The Helsinki Business Hub has developed an interesting approach to attracting world class talent. The 90 day Finn program seeks to remove many of the barriers of relocating from the United States to Finland and trust that Finland itself will persuade people to stay. An invitation to experience Finland for 90 days during which time the country where citizens rank #1 in overall happiness can romance American workers into emigrating sounds like the plot of a romantic comedy, not an immigration policy. But the crazy thing is, it just might work.
Other countries have made attempts to entice remote workers. Barbados offers a special work visa for remote employees. The Irish island of Arranmore (Árainn Mhór) penned open letters touting how remote friendly the location is. And Germany offers free tuition for Americans looking to earn graduate degrees and in some cases even pays a living stipend. So what makes the 90-Day Finn program different?
The Helsinki Business hub points to the following accolades as reasons to settle down in Finland:
- #1 happiest country in the world
- #1 best work life balance
- #1 best country for expats
- #1 environmentally healthy county
- #1 in venture capital funding in Europe
I was curious where America fell on some of these rankings. So I did a little digging. I used the city Washington, DC when the entire country was not available.
- Washington, DC comes in #18 in current life evaluation (happiness)
- Washington, DC comes in #28 in work life balance
- Out of 36 countries surveyed, the United States sits at #32, just above Oman, of expats surveyed for family and well being.
- The United States has an Environmental Performance score of 69.3 compared to Finland’s 78.9
- The one item on this list where the United States tops Finland is on Venture Capital attractiveness. The US still sits at the tops of the University of Navarro’s Venture Capital and Private Equity list.
The 90 Day Finn program is the most comprehensive I have seen. It offers to remove much of the risk associated with uprooting a family and moving them across the globe. The program pays relocation costs, housing costs, to help fill out paperwork. They will even pick you up at the airport!
I believe my family and I are part of the intended audience for 90 Day Finn. My wife is a freelance graphic designer that has been helping local and remote customers for nearly five years. I run the software engineering shop for a fully remote start-up that is focused on solving systematic inequality baked into the tax system. We have three young children who love exploring the outdoors and have yet to start in person elementary school. We have both lived outside the United States for more than a year and have friends in Europe, including Finland. With the political and environmental climate in America looking so uncertain, our family has been asking questions about what the future holds.
Other countries have tried to attract skilled labor through offering free tuition. Germany offers free tuition to students and scholarships through DAAD will even cover living expenses. Why? The same reason America created an immigration fast track for immigrants “who [are] of distinguished merit and ability” in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. The section of the law that prioritized skilled labor, often referred to as the H-1B immigration program, makes sense. Specialized labor spurs innovation and growth. America has taken a different approach in recent years. In October 2020, the White House issued a fact sheet describing changes to the H1-B program that would tighten restrictions, making it harder for skilled foreigners to enter the country. A very different approach to talent than the 90 Day Finn program.
I’ve got to admit, I am more than intrigued to try Finland. The signs point in the right direction. The Finnish Sauna, Finnish meatballs (sorry Sweden, Finland has a slight edge here), and beautiful scenery are extremely convincing. Would I participate in the 90 Day Finn program? Absolutely. Would I stay longer? I’ll let you know after our first date. What I can say is if Finland lives up to the hype, how could I say no?