After talking to friends hoping to move from Silicon Valley to Europe, and going through a frustrating year of working with Migri, I wrote to Director of Migri Jari Kähkönen in September and included a list of recommendations for attracting talent to Finland.
Here are the recommendations (and rationale):
A growing number of my colleagues now work remotely from Iceland, Portugal, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Bali, Costa Rica, Taiwan, Singapore, Estonia, Germany and other places. Many expect to return to the SF Bay Area after the pandemic, but some will likely stay in their new home countries.
This is an opportunity for Finland. I hope to move my family here because of Finland’s reputation as a country with a stable social democratic government, benefitting from a high level of social cohesion and trust, which is enormously appealing in uncertain times. The education system has a strong reputation overseas, and the quality of life in terms of healthcare, education, technological sophistication, progressive politics and work/life balance are tremendously attractive to foreigners. The fact that most urban Finns speak English, and that it is the official language in many companies, is also important. Finland is seen overseas as technologically advanced, enlightened, stable and supportive. If you wish us welcome, others will follow.
1. Fast track. Create a fast track for highly qualified talent and a separate unit that manages it end-to-end. Remote identification, 48h processing time. These people will make outsize contributions to the Finnish economy. Do not rely on your existing Migri processes if you wish to welcome and retain them.
2. Remote worker residency. A type D visa for U.S. tech employees working from Finland, inclusive of their families. Requiring Silicon Valley companies to create Finnish subsidiaries for temporary remote workers is a nonstarter. Even multinationals like Facebook and Google prefer to retain their remote workforce in their U.S. cost centers.
3. Investor visa. For investors applying for residency to Finland, inclusive of families. Due to their work many investors wish to keep both U.S. and European residencies and they should be able to spend part of the year in Finland. 13 other European countries offer investor visas. New Zealand has found their investment in New Zealand multiplies in a few years.
4. One step process. Permanent home address registration, national ID card, strong identification, and Suomi.fi and Omakanta credentials should be automatically issued with the residency permit. The current Kafkaesque morass of in-person appointments, paper documents and confusing online flows should be replaced with a modern automated system.
5. English language schools. Finland fails to capitalize on its reputation for excellent education by not investing in a meaningful way in an English language school path. Despite claims about increased capacity, only one of Helsinki’s schools offers an English language track and the European School & handful of private schools in the Helsinki area are full with waitlists. New English language school tracks should urgently be established.
6. Targeted talent attraction. I know from experience from my investments that talented individuals move in groups. Hire a team of American-Finnish marketers located in the U.S. to compete with the other countries. The window of opportunity has opened, and Canada and others are advertising on billboards on Silicon Valley’s 101 freeway.
Tech companies’ shift to remote work coupled with climate change, the pandemic, China’s expansive authoritarianism and U.S. domestic politics make Finland surprisingly attractive. Now’s the time to act.
I recommend working with a service design firm on designing the fast track process.
I have not yet received a response.