Top experts often have to wait months for Finnish residence permits, even though they are nearly always granted.
Prime Minister Antti Rinne's government says it wants to boost work-based immigration, but companies say that bureaucratic red tape and delays hamper their recruitment of foreign experts.
This week the CEO of Finnish gaming giant Supercell, Ilkka Paananen, tweeted in Finnish that "this is a catastrophe that be seen everyday at Supercell, for instance. People with world-class know-how who would be very good taxpayers are ready to come to Finland, but our bureaucracy blocks us from bringing them here. A world-class creator is not going to wait 3-4 months for a permit."
Statistics from the Immigration Service (Migri) confirm that permit processing times for foreign specialists have clearly grown. This year the average wait for handling of a first-time residence permit is 52 days, more than double last year's average of 25 days.
Processing of applications to extend existing permits is dragging on even longer, now taking an average of 67 days.
Migri boss blames budget shortage
"The average should not rise by that much," Migri Director Jaana Vuorio conceded to the Finnish news agency STT.
To qualify as a specialist, an applicant must usually have a binding job offer in Finland with a gross income of at least 3,000 euros per month and a higher education degree.
Almost all such applicants are eventually granted residence permits, with the largest number of them coming from India.
Vuorio says the increase in processing times is partly due to workforce shortage and a budget shortfall.
"At the moment application fees only cover three quarters of the cost of handling them. We have a financing shortfall, which has led to a staff shortage," Vuorio said.
Target: 1-month maximum
She says that another reason why applicants are having to wait longer for replies is that Migri is increasingly obliged to ascertain whether their promised salaries are really at the required level.
The number of people applying for work-based residence permits has risen as well, she notes. Vuorio says she does not believe that the number of asylum seekers' applications – which has fallen in recent years – affects the processing time for specialists' permits.
Rinne's cabinet says its goal is for work-based residence permits to be handled within a month. Migri and various ministries are now looking for ways to relieve bottlenecks in the application process.
Sonja Hämäläinen, Migration Director at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, says that application forms are being revised in order to provide more precise information and reduce the need for further queries and investigations.
Applicants are also being urged to fill out forms electronically as this speeds up the process compared to printed versions.