New Delhi: Aiming for better bilateral trade ties and more people-to-people contact with India, Finland is planning to reduce the time taken to grant work visas from approximately 52 days to under 15 days by next year.
India and Finland have strengthened their relationship in the last decade with the annual bilateral trade of goods and services between the two countries crossing USD 2.5 billion.
In an interview to PTI, Finnish employment minister Timo Harakka said that his government plans to reduce the time taken to grant work visas to just one to two weeks by next year.
The move is aimed primarily at attracting more software professionals from countries like India, he said.
"For these expert visas and for these expert work permits, which require a certain (level of) income, but are also on the express lane on permits, we are aiming to get these things handled in one or two weeks," the minister told PTI.
"We are looking to shorten the time frame. This we can be achieved next year because we are shifting the whole process of immigration -- work-based and study-based immigration -- to my Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment from the Interior Ministry," he added.
The average time taken by Finnish immigration service, known as Migri, to grant first-time residence permit or work visa is 52 days.
Between October 2018 and October 2019, Migri granted first-time residence permits to over 1,500 highly-skilled information and communications technology (ICT) professionals. Around 50 per cent of them were Indians.
When asked if Finland has done any assessment on how many software and ICT professionals it would be needing in next three-five years, Harakka replied, "I think the number would be in thousands, if not tens of thousands. Indians are the biggest community in that sector but there is a constant need for ICT and software professionals in the Finnish companies which aim to be global champions. I think we have demand that is unsatiable." "Since Finland is a small country and is not always on the top of mind of Indian students and talent, we want to promote the idea that Finland is an English-speaking country. All of us speak fluently in English.... Secondly, for a third year in row, we have been nominated as the happiest country in the world," he added.
On the talks that have been going on between India and European Union since 2007 regarding a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Harakka said "individual companies are investing very strongly as we speak" irrespective of a trade agreement.
"Obviously, this could be increased by securing a level playing field both ways. There are always sensitive areas. But if we can ensure fair deal and fair compromise where both Europe and India need to open up sectors for competition, this (FTA) could be agreed (signed)," he added.
Harakka on Thursday met Union Minister of Railways and Commerce Piyush Goyal, Union Labour Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar as well as Minister of State for Tourism and Culture Prahlad Singh Patel.