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Summer berry season: Ukrainians employed on farms; Thai wild berry pickers must have an employment contract for the first time

Publication date 14.6.2024 10.50 | Published in English on 14.6.2024 at 11.34
Press release

Every summer, foreign workers work on Finnish berry and vegetable farms. Traditionally, seasonal workers have come to Finland especially from Ukraine. This year, some wild berry pickers also need a residence permit.

Most seasonal workers come to work in Finland for a short period in the summer. If a seasonal worker comes from a visa-free country, they shall apply for a certificate for seasonal work from the Finnish Immigration Service. It allows them to work in Finland for up to 90 days. A seasonal worker from a country subject to the visa requirement shall apply for a seasonal work visa at a Finnish embassy or consulate. Seasonal workers with an employment contract longer than 90 days will require a residence permit for a worker in seasonal employment from the Finnish Immigration Service. EU nationals do not need a separate seasonal work permit.

In 2023, seasonal workers submitted 1,830 certificate applications by the beginning of June. This year, 1,506 applications for certificates have been submitted so far. In addition, in 2023, seasonal workers applied for 805 residence permits in Finland by the beginning of June. This year, seasonal workers have submitted 1,201 applications for residence permits.

“The nationality of applicants for a certificate for seasonal work reflects the visa liberalization for citizens of Kosovo. Last year, the largest groups of seasonal workers were the Ukrainians, Moldovans and Serbians. This year Kosovo has risen to third place after Ukraine and Moldova,” says process owner Tuuli Huhtilainen.

Ukrainians have traditionally been the largest group of applicants for seasonal work certificates. This year, too, they account for 83% of all certificate applications. In addition, those who have fled Ukraine and have applied for and been granted temporary protection are free to work in any job. Since the Russian invasion, more than 67,000 refugees from Ukraine have been granted temporary protection.

“Ukrainians are still employed as seasonal workers, but because a large number of them stay in Finland with temporary protection status, they do not need a separate seasonal work certificate,” says Huhtilainen.

Some wild berry pickers need a residence permit for an employed person

In addition to seasonal workers working on farms, wild berry pickers arrive in Finland in the summer. This spring, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has suspended the reception of Schengen visa applications for wild berry pickers in Thailand. The suspension applies to all applicants in countries within the consular district of the Embassy of Finland in Bangkok: Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar. This means that Schengen visas will not be issued to wild berry pickers from these countries for the summer 2024 harvest season.

As the Seasonal Workers Act does not apply to the picking of wild berries, pickers need a residence permit for an employed person. In other words, for the first time, pickers are working in an employment relationship with a company in the berry industry. Having an employment contract with relevant terms of employment is the first requirement for being issued a residence permit for an employed person.

“We acknowledge the risks of human trafficking in the sector and examine the conditions of pickers in Finland as a whole in close cooperation with other authorities. All relevant authorities from the police to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs are kept up to date on the matter at all times. Our goal is a smooth and safe entry into Finland and good working conditions for all,” says Huhtilainen.

Applications for a residence permit for an employed person are processed in two stages. First, an Employment and Economic Development Office (TE Office) makes a partial decision that includes labour market testing. The Finnish Immigration Service then assesses the risks and conditions of residence in the country and makes a decision on the application.

Applications will be processed before the season begins

Seasonal work permits for picking cultivated berries have been applied for well in advance, and most applicants receive a decision before the season begins. In January–May, applicants received a positive decision on an application for a seasonal work certificate on average within 16 days. Applicants for a short 3-6-month seasonal work permit receive a positive decision on average within 28 days and for a 6-9-month permit within 35 days.

Applications for a residence permit for an employed person have been submitted and appointments made at diplomatic missions for the purpose of picking wild berries during May. It is known that an estimated 1,300 applications for residence permits for an employed person will be filed for the picking of wild berries and the maintenance tasks at picking camps. Only about half of these applications have been received by the Finnish Embassy in Bangkok so far.

“We have a relatively short time to process this exceptional number and entity of applications,” says Huhtilainen.

On average, in May, applicants received a positive decision on an application for a first residence permit for an employed person in 27 days. This total processing time includes all stages of the process, i.e., identification at the Finnish embassy or consulate, partial decision-making at the TE Office and the Finnish Immigration Service’s decision.

“We are making efforts to have decisions made on all applications before the bilberries are ripe for picking,” says Huhtilainen.

Further information for the media

Press release