first began warning of long queue times on Monday, saying the queues were the result of a resurgence in travel combined with staffing shortages at Avarn, the contractor responsible for managing the security checks. 

“The wait times are due to a staff shortage with our security services contractor – which is caused by ongoing recruitment and absences due to illness,” the airport said on its website

What are travellers saying? 

Twitter is predictably awash with angry comments from travellers, including some well-known commentators. 

The terrorism researcher Magnus Ranstorp resorted to capital letters to bemoan the “CATASTROPHE” at the airport. 

The Financial Times’ Nordic Correspondent also compared the situation at Arlanda unfavourably with the smooth controls at Helsinki Airport

“Never seen anything like it and sounds like might be worse today. In Terminal 5 both queues, SAS and Norwegian, were well over 100 metres long,” he told The Local. “It took me 50 minutes to get through security. Don’t think it’s ever taken more than 10 in the Nordics before.” 

What should you do if you are travelling through Stockholm Arlanda at the moment? 

Swedavia recommends that you arrive “well in advance” when taking a flight. You can contact your airline here to find out when their check-ins and baggage drops open.  

Swedavia also recommends that you do everything possible to speed up the check-in process, such as:

  • checking in from home
  • packing hand baggage to make screening faster
  • checking the need for a face covering in advance
  • checking that you have the right travel documents ready 

If you can’t check in from home, Swedavia recommends seeing if you can check in using an automated machine at the airport.

What is the airport doing to to improve the situation? 

On June 15th, the airport is reopening Terminal 4, which might help somewhat, although the airport warns that as staffing is the major problem, having more space will not fully solve the problem over the summer. 

In a press release issued on Friday, Svedavia’s chief operations officer, Peder Grunditz, said opening a new terminal was “an important measure”. 

“We are now going to have the three biggest terminals back in operation for the first time since the pandemic,” he said. 

The company and Avarn are also making “big recruitment efforts” and taking “operational measures” to improve the queue situation, although the “challenging labour market” made that difficult. 

When will waiting times return to normal? 

In his press release, Grunditz conceded that waiting times were not likely to return to normal during the summer, due to the rapid growth in the number of people taking flights. 

“Even though we expect gradual improvements, the queuing situation is going to continue to be challenging during periods over the summer,” he said.