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Why some Norwegian residence applications take so long to process

Some people applying for residence or citizenship in Norway are facing waiting times of up to 18 months, or longer. So, what is the cause of the long case processing times and what is being done to reduce them? 

A Norwegian flag.
Applicants for residence in Norway are facing long waiting times to have their applications processed. Pictured is a Norwegian flag. Photo by Jacob Thorson on Unsplash

Soon-to-be and existing residents in Norway face increasingly long waiting times to have their applications approved by the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI). 

Several international residents have contacted The Local recently about long waiting times to have their residence and citizenship applications processed.

In some cases, applicants are left waiting more than 18 months for their application to be processed, while others have said that the waiting time provided to them by the UDI is increasing almost every month. 

Fatima, a data scientist who has lived in Norway for over five years, said the waiting time to have her permanent residence application processed had increased from 3 months when she applied in October 2021 to 16 months more recently. 

The UDI has said that there were several reasons why waiting times in Norway had increased, such as the pandemic, Covid entry rules implemented throughout 2020 and 2021 and the adoption of dual citizenship. 

“The waiting times for applications for residence permits and citizenship are still affected by the situation in 2020 and 2021 where the work with entry restrictions required a lot of resources, and where both the UDI’s and the police’s work was also affected in different ways by the Corona situation. An important factor was also the opening for dual citizenship from January 2020, which resulted in a large increase in the number of citizenship applications,” Karl Erik Sjøholt, director of residence at the UDI, told The Local. 

Sjøholt added that the UDI hoped that increased automation and more measures to ensure applications are complete when they reach the immigration directorate would help to reduce waiting times. 

In addition, the UDI said it had good dialogue with the police, which handles appointment slots, about waiting times but said it couldn’t control the resources the police have available to work on immigration appointments.

READ ALSO: What are the rules for moving to Norway to be with a partner?

Older applications pushed to the back of the queue

Another reason why waiting times are increasing for some is a change in how the UDI handles applications, which has led to some applicants being pushed to the back of the queue. 

Due to changes with the UDI’s workflow, cases processed in 2022 typically have shorter waiting times than those submitted before this year. One applicant who applied for a family immigration permit in 2021 said they had seen their waiting time increase twice since this change came into force, while someone they knew and who applied in 2022 saw their case processed in just over a month. 

“The new system is unfair, and moreover, they (the UDI) claim they want families to reunite, but the reality is that due to long waiting times, families are splitting, and lovers are breaking up,” The applicant, who didn’t want to be named, claimed when expressing their frustration with the new system. 

Sjøholt said that the new system would lead to faster decisions for all applicants in the long run.

“The aim is to work more efficiently so that, in the long run, all applicants will experience more predictability and get their decisions faster,” the residence director of the UDI explained. 

READ ALSO: Why are British residents’ passports being stamped at Norway’s border?

The applicants and readers who got in touch appear to be among a growing number of people concerned with long waiting times. Last year the Civil Ombudsman received 4,000 complaints from people who believe they had been exposed to injustice or errors from public authorities

The ombudsman noted that it saw an increase in complaints surrounding issues relating to immigration and case processing times. 

‘Difficult’ to say when waiting times will go down

Unfortunately for those facing long queues, the UDI is unsure when waiting times will go down. 

“We believe that automation and other measures- will help to reduce waiting times, but it is difficult to say when. The large number of applications for asylum from Ukrainians makes it more difficult to predict waiting times,” Sjøholt said. 

The lack of clarity on when waiting times will decrease will come as a blow to those affected, such as Fatima, who has been unable to leave the country while her case is processed.

For her, this has meant being unable to travel home after hearing her best friend had passed away or being able to visit her elderly parents. 

“Last week, I lost my closest friend and her two kids, but I couldn’t be with my family because I don’t have my visa. I can’t visit my family. My parents are old and sick. I am so frustrated about my situation, which prevents me from visiting them,” Fatima said.

“I’ve lived, studied and worked in this country without a problem. I am thankful for the opportunities Norway has given me, but this problem is annoying, especially in this century, with modern technology,” she added.

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Why your Norwegian family immigration application may be rejected, and how to avoid it 

Applications for family residence permits in Norway can be long and arduous. These are the most common reasons why they are turned down and what you can do to avoid it. 

Why your Norwegian family immigration application may be rejected, and how to avoid it 

Last year, more than 15,000 people moved to Norway for family reasons. Of those, more than 4,000 were EEA citizens who registered with the police, while 10,197 permits for family immigration were granted. 

Residence permits for family reasons are generally issued to those from countries outside the European Economic Area or EEA (EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway), while those moving to Norway to be with family are required to register with the police as living in Norway.

Family immigration permits are issued based on the applicant’s relative being a Nordic citizen or having legal residence or asylum in Norway. The applicants are usually the partner or spouse, child or parent, sibling, or in some cases, another relative of someone living in Norway.

READ ALSO: How many people move to Norway for family reasons, and where do they come from?

However, not all applications for a residence permit are accepted, and as an application fee is involved, it would be handy to know the most common reasons why applicants aren’t granted residence to be with a family member, partner or spouse. 

The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) has provided The Local with the most common reasons it turns down applications. 

Age requirements for the spouse or partner not being met

To move to Norway to be with a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, or fiancé, several requirements will need to be met. 

Generally, the reference person (the one living in Norway) will need to earn above a certain amount of money, plan on living together, and the relationship should be genuine. If you are not married or engaged, you will need to have lived together for at least two years. 

READ MORE: What are the rules for moving to Norway to be with a partner? 

In addition, the applicant and reference partner will need to be over 24 years old when applying. This applies regardless of whether you are married, engaged or live together. 

According to the UDI, the age requirements for spouses not being met is one of the most common reasons why applications for family immigration permits are turned down. 

Children do not meet the full criteria

As with all applications for residence in Norway, all the criteria outlined by the UDI must be met to be granted a permit. 

Children not meeting all the criteria needed to be with parents was also one of the more common stumbling blocks, according to the UDI. 

Applications for children to be with parents in Norway can be tricky, and a number of factors can affect the requirements. 

Typically, the child will need to undergo an identity check, and both parents must consent to the move if custody is shared, the reference person must be a Norwegian citizen or hold a valid residence permit. In addition, the parent must earn at least 300,988 kroner per year before taxes. The income from the year before must also meet this threshold. 

Parents must have also not received any help from NAV in the past 12 months either. 

If you do not meet these requirements, your application will be turned down. To read more about the criteria, you can click here.

Maintenance requirements for family members aren’t met 

Being a relative of someone living or working in Norway typically isn’t a sufficient enough reason to have a work permit application approved. A number of other requirements will need to be met, and the rules for those over 18 applying to live with relatives are much tighter than those moving to be with a relative under 18. 

Additionally, applications for relatives that aren’t the parent or child of the reference person are likely to be rejected. 

For those wishing to move to Norway to be with their family members, one of the most common issues is the maintenance or minimum income requirements being met. 

As with other residence applications, the reference person will need to earn 300,988 kroner per year before taxes. This threshold applies to all family applications. 

READ ALSO: What are the rules for moving to Norway to be with family?

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