It’s taking immigration officials in Norway longer than ever to process applications for residence and work permits, also in cases involving the foreign spouses of Norwegian citizens. One case has taken 10 months already, reports newspaper Dagsavisen, and more than 13,000 others are currently stuck in the same situation.
Trond Botnen, an adviser to the Norwegian foreign aid organization FORUT in Sierra Leone, married his Bolivian wife last year. She’s a nurse, and Botnen told Dagsavisen that after they married, they lived together in Sierra Leone from December until August while waiting for Norway’s immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) to process her application for residence in Norway.
Forced to only meet abroad
“Unfortunately we had to leave the country in August because of the ebola epidemic,” Botnen said, but then they had to split up. He came home to Norway and his wife had to go back to Bolivia because she and her daughter reportedly weren’t allowed in Norway or in the so-called Schengen area until their “family reunion” application is approved. They met in Ireland for a holiday.
The couple was told the waiting time was about seven months when they first applied for her settlement permit in February. Now the waiting time is around 10 months, an increase of around 50 percent since last year.
In special cases, where applicants also have to provide DNA test results, the process can take 15 months, reported Dagsavisen. That also applies to applicants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and all countries in Africa except South Africa. Applicants from Somalia must wait at least 18 months.
‘Demanding’ quantity of applications
Rolf Henry Anthonisen, a regional leader at UDI, blamed the long wait on the sheer quantity of applications coming in. He also pointed to a reorganization within UDI that aimed to improve guidance for applicants. “It’s been demanding,” he told Dagsavisen. “Most all cases are handled within nine months, but unfortunately not all.”
Applicants are warned on UDI’s website not to contact them to check on the status of their applications, and UDI promises to send a text message to the applicant’s mobile phone if the expected waiting time is exceeded. In the Botnens’ case, though, no text message arrived so Trond Botnen recently both called and sent an email. Then he was told his wife’s application had neither been processed or read. The delay was blamed on UDI’s reorganization and “the pressure on resources within UDI.”
A total of 22,190 applications were sent to UDI last year, and another 19,087 as of December 1 this year. Of those, decisions were made on 13,519 cases, with around 30 percent rejected and 70 percent approved.