Are you an entrepreneur from a country outside the European Union? Do you have a brilliant idea to create a startup business and earn money with it? Do you think Finland is the best place to setup your successful small-sized company and grow fast internationally? Are you ready to move to Finland to work hard and make your project real?
If the answer to these questions is affirmative, you may benefit from the Finnish Startup Permit, which since April 1st 2018 gives international entrepreneurs an opportunity to establish in Finland and develop their business ideas. This is a new type of residence permit designed just for people who want to create a startup in the country.
One month to process the permits
Processing a Startup Permit takes about one month. This is a relatively quick way to settle in the country without having to go through the slow and cumbersome process of applying for an ordinary residence permit.
However, do not get too enthusiastic yet because in order to get it you must fulfil some very strict requirements. Some of them are so specific regarding the nature of your activity and the resources you must have in advanced that have been criticised even by the Federation of Finnish Enterprises (Yrittäjät).
So before starting to celebrate it, check if you can meet the following general conditions stated by the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri), as explained on its website:
- Before submitting the Startup Permit application, the entrepreneur must apply for an Eligibility Statement from Business Finland. This is an organisation created in 2018 to develop in Finland an attractive and competitive innovation environment where companies are able to grow internationally and succeed. The Eligibility Statement must certify that Business Finland has evaluated your business model and concluded that it "has the potential for fast international growth".
- After, the entrepreneur must apply for the Startup Permit to the Finnish Immigration Service. Migri will not evaluate either the suitability of the business idea nor the entrepreneurship capacity of the applicant. This is why a favourable Eligibility Statement from Business Finland must be attached to the residence-permit application. This Eligibility Statement must say that Business Finland supports the idea and cannot be more than two years old.
- The expected processing time for a Finnish Startup Permit is about a month at the Finnish Immigration Service. The processing fee of an online application is 450 euros and 520 euros for a paper application.
- The granting of a residence permit requires that the applicant has secure means of support and also that the other general requirements for granting a residence permit are fulfilled.
Conditions to get the Eligibility Statement
The described above are the criteria for the Finnish Immigration Service. As you can see, they will not support any kind of startup: this is a system created to attract to the country just teams of highly skilled professionals with otherworldly abilities, people who already own the resources to set up their companies and are capable to develop profitable business models with potential to grow fast and internationally. People who, besides that, meet all the other general criteria to reside in Finland.
So if you are thinking of moving to Finland and establishing a different type of business than one oriented to high technology, probably your are already thinking that it is better to try another gateway. The conditions established by Business Finland for deciding who is eligible for one of these permits say it even more clear. In order to succeed, applicants should have:
- A startup team of not less than two founders with versatile expertise.
- The intention of founding a fast growth company in Finland.
- An innovative business plan.
- Commitment to the business idea and eventually building of the company.
- Significant holding in the company (for example, the team applying for the permit must own no less than 60%).
- Access to sufficient resources and funding for the company's early stage development.
- Secure financial means for support their stay in the country.
Business Finland's evaluation criteria
When you have sent all the materials to prove that you can count on everything described above, the experts of Business Finland will then evaluate your application. To do it, they will focus on your business plan, the capabilities of the team that you proposed and your resources. At that time, the Business Finland decision-makers will love to see that:
- All members of the team understand what need the product or service idea meets.
- The team has identified a potential base of customers and earnings model and has initial plans to grow its business internationally.
- The team has estimated the size and business potential of the target market.
- The team has versatile expertise.
- The value created in the new company accumulates in the Finnish economy.
- Business Finland will not expect the startup team to have confirmed financing at the time of application. However, "in the application process an adequate level of financial means has to be shown", they insist.
At this point, the reader has probably noticed that the model of the Startup Permit targets a very specific type of entrepreneur, who already has everything (a brilliant and profitable idea, a good team, a good business plans and own resources) to develop its business somewhere else but still wants to come to Finland just because of its innovative environment.
As explained recently in declarations to YLE by Kaisu Keisala-Kaseja, the Immigrant Entrepreneurship Coordinator for the Finnish Federation of Enterprises, the "problem" is that this system is created "for the IT people, for the new really cool unicorns or how they are termed. It is only helping a very small group of entrepreneurs".
Keisala-Kaseja believes that the program does not seem suitable to promote regular small or micro enterprises outside of the technology sector. So, she believes it is making even a two-class division between "those who get a specific visa faster and those who need to wait very long". "And actually, the normal businesses could be more productive for Finnish society because those startups, they many times fail", she explained.
Application and info links
If after reading this summary you believe that the Startup Permit is the suitable gateway for you, the first thing you should do is to elaborate your business plan and submit it to Business Finland. You can do it anytime, since there are no deadlines.
- Describe your business plan according the instructions given in the Template for the Eligibility Statement Request
Submit your Eligibility Statement Request and other necessary documents to Business Finland by using the secure e-mail service available HERE
If the residence permit decision is positive, you will be granted a continuous residence permit for two years. When this period expires, you can apply for an extension of the residence permit on the same grounds if the start-up entrepreneurship continues.
Finnish Startup Permit is no intended for planning to establish a Finnish subsidiary or a branch office of a foreign enterprise.