Are you planning to move to Finland and wondering how the immigration process goes? The official immigration process to Finland varies slightly depending on the nationality of the person moving. There are also matters to take note of both before and during the immigration process.

Citizens of EU and EEA countries have a different path compared to those coming from outside these countries.

“EU and EEA citizens can stay and work in Finland for up to three months, after which they need to apply for the registration of their right of residence as an EU citizen at the Finnish Immigration Service. During the registration process, it is verified that they have a valid reason and sufficient means to stay in Finland,” explains Harriet Mallenius, Customer Relations Manager at the Finnish Immigration Services.

EU and EEA citizens can only apply for registration while being in Finland. The registration can be done through the Enter Finland digital service, but it is also necessary to visit a service point of the Finnish Immigration Service to prove one’s identity and present the required documents. You can do the registration at International House Helsinki (IHH).

There are exceptions for citizens of Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark, as these Nordic countries have agreements on common labour markets and free movement between them. Citizens of these countries can enter Finland without a passport and reside in Finland without registering their EU right of residence.

Non-EU and non-EEA individuals need to apply for a residence permit in advance

Individuals coming from countries outside the EU and EEA need a residence permit if they plan to stay in Finland for more than three months.

The first residence permit application must be submitted primarily before entering the country. There must be a valid reason for the residence, with common reasons being family ties, employment, and studies.

“You can submit the application in paper form at any Finnish diplomatic mission, of which there are over 90 around the world”, Mallenius advises. “Another option is to use the electronic service called Enter Finland. Submitting the application through Enter Finland is cheaper and often faster.”

The application process always requires a visit to a Finnish diplomatic mission to prove one’s identity and present the required attachments. Afterward, the mission officer initiates the process.

When the application is ready for processing, an officer at the Finnish Immigration Service examines it along with the attachments. The decision is then communicated to the applicant electronically or at the diplomatic mission, and after receiving the decision, the residence permit card can be obtained from the mission.

“If someone planning to move to Finland, and especially to the Helsinki capital region, has questions about immigration, International House Helsinki can help”, says Service Manager Juho-Tuomas Järvikangas from IHH.

“Even before the move, we offer various pre-arrival support services. A good starting point for making relocation plans is to attend IHH’s Newcomer Information Sessions”, Järvikangas adds.

Read more about the IHH’s pre-arrival support services and Newcomer Information Sessions.

How long does the application process take?

“The processing times vary depending on the grounds for the residence permit, but most applications are processed within the expected time or even faster. Some applications are decided immediately during the visit or shortly after the submission”, explains Mallenius.

When planning to move to Finland, it is important to find out the expected processing time for applications. It is also necessary to check if any documents need to be translated or legalised.

The application should be submitted only after obtaining all the required information and documents. Missing or incomplete information may result in longer processing times and even a negative decision.

Read more about translation and legalisation, and about the processing times.

Matters to take note of during the immigration process

Applicants may be confused by the different requirements for each type of application. It is advisable to clarify these requirements early on to avoid surprises during the application phase.

Some types of applications also have financial requirements that need to be met, which can pose obstacles.

“A common challenge is the lack of required documents or delays in obtaining them. Therefore, it is important to prepare the documents and familiarize oneself with the requirements in advance”, reminds Mallenius.

Personal visits to diplomatic missions in other countries may be necessary for specific matters. Apart from the initial residence permit application, collecting the residence permit card may also require a visit to the mission. Similarly, if the application is based on family ties, there may be a need to travel to the mission for a possible interview.

“Applicants should find out which diplomatic mission they need to visit for personal matters and take into account that, in addition to the application processing fee, there may be additional costs due to travel,” notes Mallenius.

Before initiating the immigration process, it is advisable to clarify the following points:

  1. What are the grounds for immigration in your case?
  2. Does the financial requirement apply to you, and do your resources suffice for living in Finland?
  3. What are all the documents required for the application?
  4. Do you need to translate or legalise any documents?
  5. If your application requires a personal visit to a diplomatic mission, check the location of the nearest mission.

For more information, please visit the Finnish Immigration Service’s website or contact International House Helsinki’s general information and guidance.