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Residence permits fast-tracked to 14 days for highly skilled workers

Seeking to address long delays and attract top talent, the government is expediting resident permits for highly qualified workers and entrepreneurs.

Start-ups and tech firms like Supercell want to attract top talent around the world, and the fast track residence permit seeks to make that process easier. Image: Petteri Bülow / Yle
Yle News

From the beginning of June, specialists and growth entrepreneurs who meet the criteria — as well as their family members — will be promised a residence permit within 14 days.

Labour minister Tuula Haatainen (SDP) said that this "fast track" residence permit will significantly speed up the application process. According to the government's proposal, this residence permit scheme will shave between one and two weeks off application times. The reform is a response to a shortage of highly qualified specialists in the technology sector.

"We need experts from elsewhere in Finland. Companies simply need them to grow," Haatainen said.

At worst, the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) has taken 46 days to process residence permit applications from growth entrepreneurs. The Covid pandemic led to a decrease in the number of applications, which in turn shortened processing times.

Specialists include highly educated persons who come to Finland to work in expert positions that require special skills. The employer has a large role in defining what constitutes high-skilled labour.

Growth or start-up entrepreneurs are individuals who run an innovation-based company that aims for rapid international expansion.

According to Haatainen, sticking to the promised application times will be closely monitored. She added that the fast track itself does not increase the risk of abuse, as even accelerated residence permit applications are subject to normal admission criteria.

"This is not a new category of authorisation, but a service promise," Haatainen clarified.

The minister said that the system has already been tested and the results appear good.

Tech industry: good but modest reform

Technology experts such as data analysts, information systems experts, and high-end coders are likely to use this fast track 14-day residence permit scheme.

Leading expert Milka Kortet of the Technology Industries of Finland, which represents companies in the technology sector, praised this step of reform cautiously.

Kortet estimated that this fast track will facilitate the arrival of thousands of professionals to Finland. The key benefit of this fast track is to offer a signal to both companies and foreign experts that Finland is able to handle this problem.

Finnish companies competing with companies from other countries for top professionals can now promise recruiters that they can enter the country smoothly and bring their family with them.

"This is a message to the entire business community that these permitting processes are being sped up. And at the same time, it brings predictability to those who come to Finland," Kortet told Yle.

However, Kortet still urged the government to continue cutting red tape and criticised the fast track as a "marginal" reform.

"Of course, this 14-day promise is good, but the problem is that the hassle of the permit process will only start when you arrive in Finland," Kortet added.

Aim for 1 month processing time for all

Migri and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, as well as foreign missions, are responsible for practical advice on the fast track for residence permits.

Haatainen stated that the residence permit fast track for highly-skilled experts is only one aspect of the government's program to attract top talent to Finland.

The government promises to further cut red tape, strengthen digital services and provide more robust customer assistance. Legislative changes are also in the pipeline to make life easier for everyone who moves to Finland on the basis of work and education.

"We want everyone to have a maximum processing time of one month. This will be implemented by the end of this government's term," Haatainen said.

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