‘Humanitarian Reasons’…

My husband and I knew the process of applying for our permanent residence permits in Finland would be unpleasant and tedious. I don’t think either one of us was quite prepared for the hell we experienced yesterday.

For those already in the country, you must apply for all residence permits at your municipal police station in a designated section known as the ‘Immigration Police’. Lovely term for an utterly unhappy place. </sarcasm> The office for Helsinki is particularly unhappy. It recently moved and the waiting area is now much too large for the number of individuals they may assist on any given day. You arrive and choose a number from the electronic queue based on your purpose that day. And, then you wait until your number and the desk you must go to flashes on the various screens around the room.

We arrived and our number was ‘120’ in the queue for all nationalities. They were serving 20-something. This was at around 12.45. Oddly, all around the waiting area, there were signs recommending individuals to make an appointment online to avoid the queue. How one does that through the website we do not know.

Thus, we waited.

We were finally seen at around 17.20 or so, a full hour after the official ‘closing’ at 16.15. Our case worker was pleasant enough, but it did not go well.

Since we came to Finland through employment for The Cuban and he is no longer in that job, we cannot use that as our reason for being in Finland. When we explained that we can go to neither’s home country because of our governments’ policies, we were told to apply under ‘Other: specify’ for our reason for applying for permanent residence. Then, we had to specify that this is for ‘humanitarian reasons’ and explain what that means.

How do you describe on an inhuman and impersonal form that you just want to be with your spouse? And, how do you do that when you are sitting in a soulless, too-bright place with too many people around, whilst at the same time providing your fingerprints on an electronic fingerprint pad? And, how do you do that when the unthinkable outcomes flood over you and leave you in a complete panic?

Anyway, we now have to submit many other forms to supplement our applications. Some will require additional translation. Some we aren’t entirely sure will help our case. But, we are in for a very long journey. In our case workers words, it will take a ‘very, very long time’. How long is anyone’s guess. She had no idea, and that is a bit of a concern. (For easy, straight forward cases, the wait for a residence permit is about 6 months, although that is variable as well.) Our case once completed with the Immigration Police within the next two weeks will then go on to the Immigration Service and we’ll be assigned a separate case worker there with whom we’ll need to deal.

On top of that, once our current permits expire, travel becomes risky or impossible. For me it is less of an issue since I have a US passport, although there are risks. For my husband, he will be stuck here until this process is sorted.

At one point during our meeting, the case worker said to me, ‘I guess you don’t really want to go back to the US without your husband, eh?’.

Not an option. It’s simply not an option I can contemplate at all. ‘Humanitarian reasons’ indeed….