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All Points North #63: Is Finland welcoming enough to foreign workers?

Migri needs to address the bottleneck in processing residence permit applications, tech sector representatives told APN.

Audio: Yle

Finland needs roughly 10,000 skilled workers in the tech industry right now, but with residence permit processing times at the Finnish Immigration Service Migri reaching up to six months, that gap will hardly close, according to Rasmus Roiha, Managing Director of Finnish Software and e-Business Association. He said that the waiting time for getting a permit may blindside some firms.

"The full process as a whole, not just the migration office part, takes at least six months in many cases and this comes as a surprise to many companies."

Roiha told All Points North that by contrast, the processing time in neighbouring Estonia is just five days. While he said that Migri does a thorough and commendable job vetting residence permit applications for people relocating to Finland for humanitarian reasons, authorities could consider a separate track for specialists coming to Finland for professional reasons.

Melanie Dower, head of relocation and onboarding with gamemaker giant Supercell, works with experts joining the company from abroad to ensure that the entire family can settle in Finland. She also commended Migri's work overall, but told APN that the summer slowdown in residence permit processing has to end if Finland is to benefit from foreign professionals.

"That has to change if we're going to be a global country attracting talent from around the world. The southern hemisphere is not on holiday in July and people are waiting to move country and get their families in schools," she added.

Lengthy adjustment time for families

Dower noted that her work with families face a lengthy adjustment process, given that getting a residence permit is just the first step in the process. Upon arriving in Finland, recruits have to register in the population information system at their local registry office. The current waiting time for that process is three to four months, according to Dower. That means children in school for months before receiving a personal ID number.

"So living in Finland is possible, but participating as social beings and contributing is really difficult when you cannot open a bank account or you can't pay rent," she observed.

APN also heard from Migri director general Raimo Pyysalo who said that the agency was under pressure from budget cuts which are preventing it from beefing up staff levels and implementing technology improvements. Ultimately he said Migri officers operate within the confines of Finnish law. If anything is to be done about issues such as slashing the wait for permit renewals, that would require politicians to step in and make legislative changes.

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If you have any questions, or would like to share something on your mind, just contact us via WhatsApp on +358 44 421 0909, on our Facebook or Twitter accounts, or at yle.news@yle.fi.

The All Points North podcast is a weekly look at what's going on in Finland. Subscribe via iTunes (and leave a review!), listen on Spotify and Yle Areena or find it on your favourite podcatching app or via our RSS feed.

This week's show was presented by Egan Richardson and Denise Wall. Our producer was Priya Ramachandran D’souza and the audio engineer was Anders Johansson.

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