Work permit as a way to stay in Finland
In order to be employed as a foreigner in Finland, a residence permit based on work is required. Having a residence permit based on work is a means of residing in Finland legally. It is one of several types of residence permits, which are issued.
You can apply for a residence permit based on work from within Finland. If you have come to Finland on some other basis, for example on a tourist visa, or as asylum seeker, or if you have a permit based on a family member’s citizenship or residency, you are able to submit an application for a residence permit based on work.
If you intend to employ yourself in Finland, you need a residence permit for a self-employed person granted by the state of Finland.
A third-country national with a tourist visa does not have permission to work in Finland (although there are some exceptions: seasonal agricultural work such as berry picking, for example). This applies also to those individuals who have a residence permit in another EU country. A residence permit based on a family relations includes a right to work, as does the permit based on international protection. Students from abroad studying in Finland have a limited right to work, they are allowed to work a maximum of 25 hours per week.
When applying for a work-based residence permit you should pay close attention to the following things:
- The terms and conditions of your work contract must fulfil the criteria required by Finnish legislation and the collective bargaining agreement.
- Finland gives precedence to its own citizens in the labour market: it is easier to get a permit in a sector that has labour shortages.
- If you apply for a residence permit in order to work in Finland, you need to be able to earn a living in Finland through gainful employment throughout the time that your residence permit is valid.
- You must pay the application fee, and officials do not usually use their discretion to the benefit of the applicant: make sure that the criteria required by the permit is met and that the application is filled out with care before it is submitted.
Asylum seeker’s right to work
As an asylum seeker, you are allowed to work in Finland without a residence permit only after three months have passed from the submittal of your asylum application, provided that you have a valid travel document that allows you to cross the border. If you do not have such a document, you may work in Finland without a residence permit only after six months have passed from the submittal of your asylum application.
As an asylum seeker, you have the right to work under Finnish law without any separate application. If you wish, you may ask the Finnish Immigration Service for a certificate showing your right to employment using form TOD_P. A processing fee of 20 euros will be charged for your certificate request. Sometimes employers will demand to see this document before employing an asylum seeker.
An asylum seeker’s right to work is valid until his/her application has been decided upon and has become legally valid. Validity means that an administrative court, or the Supreme Administrative Court has decided on the matter, or that the Supreme Administrative Court has not granted leave to appeal.
Applying for the work permit
Before applying for a work-based residence permit, you must receive a job offer. If an employer has made you a job offer, this employer must confirm in a separate form that he or she will definitely employ you.
You need to have a valid travel document and legally reside in the state where you do the residence permit application. If you are not a citizen of the state in which you do the application you have to show proof declaring that you are residing legally in that state (residence permit, visa, refugee certificate or registration as asylum seeker)
A work-based residence permit is granted for the professional sector that your job belongs to. Thus it is possible to have several jobs in the same professional sector under one permit. If you have a second job offer in another professional field, you must apply for a permit for both sectors within one application. In this case, you may be granted a permit for several lines of trade.
A residence permit application must be submitted personally – the employer cannot do it in your behalf!
If you are already in Finland, submit your application to the police (abroad to a Finnish embassy). You will be charged an application processing fee when submitting your application. In 2017 the fee is 450 if submitted online and 520 euros if submitted on paper. The fee is non-refundable, even if you receive a negative decision. The police will also take your fingerprints for a biometric residence permit card.
Processing of work permit and its resolution
The application is processed in two stages:
- The work permit unit of the Employment and Economic Development Office makes a partial decision on the application and might include demands for more information from the employer.
- When the partial decision has been made, the Finnish Immigration Service will process the application and make a decision on it.
Before making a decision, the officials will check that the terms and conditions of the employment contract are in accordance with Finnish laws and regulations. It takes approximately 4 months to receive a decision. The application will be processed faster if it is filled out properly. You cannot start working before the visa is issued.
Your employer can ask the Employment and Economic Development Office for prior information as to whether the requirements for granting the permit have been met. If the office does not endorse your application, it is certain that you will not be granted a residence permit with that particular application.
