What they say about the residence permit delays

29th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

Still waiting for your residence permit? You are not the only one. The Dutch immigration authorities say they are getting to grips with the backlog, but first-time applicants will still have to wait months before being granted the privilege of a lice

Once upon a time, expats applying for residence in the Netherlands had to line up, a bit like cattle, at the nearest office of the Foreign Police, or Vreemdelingpolitie.

Many expats are in legal limbo while waiting for a residence permit

No longer, we were told by Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk. Welcome to the new, all integrated, stream-lined system. At least that’s what she said back in April of 2004.

The idea was to take the residence permit process away from the Foreign Police and transfer it to Immigration service (IND). In turn all information about expats and immigrants would be added to the same, single, large database as other residents (GBA, or gemeentelijk basis administratie), to be administered by each local council.

The IND would effectively become a "back-office" authorising permits and visas. All applications and paperwork would be handled through local city halls, which would also act as a portal to other essential offices (e.g. Sofi number and tax registration, residence registrar, etc.). The purpose was to speed up the process for everyone.

Click here for up-to-date information for both EU and non-EUexpats applying for a residence permit.

But six months on, the new system is already dogged by huge delays and backlogs, leaving many expats wondering if they will ever see their permits. The city of Amsterdam has weighed in and threatened to sue the IND.

*quote1*IND spokesperson Martin Bruinsma says the problems arose during the final phase of the changeover from the old computer systems used by the local Foreign Police departments to the IND's main system at the end of May this year. Apparently, not all of the old systems were compatible with each other or with the new system.

Asked if they shouldn’t have realised that before they started, Bruinsma laughs, "Of course we knew that. We did extensive testing and all the tests we ran indicated the systems could be integrated. But, when we actually did it, a problem arose that hadn’t shown up in the tests".

"So, we decided to stop and fix it first to ensure the system was reliable before proceeding. That’s what we did and for the past month we have been processing applications again and are working very hard to clear any backlog."

Minister Verdonk has promised parliament all backlogs will be cleared by the end of the year. Bruinsma agrees this is the intention, but adds, "I can’t give an exact time, it depends on the sort of permit you requested. There are several types of permits involved."

The permits expats are most interested in are extensions (verlenging) and first- time permits, especially for non-EU people.

Bruinsma says the problems with extensions have been fixed and the process should start to flow normally again. But the IND is still working through the backlog of applications for first-time permits.

The IND is relying on a "terugkeer", or return visa, for people who are stuck without papers and need to leave the Netherlands temporarily. Extra offices and staff have been assigned to ensure applications for this visa can be processed quickly. But, he admits, "We are still busy trying to sort out those problems for first-time applicants."

Further discussions with Bruinsma on first-time non-EU applicants revealed that this is one process that is not likely to speed up, even after the backlog is cleared. "It is not possible to ask for it today and get it tomorrow. It used to take a few months and it will still take a few months."

Under normal circumstances, first time (non-EU) applications take a few months? "Yes," Bruinsma replies, "that is correct."

It is no longer mandatory for EU expats to obtain a residence permit. But at least one international company in Amsterdam insisted recently that its EU staff either have a residence permit or a "proof of residence" document. Both documents cost EUR 28 for EU citizens.

When asked to expl

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