“The significant increase in migration during the second half of 2015 has abated and the Migration Agency has had time to adapt to the new situation,” wrote the ombudsman. “Despite the fact there may still be some lingering effects, in the Justice Ombudsman's opinion that can no longer excuse long processing times at the Agency.”
The Justice Ombudsman (JO), or the Parliamentary Ombudsmen as the office's formal title is, is appointed by the Swedish Parliament to ensure that public authorities “treat individuals lawfully and correctly”.
JO published four separate statements linked to applications for various permits. Two applications for citizenship took 28 and 29 months to receive a decision; three for applications to live with someone in Sweden that took 14 months, 32 months, and 36 months respectively for a decision; while three asylum cases took between 39 and 40 months for a decision.
In two further examined cases, the Migration Agency referred cases to the Swedish Security Police, which took around 15 months to give its response, after which the Migration Agency reached its decision around a month later.
In its statement, the JO criticised the Migration Agency not only for the long waiting times themselves, but also for its “inaction” during the processing.
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“Long processing times at the Migration Agency have for a long time been the subject of a large number of complaints to the Ombudsman. Unless strong measures are taken, I fear that the long processing times will become a normal situation. There is therefore reason to be concerned about the situation,” ombudsman Per Lennerbrant said of the review.
As readers have repeatedly told The Local, long waiting times can be a barrier to feeling stable in their new country, feeling stressed and unable to make long-term plans. In some cases the long wait could pose barriers to international travel, and can prevent them from fully participating in society – non-citizens cannot vote in national elections for example.
The Migration Agency's website currently states that the average expected waiting time for a citizenship application submitted today is 37 months. When the waiting time first reached 37 months in February 2020, an agency spokesperson confirmed to The Local that this was the longest time ever, and it has not fallen over the past year.
For family residence permits, that time varies based on factors such as the citizenship of the applicant and their family member, the nature and length of the family relationship, and whether they applied online or by post. In many cases, the waiting time is longer than the nine months which Sweden's Aliens Ordinance states should be the maximum for family reunification permit processing, in the absence of “special reasons”.
At the end of 2020, the agency said its goal was to cut the queues for citizenship applications to six months, and predicted it could reach that target by 2023.
Have you been affected by long waiting times at the Swedish Migration Agency? Contact [email protected] if you would like to share your experience or have a question you would like us to look into.