Untangling red tape to Enter Finland

Immigration is one of the most influential trends affecting the modern world. In 2013, nearly 1.4 million non-EU nationals emigrated into the EU alone. With more and more people emigrating to a new country to study or work, there is an increasing demand to handle the immigration process more efficiently and with a human touch. Since 2010, the average number of people applying for their first residence permit in Finland has been around 22000 persons annually. Approximately half of them would like to study or work.

The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) was quick to understand this and set out to make the process of immigration as intuitive as possible. With immigration services often making the very first impression of Finland on newcomers, it is essential to provide concrete support to people dealing with the already complex journey of moving to a new country. From the start, Migri’s goal was ambitious: to design the very best eService in the world.

How did we do? The least we can say is that the new eService, named Enter Finland, has been warmly welcomed amongst its users. In a 2016 survey with more than 2000 users, 93% of applicants gave it a positive rating. They stated the service is ‘very good’ (53%) or ‘good’ (40%), with a further 6% remaining neutral in their assessment. Also, the vast majority of users (95%) said they would recommend it to their friends. We believe that its our unique approach that enabled this avalanche of positive feedback. We redesigned the service around the core needs of the different internal and external users. In April 2016 the project was given the Service Design Gold Award at Finland’s most recognized design and advertising award “Vuoden Huiput”.

When we begun the work, Migri already had a long-standing relationship with Accenture, so alongside Fjord, all three teams combined together in order to review, identify and improve the overall operational efficiencies through a better experience for all users; for the people filing applications as well as the staff processing them. The emphasis of the project was to help simplify the overall application process for people who were planning to move to Finland to study or work. This was the challenge we set out to tackle with the Finnish Immigration Service.

Our aim was to design the best eService in the world.
Monna Airiainen eService Project Lead, MIgri.

Empathy for the users

Immigration and the experience of tackling paperwork were at the core of the project, so it was particularly fitting that Fjord’s designers involved in the project have moved to Finland themselves from Germany and the US. This meant that we could truly empathize with the immigrants’ struggle with bureaucracy and the whole immigration process itself. We used our own experience and insight to seize the opportunity to redesign the service and make it exceptional.

If you can buy a tram ticket easily in Finland on your mobile, we thought why wouldn’t we extend this type reliability and flexibility to applying for a residence permit? It is clear this didn’t mean that the criteria of getting a visa or citizenship would change. But we knew we could help make the application flow a lot smoother for everyone.

We began the project with a workshop with designers from Fjord, the Finnish Immigration Service and Accenture attending. Our first goal was to discover what the actual problems were. We ran user tests, created several personas to understand and identify their overall experience in filling out different application types, creative exercises to understand the vision of the service, and reviewed customer feedback to better understand the actual users’ needs.

It became evident that the old service was confusing, with too much information given all at once. The new eService would need to result in fewer incoming support calls, increased customer satisfaction, less paperwork and a more meaningful online experience aimed at enriching immigrants’ first impression of Finland, as well as 1.7 million euros in overall savings. With our key performance indicators (KPI) in place, we now had an appropriate vision of what we wanted to achieve with the new Enter Finland service.

During the design process, we tried to put ourselves in the immigrant’s shoes via personas we created based on our customer interviews and research. Our key persona was a Peruvian exchange student who we referred to throughout the entire service experience. This allowed us to create a design that was actually helpful for our core user. We also considered different life and family situations. What if this person had a child or a spouse? How would these family ties affect the immigration process? Considerations like these provided us with a tool to design a service for people with vastly different personal backgrounds. We wanted to make the Enter Finland experience so smooth that the user could finish the application in one sitting without having to look for information elsewhere.

We also had to take into account that not everyone using the service was going to be a digital native who is familiar with eServices. Enter Finland has a step-by-step structure guiding the user in the right direction, helping to ensure that there is never too much information on the display at once. Once the user has filled out a specific part, the service suggests the next logical step. The service shows which part of the application the user is currently working on, so it is easy to keep an eye on the progress. This was a particularly frequent request from customers. We also made sure to put in a safeguard to prevent users from accidentally sending an incomplete application.

The team delivered something we are really proud of.
Vesa Hagström CIO, Migri

Continuing to make immigration easier

Fjord kept the client’s vision and the user-friendly focus closely in mind throughout the project. The new eService has been a success for the client, for Accenture, and for us. For us this project was a unique opportunity to deliver an experience we wish we could have had ourselves. Improving a service funded by taxpayers has given us the chance to participate in something that has a concrete impact on society. This gave a truly special and personal aspect into our work.

Enter Finland helps the Finnish Immigration Service to provide better, user-oriented service to immigrants and their families. The benefits of the redesign are already evident. Six months after Enter Finland was launched, half of all citizenship applications come through the eService. We were even happier to learn that more than four students out of five used it to file their residence application. The increased use of the service means a more efficient workflow for Migri, which means for the applicants that they get an answer quicker. The time to process a student residence permit application is 33 days with a paper application and 23 days with Enter Finland; the eService is approximately 30% faster. For a residence permit application for an employed person the process is on average 37% shorter with the Enter Finland. The processing time is down from 139 days with a paper application to 87 days with the eService. In the 2016 user survey, 92% of users said they could complete the whole process unassisted.

Design work never stops. Immigration, legislation and immigrants themselves are constantly changing, and Enter Finland needs to change accordingly. We continue to work on the design with the client to answer new challenges, improve the existing service and ensure that Enter Finland continues to welcome new people into the country by offering them an easy immigration process.