In early autumn of 2015 we investigated whether the significant increase in migrants and asylum seekers would impact the ability of public officials to deal with the applications. We promised to keep an eye on the situation and keep you updated on whether the processing periods for the applications would increase.
Last year the Finnish Immigration Service approved 5386 work-based residence permit applications. Out of these, almost 1000 applications had been filed as specialist permits. Although the Alien’s Act sets the maximum application period for a residence permit at four months, FRS’s clients’ applications only took an average of 18 days. We are very happy with the cooperative relationship we have with the Immigration Service. Their resources have been sufficient despite the increase in asylum seekers, and our clients’ applications have not taken longer than before.
As police sergeant Kaj Wahlman mentioned in our last article on the subject, any possible delays on the side of the police will become evident towards the end of this year. This is due to the fact, that the first residence permit is always handled by the Finnish Immigration Service. The police are responsible for accepting and processing residence permit extensions, which will become relevant to the asylum seekers later this year at the earliest. Should this cause delays or other anomalies, we will inform you of them in the future.
It is good to keep in mind however, that the initial plans of the Interior Ministry are to move, among other things, the responsibilities of processing residence permit extensions from the police to the Immigration Service in 2017. As of yet there are no official decisions of this and the project is to be presented to the parliament in spring 2016. This transfer of responsibilities would strengthen the position of the Immigration Service as the official responsible in all matters relating to foreigners in Finland, and would streamline customer service and decision making in residence permit matters.
The Local Register Offices in the Uusimaa province have undergone a significant organizational renewal. The offices of Helsinki, Länsi-Uusimaa and Itä-Uusimaa have been combined to form the Uusimaa Local Register Office starting 1.1.2016. We reached out to find out if this organizational change would impact the registration of foreign nationals. “The joining of the offices has not had a concrete impact for our clients, other than that a person can now deal with any of the offices to submit their registration application. The city where he or she is in is irrelevant”, according to the supervisor of the international affairs team in the Uusimaa Register Office, registrar Maisa Gynther.
“The joining of the offices hasn’t caused any changes in the processes. The practices in all three offices were very similar already. It is possible however that the services will be concentrated in fewer units in the future. Helsinki will naturally retain its services”, tells Gynther.
It is expected that the amount of people going to the offices is going to increase during spring. According to Gynther, solutions to this are under consideration so that the increase in asylum seekers wouldn’t crowd the offices. “They often come in large groups, so there are certainly alternative solutions to be found. We will endeavor to maintain the processing times on their current levels, so the potential increase in traffic should not be very visible”, Gynther ends.
Kela, The Social Insurance Institution of Finland, has also managed to avoid nightmare scenarios. Insurance Chief Sirpa Mattila from Kela’s Center for International Affairs says, that they have not seen a sudden increase in the applications due to asylum seekers. “Kela will continue to monitor the situation and we have prepared for the processing of applications by special work arrangements. Currently the average time to process an insurance application is approximately 22 days”, Mattila says.
The various officials have done an admirable amount of cooperation in this exceptional situation and for now it appears, that the current resources are sufficient to manage even such trying immigration situations. This may however be because approximately 65% of asylum seekers will receive a negative decision according to information Kela has received from the Immigration Service. FRS will remain on top of the situation and continues our seamless cooperation with the various officials.