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?
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.
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.
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.