As the honorary consul of Sweden, Atlanta attorney Tom Rosseland gets a lot of foot traffic in his office at One Securities Centre in Buckhead. The Swedish government requires its citizens living in the United States to renew their passports every five years by applying for them at the Swedish Embassy in Washington or by returning to Sweden and applying there.
Mr. Rosseland becomes involved in the process, however, because, once approved, the passports are sent to the consular offices in the U.S. Although Mr. Rosseland’s post is limited to Georgia, Atlanta’s central location in the Southeast results in passports for many residents in Alabama, Tennessee, South and North Carolina and Kentucky being sent to his law office at Bodker, Ramsey, Andrews, Winograd & Wildstein, P.C., where he is a partner.
Aside from being a conduit for the approved passports, Mr. Rosseland is also responsible for facilitating dual-citizenship applications and for Swedish social security numbers for children born in the U.S. to a Swedish parent, as well as for annually verifying Swedish pensioners living in the U.S. in order to keep receiving benefits.
Though the Swedish government plans to centralize the function through its embassy in Washington, his office is currently tasked with interviewing individuals seeking to reside in Sweden or those seeking Swedish work permits. “These can take over an hour,” he told Global Atlanta, and may provide unexpected challenges such as a Somalian woman who spoke neither English nor Swedish who sought to move to Sweden.
Mr. Rosseland acknowledges the invaluable assistance and efforts of his consular officer Marie Bloom for helping to run the administrative aspects of the Swedish consulate in such an efficient and professional manner. “She is wonderful, and my work would be overwhelming without such a capable person,” says Mr. Rosseland.
Just this last week, balloting for expat Swedes was held in his office for the upcoming Swedish parliamentary elections being held on Sept. 9, resulting in a very large number of visitors to his office.
Even though these responsibilities may cut into his hourly billings, he doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, Mr. Rosseland seems to thrive in his role. He has worked extensively with the Swedish community for many years. Starting in 2007, he served for several years as chairman of the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia and presently continues to actively serve on its board. He is also pro bono legal counsel for the Scandinavian American Foundation of Georgia and the Atlanta Scandinavian Festival.
Through these associations he became well acquainted with all the Scandinavians in the area including the Danes, Finns, Icelanders and Norwegians as well as the Swedes.
In the wake of Hurricane Irma, one of three major hurricanes that pummeled the Southeast in 2017, Mr. Rosseland received a call from an official at the Swedish Embassy inquiring whether any Swedes were in harm’s way. During that conversation, he was told that John McDonald, Norway’s honorary consul based in Atlanta, was retiring and that a replacement needed to be appointed.
Would he be interested in being one of the candidates for the position?
With a Swedish mother and a Norwegian father, Mr. Rosseland claims the heritage of both countries. Norwegian as well as Swedish culture and traditions played an equal role for Mr. Rosseland during his upbringing. A first generation American, his mother was orphaned at a young age in Sweden, and his father spent the first 10 years of his life isolated in rural Norway on a farm during the Great Depression before coming to the U.S. to build new lives.
Assimilation and Americanization of immigrants was the norm in post-war America, and though his parents bore Scandinavian names, he was named Thomas (no middle initial) and his brother Steven (no middle initial). The language used at home in New York was primarily English, though, he added, when his parents didn’t want him or his brother to understand what they were saying, they would speak to each other in either Swedish or Norwegian.
Although different, the two languages are similar enough that the Norwegians and the Swedes can understand each other pretty well when they converse in their own languages. Their histories have been intermingled for centuries and they abided in an official union of sorts from 1814 until 1905 when they separated peacefully.
While an undergraduate at Colgate University, Mr. Rosseland took it upon himself to learn Swedish or Norwegian, neither of which was officially offered at the time. Despite the absence of a course, he persuaded the administrators to let him create one, once he found a proficient Norwegian speaker (no one was available to teach Swedish), a fellow student to learn, and a retiring professor who could grade his progress.
Quite naturally the idea of representing both Sweden and Norway as their honorary consuls appealed to him. While holding such a dual responsibility is certainly a rarity, he is confident that he can fulfill both posts given his involvement in Georgia’s Scandinavian communities for several decades.
Mr. Rosseland’s involvement in international work began at Colgate, where he managed to parlay an internship in the office of South Carolina’s former U.S. Senator, Fritz Hollings, into a spot on the El Salvador desk of the U.S. State Department. Along the way, he managed to receive a security clearance from the Department of Defense to which he was temporarily assigned.
Having held summer jobs on Hilton Head, he attended law school at the University of South Carolina, where he received his juris doctor degree, and has been admitted to the bars of Texas, Georgia, South Carolina and the District of Columbia.
Having studied in both England and Scotland, he also has held positions as an in-house counsel for ExxonMobil Corp. and in the foreign exchange division of DG Bank (now known as DZ Bank). He currently represents clients in all areas of business with a concentrated focus on inbound investments and businesses being established and operated in the U.S. Presently, Mr. Rosseland is also working to reactivate the International Section of the Atlanta Bar Association.
Despite his workload, Mr. Rosseland occasionally gets to enjoy the perks that come from representing foreign governments. Once a decade, the Swedish government invites the honorary consuls to visit Sweden and this May he met Queen Silvia and King Carl XVI Gustaf.
His most recent trip enabled him to visit Gothenburg in southern Sweden where he has cousins and which is the headquarters of the Volvo Group and major Swedish companies such as the ball bearing manufacturer, SKF and camera manufacturer, Hasselblad.
He also crossed the border to Kristiansand, Norway, where, he said, he has more than 100 second cousins. He is very proud of his family’s historical involvement with the underground resistance movement in southern Norway when it was invaded during World War II.
Most amazing to him is that the Norway of his father has been totally transformed into a burgeoning economy that now readily matches Sweden’s affluence and standard of living. Norway has also come unto its own with bold architectural design and its footing in the international community.
In late April, on a visit to the Norwegian Consul General in New York City, he toured the United Nations Security Council chambers, which from its inception has been funded, designed, built and refurbished by Norway. Norway is currently aiming to become an elected member of the Security Council for a rotating two-year term.
While in New York City, he also toured the offices and trading floor of the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, the world’s largest, with over a trillion dollars under management, and with over $350 billion of it invested in North American exchange traded stocks and commercial real estate.
As a dual honorary consul of two countries that enjoy well earned respect in the international community, he is in the enviable position of representing and promoting both.
To reach Mr. Rosseland, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org