An international expert earning 4,000 euros a month should be able to receive a work permit in Finland within one week, the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) has demanded.
"These experts are in demand elsewhere and do not wait long for the work permit to be processed," said Director Ilkka Oksala in EK newsletter
Employment Minister Timo Harakka has deemed this target unrealistic.
“Will the next demand be that it should be taken care of on a daily basis?” he asked in an Yle's Ykkösaamu programme on Saturday.
The Finnish Immigration Service has come under fire for delaying residence permits of first-time applicants. This year, the average wait period for the handling of a first-time residence permit is 52 days — more than double last year's average of 25 days, according to Migri's figures.
"We have a backlog of 20,000 applications"
Prime Minister Antti Rinne's cabinet had set a one month goal for handling of work-based residence permits. Migri, which currently has a sizeable backlog of applications, told Yle News it is facing a budget cut and will find that challenging.
"Our resources are going down — ten percent this year, ten percent next year, and this will affect our capability to manage the applications. If we don’t get extra budget resources, we should be able to handle about 90 percent of the applications next year. This year, the level is about 100 percent — we have been able to handle the same number of applications as have come in. But we have a backlog of about 20,000 applications in the system at the moment," Migri Deputy Director-General Raimo Pyysalo said, adding that there is a huge gap between the government's "very challenging" goal and the resources allocated to them.
It was reported last week that the Finnish Immigration Service is looking to cut down on staff from around 1,000 to 900, according to Migri director Jaana Vuorio.
Migri: "We can't hire more people"
Online forums in Finland are rife with discussions on how the long wait periods for the first permit has led applicants to lose out on the original offer and other job opportunities.
It’s not just first-time applicants who are in a state of limbo. Many foreign residents in Finland who have applied to renew their residence permit have told Yle News they are left confused about whether they are allowed to exit and re-enter the country during the wait period.
"You need a valid residence permit to enter the country," said Pyysalo. "Of course there are possibilities to work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get a visa, but I don’t think that would be a solution for this issue. It’s a problem with the long management times — we are aware of the issue, but there’s not much we can do because we can’t hire more people."
There seems to be no workaround around the delay even for those who have had their first residence permits approved.
"All our actions are based on the Finnish legislation — the Aliens Act — which needs be changed before we can take short cuts in any issue," Pyysalo added.
Nearly 300 specialist applications in queue
Last year, over 10,000 first applications for residence permits were made on the basis of the work, of which 8,650 permits were finally granted. The types of work residence permits in Finland can vary depending on if you are an employee, an entrepreneur, researcher or a cultural professional.
For instance, entrepreneurs can apply for a startup residence permit, which requires a green light from Business Finland, a state-funded startup financier.
According to Migri, a specialist is usually a highly-educated graduate with a gross income of at least 3,000 euros per month.
The EU Blue Card introduced in Finland in 2012 is targetted at non-EU professionals who have an agreed employment relationship of at least one year for highly-skilled employment. The minimum monthly salary for EU Blue Card workers in Finland is 4,732 euros as of this year.
Over the last 12 months, Migri said it has granted first residence permits to over 1,500 specialists. More than half of them are Indians, earning an average of 4,006 euros per month, according to latest figures from Statistics Finland.
"Indian ICT workers are a significant group," Pyysalo said.
Professionals from Russia, China, the US and Brazil are also at the top of the list of specialists working in Finland.
There are nearly 300 specialist applications in the queue right now.