An increasing number of expats are moving to Finland to enjoy its beautiful scenery, amazing culture and near-idealistic society. More are arriving to work in its emerging industries, especially in the booming Finnish tech field.
According to YLE, there were over 1,000 more work permit applications submitted this year than the previous year. But this has created a problem for those hoping to live the expat dream in Finland – their work permits are taking forever to process and it is threatening their ability to live in the country.
For EU citizens or those applying for residence permits on different grounds, such as students, asylum-seekers or based upon family ties, the process is fairly straightforward. But to those outside of the EU applying for a work permit, they could be waiting for over a year to receive it.
The first problem is that non-EU residents cannot come to Finland just to find work. They need to already have a job offer from within the country.
The second issue is that while they can live and work in Finland while waiting for their permit to be processed, they would not be allowed back into the country if they were to leave. This means they cannot visit home during this time, even for a family emergency or a religious holiday that isn’t observed in Finland. To some expats it is becoming so bad, they are giving up on living in Finland entirely.
The government has set a target to process all applications within four months – two with the local employment office and two with the Migri immigration service. Yet these targets are far from being met. As of June 2018, 3,000 applications were still in-progress.
This issue shows that as idealistic as Finland is in many ways, it does have a major problem with bureaucracy. It is not only work permits that have faced delays; expats have also had problems gaining their health insurance cards, tax cards and unemployment support.
But the biggest major cause of the backlog is a lack of staff to process the applications. The number of people applying for work has increased, but the number of staff processing them has stayed the same. In the Uusimaa region, which includes the capital city of Helsinki, only 13 staff members are processing 2,000 applications.
The government is trying to improve their poor bureaucracy by hiring more staff members, but it may already be too little too late. For expats to Finland, there is unfortunately little that they can do other than submit their work permit applications in plenty of time. Students hoping to stay in Finland to work should arrange their new jobs well before graduation if they can.
Another option would be looking for work in a less-populated part of the country, where there is much less of an application backlog. Unfortunately, most jobs for expats are in the more populated cities of Helsinki and Turku, and these cities are also much more trendy and sought-after by expats. For now, all expats in Finland can do is hope for the best.