A customer entering an office of the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) in Helsinki in October 2019. Migri has warned that without additional investments in its ability to process work-based residence permit applications, the number of pending applications could exceed 200,000 by 2027, reports Helsingin Sanomat. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES for processing work-based residence permit applications are required to avoid major difficulties with work-based immigration from outside the EU, argue the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) and Ministry for Foreign Affairs, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

The difficulties arise from an increase in the number of work-based residence applications, which has continued with the exception of the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, 2020.

While Finland received fewer than 6,500 work-based residence permit applications in 2015, the number had more than tripled to nearly 21,000 in 2022.

“If you do not make investments that exceed the current framework and the application numbers continue to develop according to the current trend, by the end of the government programme term the queue for permit issues awaiting resolution will have grown to an estimated over 200,000 and the system will have become seriously congested,” Migri warned in a document presented to the four parties formulating the next government programme – the National Coalition, Finns Party, Swedish People’s Party and Christian Democrats.

Migri explained that the system is at risk of becoming congested because, without additional funding, it will not be able to continue automating its processes and will have to rely on its employees to clear backlogs manually.

Simultaneously the agency would have to reduce its staff due to an increase in other operating costs.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has similarly warned about upcoming challenges linked to work-based immigration. Jussi Tanner, the head of consular services at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, told Helsingin Sanomat on Thursday that a number of consular offices abroad have relatively limited resources to process applications, a fact that could become problematic especially if the application numbers continue to rise.

“The situation is under control at the moment. In India, for instance, we’re getting 100 residence permit applications a day, whereas a year ago that number was 28. This year, at least twice as many visas will be granted than last,” he noted.

“The situation is unsustainable if the number of applications increases also in the coming years. We’d then simply not have enough hands. We and Migri have ideas, but we need to have enough people and tools.”

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is responsible for both receiving residence permit applications at its consular offices abroad and granting short-term work permits.

Work-based immigration has expectedly been one of the more divisive issues of the ongoing coalition formation negotiations. While the Finns Party has insisted on restricting work-based immigration, the other three parties have viewed that it should be increased to tackle labour shortages.

It has been reported that the parties have agreed to raise the income limit on non-EU employees from roughly 1,300 to 1,600 euros a month.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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