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I promised my girlfriend to take her to see the Northern Lights. We live in Belgium and because of the visa application, she cannot leave the country for 6 months... We already drove to France, Germany, and The Netherlands and as expected, there was no visa check, so it went without problems.

However I never drove to Denmark or Sweden, so I don't know if things are different there. I know there are some bridge crossings and I worry it has some kind of border control.

Does anyone know anything about this?

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    Is the chance on northern lights (even in the best weather and the best locations they are not guarantied and mostly no more than 50% chance at best) worth risking not only her visa but her whole being able to live in Belgium at all? I say wait till next winter when there are no such limitations. – Willeke Dec 24 '17 at 12:46
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    If you can visit Denmark, could you also visit Greenland (as it belongs to Denmark), where there should also be quite good probabilities to see the Northern Lights? Although it's probably more expensive to go there than to Sweden. – vsz Dec 24 '17 at 15:00
  • @vsz Technically not if you require a visa, as Greenland isn't part of Schengen or the EU. Nevertheless it has an open border with the Schengen Area and check-in staff for Air Greenland is lax due to the lack of border control – Crazydre Dec 24 '17 at 15:09
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    I personally belong to the school of ‘if your visa/status does not allow it, don’t do it’ but suit yourself … – Jan Dec 24 '17 at 15:33
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    I have been checked on intra-Schengen land borders several times. Also, France had a state of emergency with reinstated border checks between Nov 2015 - Nov 2017. I have been checked when arriving to France from another Schengen country by air even within the past month (i.e. after the state of emergency has ended). If you drove to France and were not checked: consider yourself lucky. Frankly, taking this risk for the sake of a bit of pleasure travel is quite stupid. – Szabolcs Dec 24 '17 at 19:17
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I know this isn't exactly what you're asking, but the optimal solution is to receive a temporary Schengen visa from the Belgian authorities that would allow her to travel within the Schengen area without worrying about spot checks. AFAIK all Schengen countries can issue one for the duration of the residency permit processing period, as they don't want people stuck in the country for an indefinite amount of time. For example, Czech authorities call this visa sticker a "Bridging label".

I have asked a separate question here on how to obtain such a visa sticker from the Belgian authorities.

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Sweden suspended Schengen automatic freedom of movement between Denmark and Sweden in January 2016, and then partially lifted that suspension in May 2017.

However, they still require ID and proof of eligibility to enter Sweden, which is established on arrival at the Swedish side of the border (previous restrictions required checks before travellers left Denmark).

These checks were prolonged in November 2017.

I wouldn't risk it.

  • These checks are anything but systematic (except for buses at the Öresund Bridge entering Sweden) - see my answer – Crazydre Dec 24 '17 at 11:34
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Denmark has spot checks at its land border and ports, but these are quite rare (although as mentioned in a comment, they are reportedly becoming more frequent).

As for Sweden, they stop almost all buses at the Öresund bridge, and perform checks on selected cars (though most are waved through).

The best bet would be to either:

  1. take the Helsingör-Helsingborg ferry or a ferry from Travemünde or Sassnitz to Trelleborg. At the ports of Helsingborg and Trelleborg, few cars are stopped.

  2. (safest) Fly on a non-low-cost airline to Sweden (such as Brussels airlines to Bromma), and with only hand luggage. There won't be any border checks, and at the gate the boarding pass is normally enough, or sometimes they may look at the passport ID page to identify you as the ticket holder

  • Even if most cars are waved through, it might well be that cars with non Danish/Swedish plates have a higher chance of being checked. – Henning Makholm Dec 24 '17 at 12:29
  • @HenningMakholm Norwegian and German cars get waved through as well. Don't know about the rest – Crazydre Dec 24 '17 at 12:38
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    Sadly, it might depend on how you and your girlfriend look. If I drive from the UK to France alone or with other stereotypical British people I pass through with very little fuss. When I travel with my wife, we are checked more thoroughly. – badjohn Dec 24 '17 at 12:49
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    @badjohn My experience in 2014-2017 is different. I'm from Sweden and consequently its citizen, but although fair-skinned, I definitely don't look Nordic (being partially of both Hungarian and Armenian descent), and the only time the authenticity of my ID card, and as such my nationality, has ever genuinely been questioned was on a single occasion at Gatwick. That is after over 100 EU/Schengen border crossings. I've also been accused of being an impostor, and refused entry on those grounds, but that was in Turkey – Crazydre Dec 24 '17 at 13:39
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    I have flown Stockholm/Bromma to Brussels and back a couple of times (last time feb-17) and never had to show my passport or id. Bromma is an airport used mostly for domestic traffic so they don't have the setup to check passports. So I would recommend picking it over Arlanda. (Then move on to the aurora with the over night train to Abisko.) – froderik Dec 28 '17 at 20:19
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When I crossed the bridge from Copenhagen (Denmark) to Malmo (Sweden) on my car with Russian number plates in 2015, I was stopped at the Swedish side and we had to show our passports, tell the officer our purpose of the visit, plans for the trip, etc.

So the border checks are definitely real. Probably if your number plates are from one of neighboring countries, you have much less chance to be stopped, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

  • I agree that they shouldn't take the bridge, as that's where checks are most frequent – Crazydre Dec 29 '17 at 10:17

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