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Finland to trial "two-week" permit process times in work-based immigration effort

The programme includes a pilot project that will fast-track the residence permit process for startup entrepreneurs.

File photo of the Slush startup and tech event in Helsinki. Finland wants to attract more startup entrepreneurs. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment announced a series of new measures aimed at promoting work-based immigration and attracting highly-skilled workers to Finland.

Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen (SDP) said the business community's desire for the country to streamline and expedite work-related immigration application processes were justified.

"At the same time, the attitudes of Finnish society continue to make it more difficult for those who have already moved to the country to find employment," Haatainen said at a press conference on Monday morning.

The minister noted that people with an immigrant-background name receive far fewer invitations to job interviews, even if their education, work experience and language skills are the same as those of other applicants.

Haatainen criticised employers in both the public and private sectors over this issue.

"The government's efforts to attract international specialists will be futile if attitudes prevent the use of their knowledge and expertise," Haatainen said, as she set out the measures that will be taken to promote work-based immigration.

Yle News reporter Ndéla Faye wrote about the problem of "brain waste" in Finland and spoke about the issue on the All Points North podcast. You can listen to the full podcast using the embedded player here or via Yle Areena, Spotify (siirryt toiseen palveluun), Apple Podcasts (siirryt toiseen palveluun) or your usual podcast player using the RSS feed (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

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Streamlining residence permit process

There is still too much bureaucracy involved with the processing of work and education-based residence permits, Haatainen said.

The current government had promised that by the end of its term of office, the average processing time for work and education-based residence permits will be 30 days.

However, according to the ministry, there is no easy way to streamline the residence permit process, but there is room for improvement in both legislation and official procedures. The ministry's proposed amendments to the law are scheduled to be brought to Parliament for consideration later this year.

"The acceleration of work- and education-based processes will promote Finland's chances in global competition for specialists, as well as the internationalisation of business and innovation activities and the attracting of investment to Finland," the ministry's statement read.

The ministry has set out a number of objectives aimed at attracting international specialists to Finland, which have been included in the Talent Boost (siirryt toiseen palveluun) programme (external link).

Fast track for startup entrepreneurs

In addition to streamlining the residence permit processes in general, the government plans to create a new fast lane for international specialists, startup entrepreneurs and their family members.

In this fast track, a decision on an electronic residence permit application is promised within 14 days of sending and paying for the application online.

The ministry plans to pilot this project later this year, if the technology required can be put in place.

Target specialists from New Delhi, Silicon Valley

The Ministry also announced that it is preparing two recruitment pilot projects aimed at attracting specialists and startup entrepreneurs to Finland from Silicon Valley in the United States and New Delhi in India.

Companies participating in the pilots are promised support for international recruitment.

"As part of the recruitment pilots, a first-stage pilot of the fast lane will also be carried out, in which specialists and startup entrepreneurs and their family members will be given a service promise of two weeks for the processing of residence permits," the ministry stated, adding that Finland's attractiveness among high-skilled international specialists has been relatively low so far.

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The offices of the Finnish Immigration Services, Migri. Image: Jouni Immonen / Yle

Haatainen said that these pilot projects will only begin to gain momentum once the coronavirus epidemic has subsided.

"It has been assessed that safety and a functioning society, which have already been identified as Finland's attractions, will be further emphasised in the post-coronavirus era," Haatainen said at the Monday morning press conference.

Diversity programme

The ministry further revealed plans to introduce a programme aimed at highlighting and promoting diversity within the Finnish workplace.

"The programme will include services that strengthen diversity and internationalisation of working life through business and employer services," the release stated. "Diversity benefits businesses. A company whose employees represent different ethnic groups and genders is also more financially viable."

The aim of the programme is for companies and organisations to benefit from diversity and to make it easier for immigrants to access jobs that match their skills and to advance in their careers, the ministry added.

Tackling problems associated with work-based immigration

Haatainen also addressed some of the problems associated with work-based immigration, such as exploitation of foreign workers by Finnish employers.

"We should not be naive," Haatainen said. "For the lower-skilled workforce, poor language skills combined with an over-reliance on the employer create an atmosphere and an opportunity for exploitation of employees."

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Yle reported on the widespread exploitation of foreign construction workers in Finland in September. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Last December, the government proposed making amendments to the Aliens Act that would help to prevent the exploitation of foreign workers more effectively.

On Monday, the ministry stated that most foreigners applying for a job in Finland have little or no knowledge of the rules of the Finnish labour market.

For this reason, information for foreign workers will be offered at foreign embassies when a visa or residence permit is issued. In addition, further details will also be provided about who to contact if there are problems with the employer.

"Work-based immigration will only be sustainable if we follow the rules of the Finnish labour market. That is why we have included measures to combat the above-mentioned side effects," Haatainen said.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment sets out the reasons why the government is taking action to address these issues.

"The number of working-age people in Finland is decreasing and population growth is taking place exclusively through immigration. Without adequate immigration, Finland's labour supply and employment will fall substantially in the longer term, with implications for the dependency ratio, the employment rate and the sustainability gap," the ministry said.

Finland has already identified a shortage of specialists in the IT sector, healthcare and construction.

"In 2019, we lost about 65,000 jobs due to a shortage of specialists," Haatainen explained. "If jobs are not created, Finland will not be able to fully develop."

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