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Residence permit delay deemed illegal

A top Finnish justice official says that a wait of more than a year for a residence permit decision was unlawful.

Maahanmuuttovirasto
Image: Petteri Sopanen / Yle

The Deputy Chancellor of Justice has criticized the Finnish Immigration Service Migri in a ruling on a complaint concerning the more than one year it took to process an application for a residence permit.

The case concerned an application for a residence permit on the basis of family ties. Migri spent 13 months handling the application and ignored inquiries from the applicant during the process.

By law, Migri is required to provide a decision on such applications within nine months.

According to Deputy Chancellor of Justice Mikko Puumalainen, Migri cannot use a heavy workload or lack of resources as an excuse not to fulfil its legal obligations. He added that Migri has had problems for years in bringing its services into line with legally-required standards.

In the case reviewed by the Deputy Chancellor, the first concrete action taken by Migri was a request for further information sent to the applicant and the applicant's spouse a year after the application was filed in July 2017.

The applicant's spouse had made inquires with Migri concerning the application processes on several occasions in 2017 and 2018, but received no reply.

Demand for improvements

According to the Immigration Service, the delay in processing the application was due to a backlog of work and a mistake made by the official handling the case.

The Deputy Chancellor of Justice says that it is Migri's responsibility to ensure that applications are not delayed. He added that Migri is also required to respond to requests for information about the timetable of the process and projected dates for a decision on applications.

Puumalainen has now ordered the Immigration Service to inform him no later than by 10 November what measures it has undertaken to ensure that deadlines for application processing are not missed and that mistakes are avoided.

Migri is furthermore being asked to inform the Deputy Chancellor of Justice how it intends to monitor and improve its customer services. The complainant in the case in question also reported being treated rudely by Migri officials during telephone calls.

This is not the first time that the Office of the Chancellor of Justice has ruled in favour of complaints about extended processing times and ignoring inquires.

In May 2017, the Chancellor of Justice issued the Immigration Service a formal notice of dereliction of its obligations after it exceeded the mandated processing time for a residence permit application by four months. At that time, the Chancellor of Justice stressed the importance of the reunification of families in resuming a normal life and in integration for people who have fled persecution.

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