Not enough staff to keep up with demand Long waits at the Foreigners' Registration Office

Bonn · The volume of concerns and applications has risen to record levels at the Foreigners' Registration Office.

  Every morning, there is a crowd of people waiting in front of the Foreigner’s Registration Office in Bonn.

Every morning, there is a crowd of people waiting in front of the Foreigner’s Registration Office in Bonn.

Foto: Meike Böschemeyer

Thursday morning, shortly after nine o'clock: a cluster of people stands in front of the Foreigners' Office at Oxfordstraße 19. Employees there are answering questions in front of the entrance and allowing those waiting into the building in small groups. Only a few have an appointment. Some have been waiting for several hours, others have come for the third day in a row.

Kathrin Süd from Ukraine is one of them. She has been living in Germany for 20 years, has overcome all the bureaucratic hurdles and has settled in Bonn. With the beginning of the war in Ukraine, she brought her mother here to her. After colliding with a bicycle, her mother is in the hospital in Bonn waiting for treatment, says Süd. In order for this to happen, an emergency permission form is necessary. Her daughter has been trying for several days to get it from the Ausländeramt (Foreigners’ Registration Office) - in vain. Süd: "I have called several times and written e-mails. No one responds”.

She did not get an appointment. Booking is not possible on the bureau’s website, instead customers are asked to write an email, but that doesn't seem to work. "The bureau is totally overwhelmed. There are far too few employees here," criticizes Süd. At the beginning of March, she had already submitted an application for her mother, which the office processed much faster.

"The volume of applications is currently very high. In recent months, since the easing of international travel restrictions following the pandemic, the number of people at the Foreigners' Registration Office has risen to record levels," confirms Ralf Bockshecker, Head of Citizens' Services at the City of Bonn, in response to a GA inquiry. In the past six months alone, the bureau has recorded 4,000 more requests. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, there have been more applications from refugees, which should actually be processed quickly in order to give people access to the labor market and integration courses.

"Due to the urgent processing of applications, the Ukrainian refugees are welcomed along with the other applicants to come in at short notice or are given impromptu consultations. For this purpose, personnel from the Foreigners' Registration Office and other departments of the Citizens' Services and City Administration have been pooled together," says Bockshecker. It is difficult to replace employees who are unexpectedly absent, for example due to a coronavirus infection. Bockshecker: "Here we have to prioritize to some extent."

But this is precisely where things seem to be going wrong. This is also shown by the case of Tamar Thiel from Georgia. The student, who is married to a German, has been living and working in Bonn for ten years. She knows the procedure for renewing her residence permit. Every three years she has to renew her residence permit, which she can apply for three months in advance. In addition to her studies, Thiel works at a school, which requires her to have her work permit up to date for her temporary employment.

Talking to the GA, she says: "This time the extension was a disaster. Although I submitted all the necessary documents, I received no reply." The Foreigners' Registration Office collected the processing fee of 93 euros, but did not process her case: "My residence permit expired on June 13. I was extremely afraid of losing my job".

The office did not respond to e-mails or phone calls. At some point, Thiel drove to the office and waited outside the door until she was let in. After an hour's wait, she was allowed to speak to an employee who issued her a provisional permit for 20 euros. This is now valid until December 1. By then she hopes that her case will have been processed: "My employer is satisfied for the time being, but the whole process meant psychological stress for me”.

In response to a GA inquiry, the Foreigners' Office pointed out that the legal examination of Thiel's case would take more time because she wanted to have her residence permit extended to an unlimited residence permit. Thiel comments: "Nobody could tell me how long I would have to wait, that would have helped".

Ralf Bockshecker explains that from among the agency's own junior staff, five people were assigned to the office and they had already started working before they finished their training. Seven more applicants were to be taken on in the General Residence Law Department. "Of course, we are pursuing the goal of being able to respond to the high workload as quickly as possible with increased personnel capacities, but also further improvements, such as the digitalization of procedural steps, so that processing times and accessibility improve again. However, new employees have to be trained," says Bockshecker.

Applicants like Thiel and South hope that the new employees will quickly be brought up to speed so that their applications can be followed up more quickly. And on Friday morning, many people from the previous day can be found again on the sidewalk in front of Oxfordstraße 19 - trying their luck again.

Orig. text: Julia Rosner

Translation: ck

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