Denmark is one of the few European countries re-opening its businesses and gradually getting to normal after the Corona lockdown. Apart from global pandemic and health crisis, economy has also seen a huge downfall. Thousands have lost their jobs while hundreds of businesses have shutdown. Although COVID-19 has indiscriminately hit everyone, whether local or immigrant but immigrants are the one who have to face the aftershocks of COVID-19 in the shape of strict Danish immigration laws. One might justify these strict rules in normal circumstances but demanding the same level of income and work amid COVID-19 is not only unfair but inhumane.
Irfan Ali, a fictitious name, who has been living in Denmark since 2011 is in a real dilemma after the COVID-19 crisis. Irfan lives in a small town called Farum but travel to Copenhagen for work. He has been working in a restaurant in Copenhagen centrum since January, 2017. After completing his 8 years in Denmark, Irfan applied for Permanent Residency permit in July, 2019.
There are number of conditions before one can be eligible to apply for Permanent Residency in Denmark. Apart from residing 8 years one must have worked full time 3,5 years in last 4 years (under 8 years scheme). In any month if one has worked less than 120 hours, that month will not be counted as full time work, thus prolonging the process by one month subsequently. S/he must have passed Danish language test (Danske Prøve PD 2) and must continue to work after submission of Permanent Residency application.
One of the conditions for applying for PR is to fulfil the conditions of your current visa. For instance, if a person is on an accompanying spouse visa, s/he must fulfil first accompanying spouse visa requirement similarly family reunification visa holders, pay limit scheme holders, green card holders etc must all first meet the requirement of their current visa before applying for PR. Irfan, thus have to meet his current visa requirement i.e. to show an annual income of over DKK 300,000 in the last 12 months before he can apply for PR.
Irfan full time work in the restaurant was not fulfilling the income requirement, thus he started a part time job of 15 hours per week in June 2018. This part time job added with full time work made him fulfil the annual income requirement for PR in July 2019 that was when Irfan applied for Permanent Residency.
Though the expected maximum processing time for PR applications mentioned on SIRI website is 8 months but now it have been over 9 months and Irfan is still waiting for his final decision while he got his visa extension decision in November, 2019. As per rules, until you have not received final decision on PR application, you must show a continuous work which has put Irfan in real dilemma.
COVID-19 crisis started hitting economies around the world in mid-February and at the end of February, Denmark also came under its pressure. Restaurants were first to suffer so by 10th of March Irfan’s employer decided to fire employees due to low business and Irfan was one of them. After over 3 years, 12th of March was his last day at work in the restaurant. Luckily Irfan continue to work in his part time job and gets some income to survive.
As Irfan got fired from work so he is not eligible for government Corona Package. His only source of income now is his part time job. Irfan is living with his wife and two kids, 7 years old daughter going to primary school in grade 2 and 4 years old son attending kindergarten. I usually was getting over DKK 20,000 as salary after taxes but now I get less than DKK 7,000 which has made it impossible to met my expenses says Irfan. I am searching for jobs but it is almost impossible to get a job during these crisis.
Although Irfan has been a member of unemployment insurance called A-Kasse since 2012 and is eligible to avail it but he still can not avail A-kasse despite he is in desperate need of extra income. After a year of residing in Denmark, I decided to become member of unemployment insurance as you never know when you going lose your job. But as an immigrant I have always been in dilemma whether to take A-kasse for which I pay every month or not because it will have impact on my visa says Irfan. Now that I need A-kasse the most, I still can not take it as my PR application is under process and I have to meet the current work requirement which means I need to continue working. I just pray God that I do not lose my part time job otherwise I will have no money to pay my rent plus my PR application will also be rejected for which I have struggled for 8 years says Irfan.
Solution for Irfan and thousands more!
There are thousands of immigrants who have either lost their jobs or told to stay home after the COVID-19 crisis. This has reduced their income to zero or minimal thus they not only face financial crisis apart from corona fear but they might lose the right to stay in Denmark as they could not fulfil the income and work requirement for visa extension or PR or family reunification applications.
There is quite a simple solution which will not only help Irfan settle down and get positive PR decision for which he has worked hard for 8 years but also thousands of immigrants can breathe peacefully. If government suspend these income and work requirements during these crisis lets say from March to June like they have suspended 225 hours of work per year rule for Danish national getting cash help from March to June, and the handshake requirement for new citizens during the corona crisis than everyone will have a fair chance to fulfil the requirements. Otherwise it will not only be unfair but inhumane to demand continuous work and income from these immigrants during the lockdown while they have lost their jobs due to corona crisis and finding a new job is not an option these days.