Labour Market Testing
The process of applying for a work-based residence permit pays close attention to the availability of a national labor force, whose employment is prioritized before a work permit is granted to a non-EU citizen. Practically, this means that if a specific professional sector has significant rates of unemployment among Finnish citizens, it is unlikely that foreigners will be granted a work permit in that sector.
If you have completed a degree in Finland, or if you have a job that requires higher education, you may be eligible for another kind of residence permit, in which case labour market quotas are no longer applicable to your case.
Employment officials decide which professional sectors are in need of foreign labour. Employment officials update these regulations every six months, and they vary by region.
The work permit alignment for 2018 in the region of Uusimaa
At this moment (from 15.1.2018 onwards) work permits for non-EU citizens are granted to following professions in Uusimaa:
– Health care professionals
– Chefs, cooks (but NOT waiters, pizzeria and kebab cooks or other fast food workers)
– Domestic helpers and nannies working in private households
– House builders, concrete and iron builders, carpenters, plumbers, roof technicians, roof repairers, plasterers and construction painters
– Office, hotel, facility and home cleaners
Cooks and chefs must be qualified professionals, with a record reflecting their status as either educated or well-experienced workers. The amount hours worked must be at least 90 hours per three week interval. In the cleaning sector, the employer must employ a worker for a minimum of 37.5 hours per week, or if there are fewer hours available the earnings paid have to be equal to a full-time employee’s paycheck.
Builders and construction workers must be qualified. Qualification can be proved by showing certification of education or work experience. In the case of construction workers the employer needs to insure the worker and pay at least a salary according to the sector specific collective labour agreement. Concerning domestic workers employers must insure the worker and pay at least the minimum salary specified in national policies.
Minimum income requirement
To be eligible for a work permit, it is required that your income is sufficient to sustain yourself. Your income is calculated from net earnings, meaning the portion of your salary you take home after income taxes and social security contributions are deducted. In 2015, the minimum income to be met in order to meet requirements is 1000 euros per month (the gross earnings per month have to be approximately 1200 euros).
Minimum income must be guaranteed by the employment contract, so the contract cannot be a zero-hour contract (for example between 0-36 working hours per week). If you work on the weekends or in the evenings, the extra pay must be distinguished from the regular salary in the form filled out by the employer.
The employer must guarantee stable income for each month, otherwise the permit will not be granted. When after one year the permit has to be renewed, it will be verified that the minimum income requirement has been fulfilled. Minimum income has to be continuous, and to be paid to an account each month (for example it would be considered unacceptable if you earn 3,000 euros in one month and nothing during the following two months), otherwise the permit may not be renewed.
A family member may apply for residence permit on your behalf
If you intend to work in Finland and you are granted a work-based residence permit, your family may apply for a residence permit on your behalf on the basis of family ties. The minimum income requirement then applies also to your family members. A family of two adults and two children must have total net income of 2,600 euros per month (1000 + 700 + 500 + 400 euros).
If you are having problems with your employer
Relationships between employers and employee in Finland have to respect the Finnish laws and international agreements that bind Finland. The employment contract must also be in accordance with the collective labour agreement, if the professional sector in which you work has one. These agreements determine work-related rights and obligations, such as the rate of minimum wage. The purpose of these agreements is to protect employees.
It is unlawful to force an employee to consent to inadequate pay, excessive working hours, or to dangerous working conditions.
If you are a member of a trade union, you may ask for help from your union representative. Another source of information if you encounter problems with your employer is the Free Movement Network’s advice reception.
Generally speaking, it is always a good idea to keep a record of your working hours per day, and to make a copy of the diary of working hours if your workplace maintains one. If you need to fight against your employer on the basis of inadequate pay, you will have to be able to prove that you haven’t been paid what your are rightfully due.
If you suspect your employer of human trafficking violations concerning yourself or someone else, you can find help via the www.humantrafficking.fi website.
Reliable sources of information are:
The website of the Finnish Immigration Service
The website of the Police
The local Employment and Economic Development Offices.
Free Movement gives advice for doing permit applications during its advice hours every Wednesday 5-7 pm. Kallio, Helsinki.