The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) announced by the end of 2019 a "considerable reduction" in residence permit processing times.
The immigration agency did so after receiving harsh criticism from employers, students and foreign workers, who sometimes have to wait half a year or even longer before joining their educational institutions or companies, simply because the permits do not arrive on time.
The Government of Finland has promised to put an end to those long delays, which in some cases make foreigners lose job opportunities or an academic semester.
Specifically, the Ministry of the Interior said at the end of the year that in 2020 the deadlines set for the processing, which for employment-based residence permits is one month, will be reached.
However, it is not all good news for the immigrants. The above described promise made by the department headed by Maria Ohisalo was accompanied by the announcement of a significant increase in the fees that the Finnish Immigration Service will charge for processing residence permits.
And this increase especially affects employees and entrepreneurs. As of 1 January 2020, the processing fee for a paper-based application is 640 euros (previously 600 euros) and for online applications 490 euros (it was 400 euros before). In addition, Migri began charging customers 50 euros for unattended appointments.
Why processing times are so long
It is soon to know if this increase in charges for customers, which the Government justifies by saying that it is necessary to bring prices closer to the real cost of the service, Migri may have more resources in the future to reduce processing times up to a month.
The immigration agency lists on its website a list of reasons why the delivery of a residence permit can be extended both in the case of workers and entrepreneurs.
In this sense, Migri argues that some work-based permits have "fast processing times, such as the residence permits for specialists and seasonal workers."
However, in the processing of some other work-based permits -for employees, entrepreneurs and startup entrepreneurs- other authorities are also involved and decisions are made in two stages. In those cases, it is necessary that the other authorities issue an evaluation before the case is left to Migri.
- With the residence permit for employed persons, the Employment and Economic Development Office (TE-office) must make a partial decision on the application first, after which the application goes to the Finnish Immigration Service for processing.
- The process for residence permit for an entrepreneur also has two stages. The applicant must prove the business is profitable, and the livelihood of the entrepreneur must be secured by the income from the business. In this case, it is the ELY Centre who assesses these requirements.
- A startup entrepreneur must also obtain a positive statement from Business Finland before applying for a residence permit.
Besides, sometimes authorities need to request further information from the applicants. And for all those reasons the application processing time may be longer than expected, the Finnish Immigration Service says.
The agency now charges 50 euros if an applicant does not show up for an appointment. But they propose them not to ask for an explanation when processing times are not met. Even if delays prevent them from working or studying after paying very high immigration fees and, sometimes, even university tuition fees.
"If the expected processing time has been exceeded, you do not need to contact the Finnish Immigration Service. We are still processing your application, and we will contact you if we need to," it says on the website.