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Migration Review: Migration to Finland based increasingly on employment and studies

Ministry of the Interior
Publication date 8.5.2019 9.41
Press release 35/2019
Photo: Riku Isohella

Written by the Ministry of the Interior, the Migration Review provides current information about developments in labour migration and the asylum-seeker situation as well as about recent legislative amendments.

In 2018, an increasing number of migrants applied for a residence permit on the grounds of employment or studies. Statistics have shown a similar trend for a few years running now. Last year, the number of first residence permit applications on the ground of employment totalled 10,805 (2017: 8,650), and 7,687 applicants (2017: 6,751) were granted a residence permit on this ground.

In the previous term of government, several legislative amendments were introduced to make it easier for entrepreneurs and experts to move to Finland, and thereby promote economic growth and employment.

"The basic premise is that, in addition to the domestic workforce, Finland needs employees also from abroad. There is intense competition in the world for international talents," says Jorma Vuorio, Director General, Migration Department, Ministry of the Interior.

The residence permit system must be as smooth as possible so as not to complicate the recruitment of talents to Finland. A preliminary study commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior last year looked into the causes of delays in the work permit process and into what could be done to address them. This spring will see the appointment of a coordination group, which among other things will coordinate the development of the work permit process.

The migration of students and researchers has also been made easier. Following a legislative amendment that entered into force in September 2018, the duration of residence permits of researchers and students from non-EU countries was extended, and these groups are encouraged to take up employment and entrepreneurship with a relevant residence permit. In addition, in March 2019 the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of the Interior launched a cooperation project to support the entry and integration of higher education students.

Major decline in numbers of asylum seekers

Beneficiaries of international protection represent a relatively small percentage of people moving to Finland despite this group of migrants being a prominent topic of public debate. The number of new asylum seekers has already fallen to below the level seen before 2015.

However, the Finnish asylum system is still overburdened as the number of clients registered in the reception system is decreasing slowly. This is affected by the asylum procedure having been prolonged by there having been large numbers of applicants in previous years, the numbers of re-applications submitted, the increased difficulty of returns and the unattractiveness of voluntary returns.

Recent legislative amendments have reduced opportunities to abuse the re-application procedure and accelerated the asylum procedure. A legislative amendment in force since July 2018 requires the Finnish Immigration Service to, as a general rule, process asylum applications within six months of their submission.

Finland has continued bilateral negotiations with Iraq and Somalia concerning the return of their citizens. To accelerate voluntary return, support for assisted voluntary return was increased at the beginning of 2019 as regards in-kind assistance. In-kind assistance means a variety of services or supplies, including help in finding a home or starting a business.

Reform of the Common European Asylum System continues

Negotiations towards the reform of the Common European Asylum system have continued in the European Union. Issues of the Dublin Regulation relating to themes including solidarity and responsibility-sharing have yet to be solved.

"Reform is difficult but necessary. Border checks currently take place at many borders between Member States, which is against the basic idea of the Schengen Area. It may, however, be difficult to discontinue these checks if the Union cannot reach a common view on immigration policy," Vuorio says.

"The main points are in any case clear. The EU common immigration policy must be sustainable, respect fundamental and human rights and be commonly approved by citizens."

During its Presidency of the Council of the EU beginning in July, Finland will seek to contribute towards breaking the deadlock in the negotiations and promote reform of the asylum system. The measures taken by the next Commission concerning the reform are likely to be known at the end of the Finnish Presidency at the earliest.

The Migration Review brings together current migration issues from the perspective of policy formulation and legislation. The review is published once or twice a year, and it is compiled by the Ministry of the Interior’s Migration Department.


Jorma Vuorio, Director General, tel. +358 295 488 600, [email protected]
Mari Helenius, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 488 214, [email protected]
Anna Rundgren, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 488 210, [email protected]