A new ‘fast-track’ scheme will make it easier for Greenland firms to hire foreign labor

The arrangement will allow some firms to hire workers from abroad before their immigration paperwork is complete.

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Excavators in Sisimiut, Greenland. Construction firms are expected to be one of the main beneficiaries of the new scheme. (Kevin McGwin)

Starting on September 24, Greenland businesses in industries facing labor shortages will be able to hire foreign workers and have them begin working before they are approved for a work permit.

Known as a fast-track scheme, the arrangement allows foreigners to begin working as soon as they have been offered a job by a pre-approved Greenland firm.

“Once the scheme goes into effect, firms will be able to recruit and hire people more quickly,” said Mimi Karlsen, Greenland’s minister for social affairs and labor.

Typically, it takes three months to approve a work permit for an employee who is not a citizen of a Nordic country.

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Under the current rules, before a non-Nordic citizen can be permitted to apply for a permit to work in Greenland, the firm looking to hire the person must spend at least two weeks trying to find a qualified domestic candidate. If the firm is unable to do so, it then must ask for permission from the local council to hire someone from abroad.

Firms seeking to hire foreign workers under the arrangement must be able to prove that their industry is facing a labor shortage, and that they are offering the same pay and conditions offered to local hires.

The biggest beneficiary of the fast-track scheme is likely the construction industry. Employers say they often need to hire new employees faster than the current system allows, and, with full employment in some areas, they are concerned that an increase in activity would require them to begin looking for employees beyond the Nordic region.

Other industries expected to make use of the scheme are tourism and mining, according to the employment ministry.

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Immigration has not been devolved to Greenland from Denmark, but while Denmark has had its own fast-track scheme since 2015 for citizens of non-EU countries, Naalakkersuisut, Greenland’s government, did not approach the Danish immigration authorities to discuss the shape of a similar arrangement for Greenland until 2019.

In February, those discussions resulted in Greenland adopting a fast-track scheme that permitted foreign health care workers who were approved to work in the Kingdom of Denmark to take a job in Greenland’s health service prior to being issued a work permit.

However, concern on the part of labor advocates and leading voices in the previous government that opening up the arrangement to all firms would lead to an influx of underpaid foreign workers stalled progress on a general fast-track scheme.

The current, IA-led Naalakkersuisut has been in favor of the scheme and after coming to power in April re-started talks with officials in Denmark.

“Naalakkersuisut believes the fast-track scheme will contribute to continued economic growth in Greenland,” Karlsen said.