All other refugees and foreigners are now pushed back in line and must wait even longer for family reunification, asylum, residence extension or permanent residence
On April 8, the Ministry of Integration and Immigration sent a briefing letter to the Danish Parliament's Immigration Committee to inform them that Ukrainian special law cases will be given priority over all other cases. There is no explanation for the “overriding reasons”.
"It is the assessment of the immigration authorities that there are overriding reasons to prioritize the processing of special law cases. It is therefore necessary to de-prioritize and in certain cases entirely suspend immigration processing for a period of time to ensure the necessary resources to treat the Special Act cases"
Extra resources allocated
The Danish Immigration Service has allocated great resources to process the many applications under the Special Act. Employees have mainly been moved from other offices under Immigration Service, but some have also been brought in from other areas of the state administration. In fact, two thirds of the staff at the agency are already assigned the Ukrainian cases. This means longer waiting times for other cases in matters such as family reunification, asylum, residence extension and permanent residence. For the time being, the de-priority and suspension applies until the summer.
Despite a historically low number of asylum seekers in recent years, the current waiting times are already long:
Family reunion: 7 months.
Residence extension: 2-6 months.
New residence card: 3 months.
Alien passport / refugee passport: 3 months.
Permanent residence: 10 months.
Citizenship (naturalization): 15 months.
Humanitarian residence: 6 months*
*) However, Refugees Welcome has a different experience: several of our cases have taken more than a year, some more thai 2 years.
These waiting times are crucial for immigrants in Denmark. For example, you can not travel abroad as long as you wait for an extension, residence card or passport. An extended case processing might mean that the entire family has to cancel summer plans, that the money for an application for a visa are wasted, or that a high school student cannot join the class' study trip.
In family reunification cases, family members have often been separated for several years already – many refugees for 4 or 5 years. Reunification cases may also concern young children of refugees who are still living in unsafe areas. For permanent residence, the rules say that you must meet the criteria at the time of the decision. This means that if, for instance, you apply in January while you have a job, and the case is postponed until November, by then you may have been fired, and therefore no longer meet the criteria. This will mean that you have to start over again, and you will also have to pay the application fee again at 4,800 / 6,700 Danish kroner depending on the basis of your residence.
The waiting time for appeals to the Immigration Appeals Board is already up to two years, which has been criticized by the Ombudsman since October 2020. In all likelihood, it will increase further now, since the Immigration Appeals Board in addition to family reunification cases and permanent residence will also be the appeal body for the Special Act. It is expected that quite a few people will be rejected under the Special Act and will file a complaint.
It should also be expected that some of those rejected under the Special Act will apply for asylum – more than 2,000 Ukrainians have already done so. In the long run, this will affect the waiting time in the Refugee Appeals Board. All Ukrainian asylum cases have been put on hold so far.
A partly self-inflicted problem
It is worth noting that the administration has been politically subjected to a unnecessarily heavy task, since all asylum residencies were reduced in 2015 from 5 years to 1 and 2 years respectively. Along with them, all residence extensions were also reduced from 5 to 2 years. Practically, this means that every two years, administration has to check if all asylum needs of all refugees are still present – e.g. by conducting a second personal interview – and whether the person has traveled to their home country. Residence cards and refugee passports are not valid beyond the residence permit itself, and must therefore also be renewed on an ongoing basis, with the recording of biometric data each time. Previously, refugees were automatically granted permanent residence after 7 years, and in most European countries it currently happens after 5 years.
Refugees Welcome recognizes the need for more employees working on immigration cases, but is completely incomprehensive as to why Ukrainian cases are prioritized over the cases of all other refugees and immigrants. Already, Ukrainians far better off than most other refugee groups in many respects. The latest announcement from the Minister is that Ukrainians are now allowed to work even before they get their residence permit.
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