By delivering food for Wolt, Muhammed Musah’s monthly turnover exceeded 5,000 euros.
This spring, Finnish immigration authority Migri rejected private entrepreneur Muhammed Musah’s application for a residence permit because his earnings as a food courier were not “credible”.
The agency said Musah’s earnings at Wolt were suspiciously high, with his average monthly turnover as a self-employed food courier averaging €5,632 last year.
Musah, originally from Ghana, graduated with a Masters in Chemistry in 2020 from the University of Eastern Finland. Unable to find work in his own estate, he got busy delivering food for Wolt in Joensuu.
He said his goal was to earn enough money to meet immigration requirements to enable his wife and three children to move to Finland. Authorities require a family of five like Musah’s to bring home 2,900 euros a month after tax.
Mushah said if he had worked in a restaurant, instead of becoming a courier, he would not have been able to meet the income threshold.
From Migri to Ely
As Musah is self-employed, Migri sent his residency application to a local economic development center (Ely-centres). Officials there said it was “unrealistic to expect a similar salary trajectory over time.”
“I couldn’t believe this decision. I submitted bank statements and accounting as requested, and now it turns out I’m earning too much,” Musah said.
Yle has seen the official documents relating to Musah’s case.
The Ely-centres play a central role in questions of residence permits for entrepreneurs. Migri will automatically refuse a permit that has not been recommended by an Ely office.
Musah claims his high turnover is due to hard work, saying he used his car to deliver food at least five days a week for around 12 hours a day.
“Every morning my goal was to make 200 euros that day. Some days I made 160, some days I got 250 euros,” said Musah, who has lived in Finland for four years.
Ely said his decision was based on Wolt’s own figures indicating that very few couriers have turnovers above 4,000 euros per month. However, news emerged that couriers were withdrawing 9,000 euros per month (in Finnish).
Musah said he spent some 6,000 euros on Finnish residence permit applications for his wife and children last summer. The family traveled from Ghana to Nigeria, the site of the nearest Finnish embassy. His regular income from Wolt was the basis of the requests, which were ultimately denied.
“I want to educate my children in Finland and support my family here,” he said.
Musah said he had not seen his family since last summer in Ghana. Now he cannot leave Finland because he is appealing Migri’s decision with the help of a lawyer, who advised him to become an employee during the appeal process.
Acting on that advice, Musah now works in a restaurant while continuing to deliver meals for Wolt part-time. But since becoming a restaurant owner, Musah’s income has plummeted, leaving him with less money.
Lawyer: The attitude of the agency has changed
City Ponto (not Musah’s lawyer), an immigration lawyer, said the Ely-centres have taken a tougher line on residency permits for entrepreneurs.
“The argument that an income isn’t credible is quite typical these days in central Ely decisions,” he said.
A catering entrepreneur may, for example, be suspected of paying undeclared workers if the company’s turnover is relatively large compared to wage costs.
Punto, however, said it was strange that a residence permit was refused on the sole basis of suspicion and without further investigation.
“If an Ely-center suspects someone of employing moonlighting, shouldn’t they share their concerns with the authorities who can investigate the matter?” Puto asked.
The Ely center in Uusimaa handles all applications for residency in the country sought on the basis of business ownership.
Katri Koivisto of Uusimaa Ely-center, however, denied that the agency had changed its policy on business owner permits. She said, however, that the platform economy has increased the number of applicants for residency based on entrepreneurship. She added that it was more common for low salaries – not high ones – to lead to negative decisions.
Although Koivisto declined to comment on Musah’s case specifically, she said the claims were denied due to a number of factors, not just one issue.
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