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INTERVIEW: How I battled to force Denmark to reopen my work permit case

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
INTERVIEW: How I battled to force Denmark to reopen my work permit case
Daniel Ingham and his Danish girlfriend Hellen Victory. Photo: Private

Daniel Ingham, an Australian working in Copenhagen, has managed to get his work permit case reopened, not once but twice, after extensions were denied. But he's still unsure he can stay in Denmark.


Ingham had been waiting five months for the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (Siri) to decide on his work permit extension when the rejection came last April, and he quickly realised that case officers had mistakenly calculated that he had earned less than the required 417,793.60 kroner a year, when he had in fact made around 460,000 kroner. 

"They cancelled me on the basis of not making that amount of money, which was incorrect," he said.

The decision threw his life and that of his Danish partner, Hellen Victory, into turmoil. 

"Since April this year, when we got the first cancellation, everything's been upside down. Like it's extremely distressing mentally. It just affects every facet of your life."

He was surprised that Siri had not managed to confirm his true income, despite having complete access to tax and income records through the e-indkomst system, and having been sent all his payslips. "They have all of that. That's what was so insane to us." 

But when he contacted the agency to point this out, they advised him to appeal to the Immigration Appeals Board (Udlændingenævnet), which has a waiting time for as long as a year. Desperate, he and his Danish girlfriend Hellen got in touch with an immigration lawyer, Cristina Jørgensen Poblador, who instead filed a request to Siri on June 6th to reopen the case.

On July 5th, Siri reopened it, giving Ingham permission to go back to work at his employer, the construction company Einar Kornerup, after three months stuck at home. 


Advantage of reopening a case

According to Poblador, most foreigners who have work permit applications rejected either simply accept the decision or else appeal it to the Appeals Board, with few realising you can apply to reopen the case.

"I think a lot of people just think, 'The application has been denied, there's nothing we can do. We'll just have to leave the country," she told The Local. "And most people will probably not consider the option of reopening of the case, because in all the decisions that you get, it is described in the letter how to appeal a case, but there's no description or guidance on how to request a reopening." 

Ingham says it would be completely possible to get a case reopened without a lawyer, but that getting a lawyer was worth the expense. 

"It’s designed in a way that any normal person should be able to do it all without a lawyer, but in our experience I would recommend one 100 percent."

Poblador believes that, so long as the requirements for getting a case re-opened are met, there are some advantages in getting a case reopened, rather than appealing.

"A reopening of a case is normally processed a lot quicker than an appeal," she says. "The Immigration Appeals Board, currently has a processing time of 12 to 14 months." 

It's also common for those who appeal not to be allowed to stay in Denmark, let alone work, while they wait for a decision. 

“There have to be significant reasons for you to be allowed to stay in Denmark during an appeal, which is normally that you have a family with kids and that not allowing you to stay in Denmark might, go against Denmark's international obligations (such as Article 8 of the European Human Rights Convention, concerning the right to a family life. In Daniel’s case, in an appeal to the Appeals Board, I doubt that they would have allowed him to stay.”

She says that for Siri to reopen a case, you need to present them with relevant information which was present at the time of the initial decision but which was not considered. 

Often this will mean submitting additional documents, although in Ingham's case it involved alerting Siri to documents it already had access to.  


A second rejection and a second reopening

In August, Siri sent Ingham a new decision in which it admitted that it had miscalculated his salary. 

"We recognise and regret that the rejection letter of April 26th 2023 states that you did not fulfil the pay limit of 417,793.60. That is factually incorrect,' the letter read.

This came as a surprise to Ingham. "I would say it's probably quite rare that they admit on paper that they've made an error," he says. 

Unfortunately, though, the admission came alongside a second rejection, with Siri this time calculating that he had only worked 32 hours a week when he is supposed to have worked 37, something Ingham argues is also inaccurate. 

Poblador filed another request to reopen the case, which Siri granted on October 10th, allowing Langham to return to work this Monday after another three months at home. 


This time, though, he's less optimistic. 

"I've been cancelled two times now. So the first time it was reopened in July, I was really ecstatic about it and just thinking, 'yeah, okay, now they're going to use the new evidence and just be finished with it'," he remembers.

"And then they cancelled it again. So really, the reopening is not much to be honest, especially as their reasoning two times has been completely incorrect. There's not a lot of hope." 

Poblador, however, believes there's "a good chance" Ingham will be granted an extension. 

She says it was rare for Siri to make a mistake as basic as the salary miscalculation, but the second calculation about the hours worked was a more common error.  

"I don't know how they could make such a grave mistake, because it was very easily accessible information," she says of the first error. "You just look at the yearly tax report, and the salary is there in black and white, so I think that was just a plain mistake on their part." 

"They didn't take into consideration the collective agreement for his industry," she added. "Of course it says in his work contract that he has to work 37 hours a week. But of course, no one does that for 52 weeks a year. Everyone has the right to holidays and public holidays, all of that. And in their first decision, they didn't take that into consideration at all." 

The new issue over the number of hours Ingham worked is more complicated, she believes. She thinks that the case worker at Siri only looked at the information recorded in e-indkomst, and not at Ingham's payslips. 

"The second time around, they said, 'okay, we'll deduct the six or seven weeks of holiday he has the right to. But they didn't look at all the other rights he has according to his agreement," she says.

"If it's bad weather, your employer can send you home, and that counts for a whole day of work, of course. They can't expect you to work those seven and a half hours on another day because then you would have to work double. You can see that in the salary slips, but you can't see that on the e-indkomst."

It's a similar situation with overtime. 


Going to the media 

After the second rejection, Ingham and his girlfriend decided to take their case to the Danish media, with the Politiken newspaper putting an interview with the couple on their front page and the Ekstra Bladet newspaper also writing a story about the case. 

Ingham told The Local that he didn't regret contacting the media. 

"I would definitely recommend it. I don't think it can do any harm," he says. "I don't know if it helps: they may just laugh it away and not care. I really don't know. Do I believe that the media helped us in any way getting the case reopened? Who knows?" 

Poblador, however, believes media pressure can help get a good result in immigration cases. 

"In cases where I've been involved which have had media coverage, it seems to have had an effect, especially if politicians get involved," she says. "I worked within the immigration authorities myself a few years ago and in the Ministry. If there's a lot of pressure on a case, I don't think that the result will change, but I think they will have more focus on it. They will make sure that whatever decision they take is thoroughly processed." 


Right now, all Ingham can do is wait. 

"At the moment there is no plan but of course we are hoping now that Siri will come to the concluision that everthing is in fact in order and we can get on with our lives here," Ingham says. "And if that doesn't happen then we will come up with another plan from there to prove it. I've always believed in fighting for something that is correct."


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