Stamping out the queues / Entertainment / The Foreigner

Stamping out the queues. Police superintendent Jarle Søyland is a man with a mission. As head of the Immigration section of Stavanger police, he wants to see waiting times for permit applications reduced to almost zero by the end of 2009. The political go-ahead for establishing Norway’s second service centre for foreign employees has been given, but he is still waiting for the funds. Time is money. Downstairs in Stavanger police station is not a comfortable place to wait. Space is a problem for the immigration section, and Søyland sympathises with its customers. “People have no proper place to sit; everyone who works here thinks so,” he tells The Foreigner.

police, immigration, foreigner, passport, permit, office, rogaland, police, stavanger, eu



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Stamping out the queues

Published on Wednesday, 15th July, 2009 at 17:23 under the entertainment category, by Michael Sandelson   .
Last Updated on 15th July 2009 at 17:39.

Police superintendent Jarle Søyland is a man with a mission. As head of the Immigration section of Stavanger police, he wants to see waiting times for permit applications reduced to almost zero by the end of 2009. The political go-ahead for establishing Norway’s second service centre for foreign employees has been given, but he is still waiting for the funds. Time is money.

Passports
Passports
Photo: Michael Jung/Shutterstock Images


Whistle while you wait

Downstairs in Stavanger police station is not a comfortable place to wait. Space is a problem for the immigration section, and Søyland sympathises with its customers.

“People have no proper place to sit; everyone who works here thinks so,” he tells The Foreigner.

The four new counters, instead of the previous two, with their iris-recognition machines, were built in just eight days whilst the section was closed last year. In theory, this measure was meant to speed things up, but inadequate staff-coverage has put a stop to that. Work-pressure is high, and waiting-times long.

“We now only have a total of seven civilian staff instead of 12, due to a combination of long-term illness and duties in Norwegian embassies abroad. Although four people are assigned to handle permit applications, in practise we only have two, because the others are tied up on the phone instead of reaching a decision on their individual merits.”

But staff-coverage is not the only reason for the long delays; the number of immigration applications has increased considerably from 8,000 in 2003, to 18,000 last year.

“We even use employees that we have trained at the airport to process applications, because they have free time in between flight arrivals,” says Søyland.

Papers, please

In order to be able to live and/or work in Norway, all immigrants require a permit. The section handles applications for both residence (a “bosettingstillatelse” in Norwegian) and work permits (an “arbeidstillatelse”), family reunification – where an immigrant has either married a Norwegian citizen, or who already has family living here, as well as Norwegian citizenship. People seeking political asylum are sent by train to Oslo, where the applications have been centralised.

For non-EU citizens, the average processing time for work/residence permits, is five months at present. Søyland feels that this is far too long.

“Two months should be the maximum,” he says.

Although the immigration section has received instructions to process applications by EU citizens within two to three months, Søyland admits that there is much room for improvement.

“I believe that between 14 days and one month is reasonable, but no more than two.”

To some, this may seem reasonable; to others, such as businesses that employ expat staff, it causes headaches. Norway is a member of the EEA, with an agreement that secures what is known as the “free flow of labour”. One could ask why, then, are work permits required at all?

“Ask the politicians about that. In 1993, a political decision was taken to adopt this practise as part of the law on immigration,” says Søyland.

He would welcome a different procedure, as approximately half of the applications they receive are from EU citizens. At present, there is no central office where either individuals or companies can address issues relating to immigration law, tax, and working legislation. This is the aim of the new service centre. But with its opening now having been pushed back three months from 15 November this year due to lack of money, it doesn’t look like they will get any shorter.

Creative thinking

Or maybe they will? Søyland recently had a meeting with his superior about borrowing staff from different departments and divisions with more capacity.

“The signals have been positive from other police stations in Rogaland. After having received their training here, they will be able to both accept applications and to open a file on them; we have made a “how to” list for them to follow. Up to five people at a time will be assigned a mentor who is based here in Stavanger,” says Søyland.

With their resources freed to deal with other immigration issues – such as criminals, or applicants from Third World countries – Søyland hopes that they can then work on reducing the length of queues from August, so that would almost have gone by Christmas.

For now, though, he has some advice to those applying for or renewing their permits.

“Apply in good time and think ahead, especially if you are planning on travelling in the near future. If not, it could be bothersome for you, and cause even more work for us.”

If you forget, you might have to join the queue again.



Published on Wednesday, 15th July, 2009 at 17:23 under the entertainment category, by Michael Sandelson   .
Last updated on 15th July 2009 at 17:39.

This post has the following tags: police, immigration, foreigner, passport, permit, office, rogaland, police, stavanger, eu.





  
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