Long-distance relationships: What are the rules for travel to and from Sweden?

Long-distance relationships: What are the rules for travel to and from Sweden?
The pandemic has kept some couples apart for more than four months. Photo: Anna Hållams/imagebank.sweden.se
Navigating a relationship across borders isn't easy, certainly not with the travel restrictions and uncertainty brought by the coronavirus pandemic. If you're separated from your partner, here's what you need to know.

First of all, it's crucial that you and your partner are aware of the health and safety regulations in each other's countries. If they travel to Sweden, they are expected to follow the restrictions in place, such as staying at home if experiencing symptoms, limiting social contacts, avoiding unnecessary use of public transport, and keeping distance from others in public.

If you travel abroad, make sure you're up to date on the requirements in the country and region you're going to, including around wearing a face mask, which is not advised in Sweden but is either recommended or mandatory in certain situations in many countries worldwide. 

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If your partner is in another Nordic country

Denmark is currently only open to leisure travel from Swedish regions with a low coronavirus infection rate; as of July 18th, that will mean that people from Halland, Värmland, Kalmar, Västerbotten, Blekinge,  Kronoberg or Skåne regions are allowed in to the country.

For all Swedish regions, whether or not they are 'open', travel to Denmark is allowed if the purpose is to meet a partner. Serious relationships of at least three months in length fall into that category, and you have to have spent time together in person previously and not just via messages or phone conversations. If you fulfill those criteria, the partner resident in Denmark must fill out this form before the trip.

For a partner in Denmark to travel to Sweden, you should refer to Danish travel advice, which is based on the same criteria as above, meaning only seven Swedish regions are considered 'safe'. But Danish authorities do not advise against travel to Sweden if you'll be staying in your own private accommodation, and there are no restrictions on the Swedish side. Here's the latest information from Danish authorities.


Photo: Lina Roos/imagebank.sweden.se

Norway was not open to leisure travel from Sweden other than the regions of Skåne, Kronoberg and Blekinge as of July 13th. But from mid-July, travel to visit a partner for up to 90 days is allowed even from otherwise banned regions. The requirements are that you've been in the relationship for at least nine months, have met in person at least once before, and agree to self-isolate on arrival. The form you need to fill out (in Norwegian) is here.

The Norwegian government advises against non-essential travel to Sweden with the exception of the same three regions, but individuals are able to leave the country. After travelling to other parts of Sweden, they would have to quarantine for ten days on their return. 

Finland is not open to leisure travel from Sweden, but as of mid-June, being in a serious relationship has been an exemption to the ban. You don't need to live together or be married or prove the relationship in any other way, but will likely be asked to give your partner's name and address at the border. But quarantine recommendations still apply, so anyone travelling to Finland from Sweden is asked to self-isolate for two weeks on arrival.

The Finnish government advises against non-necessary travel to Sweden, but individuals do have the right to leave the country. After travelling to Sweden, they are recommended to self-isolate for 14 days on their return.

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If your partner is in the EU/EEA

Sweden has never introduced a ban on leaving the country, but if you're travelling to visit a partner abroad, you'll need to be aware of the varying and sometimes fast-changing rules for entry, including requirements to bring proof of a negative test or a quarantine requirement. 

But many countries have exemptions to travel bans for people travelling to visit a partner, so check with the embassy or foreign ministry. 

Sweden currently advises against non-essential travel to many countries, which isn't a legal ban, but has other implications, for example your travel insurance may not be valid if you travel against official guidance.

As of July 15th, Sweden has lifted the advice against non-essential travel to: Andorra, Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, and The Vatican.

Sweden's foreign ministry will review and potentially update its advice every two weeks this summer: July 29th and August 12th. 

This means travel insurance should be valid for trips to these countries, although it's important to look into the terms of your policy (some have added new conditions for coronavirus-related problems). And because Sweden is basing its guidance on whether or not countries have restrictions for travellers from Sweden, these should be places you can travel to without running into issues such as having to quarantine on arrival.

Photo: Ulf Lundin/imagebank.sweden.se

If your partner is in a non-EU country

This is the category with the strictest rules, but that doesn't mean a reunion is necessarily off the cards.

There's currently a ban on entering the EU via Sweden for travellers from many non-EU countries, which is in place until August but could be extended or removed early.

From July 19th, people from the following countries may travel freely to Sweden for any reason: Algeria, Australia, Georgia, Japan, Canada, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay. The usual residence or travel permit rules still apply.

If your partner needs to travel from a country not on that list, for example India or the USA, there are some exceptions to the entry ban that mean they may still be able to make the journey.

People with family ties to a Swedish or EU/EEA citizen may still travel to Sweden, including spouses and cohabiting partners. There is no requirement for the partners to have lived together previously, or for the non-Swedish partner to have lived in Sweden before.

It's the traveller's responsibility to prove your relationship, and that it's based on in-person meetings, for example using documents like birth certificates for children or joint bank accounts, photos, tickets from previous visits, or other similar proof – preferably in a Scandinavian language or in English. 

Exceptions can also be made for people travelling for an “urgent family reason”, but the decision will be made on a case-by-case basis by border police. Swedish police list as examples of applicable urgent reasons childbirth, funerals and palliative care.

And parent-child relationships also count as family ties, so if you and your partner have a child together, your partner can travel to Sweden to spend time with the child even if they are not travelling with the aim of moving to Sweden permanently.

But otherwise, at the time of writing it's not possible to get an exemption from the entry ban to visit a partner in Sweden if you don't intend to move in together or get married (and you'd need to be able to prove this). So long-distance couples with no fixed future plans of reunion will have to wait a bit longer before visits can go ahead.


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