This spring Finnish immigration authority Migri denied private contractor Muhammed Musah's residence permit application because his income as a food courier was not "credible."
The agency said Musah's Wolt earnings were suspiciously high, as his average monthly turnover as a self-employed food courier averaged 5,632 euros last year.
Musah, originally from Ghana, graduated with a Master's in chemistry in 2020 from the University of Eastern Finland. Unable to find work in his own field, he employed himself delivering food for Wolt in Joensuu.
He said his goal was to earn enough money to meet immigration requirements to allow his wife and three children to move to Finland. The authorities demand that a five-person family like Musah's brings home 2,900 euros per month after tax.
Mushah said that had he worked in a restaurant, instead of becoming a courier, he would not have been able to meet the income threshold.
From Migri to Ely
Since Musah is self-employed, Migri referred his residence application to a local centre for economic development (Ely-centres). Officials there deemed that it was "unrealistic to expect a similar pay trajectory over time," The local Ely-centre said it suspected Musah of wrongdoing in achieving such a high turnover.
"I couldn't believe this decision. I've submitted by bank statements and bookkeeping as requested, and now it turns out that I earn too much," Musah said.
Yle has seen the official documents pertaining to Musah's case.
Ely-centres play a pivotal role in entrepreneurs' residence permit matters. Migri will automatically deny a permit that's not been recommended by an Ely-office.
Musah claims his high turnover is due to hard work, saying he used his car to deliver food at least five days a week for around 12 hours a day.
"Every morning my goal was to earn 200 euros that day. Some days I made 160, others I got 250 euros," Musah, who has lived in Finland for four years, explained.
Ely said its decision was based on Wolt's own figures indicating that very few couriers have turnovers exceeding 4,000 euros per month. However, news has emerged of couriers pulling down 9,000 euros a month (in Finnish).
Musah said he spent some 6,000 euros on his wife's and children's Finnish residence permit applications last summer. The family travelled from Ghana to Nigeria, the site of the nearest Finnish embassy. His regular Wolt income was the basis for the applications, which were ultimately denied.
"I want to educate my children in Finland and support my family here," he said.
Musah said he has not seen his family since last summer in Ghana. Now he cannot leave Finland as he is appealing Migri's decision with the help of a lawyer, who advised him to become a salaried employee during the appeal process.
Acting on this advice, Musah nowadays works at a restaurant while continuing to deliver meals for Wolt part-time. But since becoming a restaurant worker, Musah's income has dropped, leaving him with less money.
Lawyer: Agency attitude changed
Ville Punto (not Musah's attorney), a lawyer specialised in immigration issues, said Ely-centres have taken a harder line on residence permits for entrepreneurs.
"The argument that an income isn't credible is pretty typical these days in Ely-centre decisions," he said.
A restaurant entrepreneur can, for example, be suspected of paying workers under the table if business turnover is relatively large compared to salary costs.
Punto, however, said it was strange that a residence permit would be turned down on nothing more than a suspicion and without further investigation.
"If an Ely-centre suspects someone of employing black market labour, shouldn't they share their concerns with authorities who can investigate the matter?" Punto asked.
Uusimaa's Ely-centre handles all of the country's residence applications sought on the basis of business ownership.
Kari Koivisto of Uusimaa Ely-centre, however, denied the agency had changed its policy on business owner permits. She, however, said the platform economy had expanded the number of applicants seeking residency based on entrepreneurship. She added that it was more common for low salaries—not high ones—to lead to negative decisions.
While Koivisto refused to comment on Musah's case in particular, she said applications were turned down based on a number of factors, not on a single issue.
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