Sweden entry ban: What counts as an ‘urgent family reason’?

Sweden entry ban: What counts as an 'urgent family reason'?
Sweden's entry ban makes exceptions for some categories of travellers. Photo: Erik Simander/TT
Entry to Sweden from many non-EU countries, including India, the UK and US for example, is not currently possible unless the traveller is covered by an exemption to the travel ban. One exemption is 'urgent family reasons', but these can be complex to define.

Assuming that the traveller is not covered by any other exemption (such as being an EU/EEA citizen themselves, or having a Swedish residence permit), there are two main routes for people with family in Sweden to get here despite the entry ban.

The first is quite straightforward to define: close family connections. This primarily applies to people with a partner or underage child in Sweden.

According to police, it applies to travellers whose close family member falls into the one of the following categories:

  • Swedish citizens
  • EEA citizens
  • Foreigners with a residence permit in Sweden or in another EEA country
  • Foreigners that have long-term resident status in Sweden or another EU Member State
  • UK citizens who are holding or have applied for residence status
  • Foreigners with a national (class D) visa for Sweden or another EEA state

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The traveller must either be travelling to Sweden to join this family member or be travelling with them.

In this context, “close family connection” means spouses, cohabiting partners, partners moving to Sweden to cohabit with or marry their partner, parents of minor children, and children under the age of 18. Siblings, cousins, grandparents and parents of adult children are only counted in special circumstances where there is a proven financial dependency.

You will need to prove your close family connection, and the police say you can do this “with the decision letter from the Swedish Migration Agency, excerpt from the population register, marriage certificate or license, cohabitation agreement, bank statement from a common bank account, birth certificate etcetera”, either written or translated in English or a Scandinavian language. If this exemption applies to you, it is enough to prove the family connection; you do not need to prove that the reason for travel is urgent.

The other way for people to travel from outside the EU/EEA to join family in Sweden is if they can prove “urgent family reasons” apply.

The police say urgent family reasons apply when there has been a sudden illness or accident which requires the foreign traveller to be in Sweden, for example to be present for a birth, a funeral, or palliative care. Note that post-birth visits are not generally included.

Other celebrations including weddings do not count, but you may be covered by this exemption if you need to be in Sweden for “property division, inheritance negotiations, or being called to court negotiations in a public court or family court”. It’s the responsibility of the traveller to bring proof of the exemption.

Unlike the criteria for “close family connections”, if you are travelling for “urgent family reasons” the criteria for a family relationship is intended to be “inclusive” according to Swedish police. There is no strict definition of the relationship you need to have to the person receiving care, and the policy even say that this can apply to relationships outside the traditional nuclear family, suggesting that siblings for example may be included, or parents of adult children. In other words, it may be possible to travel from a non-exempt country to be present when your adult child gives birth, or to care for a sibling after a sudden illness, but it is unlikely you would be able to make the journey simply for the purpose of visiting either family member.

It’s not possible to get pre-approval from the Swedish police, who are in charge of border control, or any other authority, so there is a certain risk if you travel in the hope of being covered by this exemption.

If you are travelling to Sweden from a non-EU country due to urgent family reasons, you are exempt from the requirement to show a negative Covid-19 test result on entry, but if you are travelling due to a close family connection, you must show this certificate as well as proving your family connection.

Finally, for people who cannot enter Sweden under the rules outlined above, there may still be alternative routes to reuniting.

One of the most obvious is to travel to Sweden via a Nordic country (Denmark, Finland, Iceland or Norway). There are currently no restrictions on entry from the other Nordic countries, and that applies even if you are a non-Nordic or non-EU resident. There is no set amount of time you need to spend in a Nordic country before entering Sweden restriction-free, so if you are able to enter one of these countries under their travel restrictions, you should be able to cross the border to Sweden from there.

At the time of writing, Denmark had an exemption to its non-EU entry ban for fully vaccinated travellers from some countries, while Sweden did not, so it would be possible for a fully vaccinated traveller to travel from a non-exempt country to Denmark, and then travel on to Sweden. An important caveat is that, again, decisions on border control are made by the Swedish police. 

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