Workshop results: Student’s experiences of residence permit application processes

In late March 2018 Inland arranged a workshop about student’s residence permits. The workshop included eight current students in Helsinki universities, representing seven different countries (both EU- and non-EU countries). The aim of the workshop was to collect student’s experiences of Migri’s services and develop ideas for improvement.

The workshop started with sharing personal experiences of the service when applying for a residence permit, positive and negative, and also exploring what wishes students had for the service. Then, the group was divided into two smaller groups, where they placed the challenges from the discussion on the application process timeline. Next, participants continued with ideating solutions based on the challenges mapping. As a result the two groups suggested improved application process experiences.

During the workshop, a couple themes emerged:

  • First, the participants were happy with the EnterFinland website, Migri’s digital application platform, but wished that applying and booking appointments could be handled through the same platform.
  • Second, many said that the staff in service points are nice and helpful. However, some described how they rely on information from friends because finding and recognising the right information can be challenging.
  • Third, the participants would like to keep being updated on the application process, and receive reminders or notifications after applying. At the moment getting the decision can take several months. While waiting for the decision the system only informs the customer that their application is being processed, and customers receive notification in case they need to submit additional documents. At the time of the workshop customers could get an estimation of how long it will take to process their application, by using a calculator in Migri website. This service is now extended with the use of Migri’s chatbot.

Group 1

Group 1 worked on clarifying the application process steps. In their suggested application process, the documents are simpler and elements are combined. For example, when applying for a renewal, it should be possible to access older submissions.This in turn speeds up the process as there is no need to re-submit information that did not change. Furthermore, the group suggested that the experience can be improved by increasing playfulness of the website and if the service could offer links to other sources of information. This way the service would take care of its core task but support customers when they navigate through other public services, that affect their stay in Finland.

Group 1: suggested application process adapted from the timeline canvas.

Group 2

Group 2 presented their solutions through two imaginary users: Rabbit who is applying for the first time, and Cat who wants to extend their residence permit. When mapping challenges it became apparent that most of the challenges occur in the beginning of the application process. After submitting an application procedure is quite straightforward, and not many post its were added there. To clarify the beginning of the application process and support getting the right information, the group suggested to gather the service on one website, including a chat option for questions. After applying and getting the permit, the suggested system also sends notifications and reminders; during the application about the status and later about the need to renew the permit. Other suggested development areas include improving the system for counting study credits, and giving more links to other sources of information that support a student’s stay in Finland.

Group 2: suggested application process adapted from the timeline canvas.

Conclusions

During this workshop we heard some great positive feedback about students’ experience applying for residence at Migri. The EnterFinland website makes the application process nice and easy. Migri’s customer service points and staff was another highlight for the workshop participants. Finally, attendents discussed that once an application is submitted, the process is straightforward and easy. We collected many ideas for improvement, that will be taken further in the co-design process. Ideas varied from smaller improvements like using less plastic cups in the service points to broader ideas of rethinking websites.

In Inland, we talk a lot about “co-design”. We often get questions about what it means, because it’s a very new term to many people. Perhaps this workshop provides an illustrative example of “co-design” in action. The “co-” in co-design stands for collaborative or cooperative. Thus, co-design is all about collaboratively designing solutions together with your users and stakeholders, to ensure that solutions truly meet their needs and are usable.

Some links to the current issues regarding student’s:

New chatbot answers questions about processing times and contact details (Published May 14, 2018)

Tips for international students applying for a residence permit (Published June 5, 2018)

Student: follow the processing queue on our website or in Enter Finland (Published June 28, 2018)

Legislation on students and researchers from outside the EU to be amended (published March 22, 2018)

Writer: Anna Kokki

Contributors: Suse Miessner & Kristin Swan

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