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Risk of legal uncertainty in processing of family reunification cases

Deficiencies in the work of establishing the identity of applicants means that the legal certainty of the Swedish Migration Agency’s processing of family reunification cases cannot be guaranteed. The Swedish National Audit Office (Swedish NAO) is now calling for measures from both the Government and the Migration Agency.

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Photo: Fizkes

The application for a residence permit for a person who wants to move to a relative in Sweden is called a family reunification case. In 2020, the Swedish Migration Agency made decisions in just over 39,000 such cases. This means it is the second most common reason for a residence permit in Sweden.

The Swedish NAO has audited whether the Swedish Migration Agency and missions abroad (Swedish embassies and consulates) ensure that the processing of family reunification cases maintains high legal standards.

The audit shows that there are major shortcomings, especially in the work to establish the applicant’s identity. The staff at missions abroad check that the applicant has the type of document used in the country in question, but not if they are genuine – despite the fact that counterfeit documents are common in many countries.

One explanation is that the Swedish Migration Agency has not sufficiently provided the missions abroad with technical equipment, skills and guidance to review the authenticity of documents and ID documents The deficiencies in the processing are exacerbated by the fact that the case officers at the Swedish Migration Agency in Sweden only read copies and make superficial checks.

“When the case is transferred to the Swedish Migration Agency in Sweden, the case officers usually assume that the applicant’s identity has been established. This means that no one in practice establishes who the person is," says Anders Berg, project leader for the audit.

The audit also shows that the Migration Agency’s quality assurance during ongoing processing is weak, especially in cases where case officers make decisions on their own to grant residence permits An additional shortcoming is that the Agency has not ensured that the case officers at the Migration Agency and staff at missions abroad have sufficient competence.

If the processing of family reunification cases is not legally certain, there is a risk that applicants who are entitled to a residence permit will be refused their application, or that persons who should not have a residence permit nevertheless are given one. This may, for example, lead to families being unable to reunite, even though they are entitled to be, or that the Migration Agency does not detect sham marriages and human trafficking. Unnecessarily long waiting times and increased costs are other consequences.

“In light of the shortcomings in the Migration Agency’s work, it is important that the Government monitors developments and ensures that the Agency takes the necessary steps to develop. This applies not least to the work of establishing the applicants’ identity," says Auditor General Helena Lindberg.

Recommendations in brief

The Swedish NAO’s recommendations to the Swedish Migration Agency include:

  • reviewing and improving the work of establishing the applicant’s identity
  • ensuring the supply of skills for the work on family reunification cases
  • developing follow-up of the legal quality of the processing.

The recommendations to the Government include:

  • investigating the division of responsibility and the organisational structure when it comes to establishing the applicant’s identity
  • investigating the conditions that will enable the Migration Agency to more easily access the necessary information from other agencies.

See the report for full recommendations.

Press contact: Olle Castelius, phone: +46 8-5171 40 04.

Presskontakt: , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.

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Updated: 11 May 2021

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