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The art of getting a Finnish residence and work permit

October 19, 2006
Disclaimer: My experiences have been totally different than those of other foreigners in Finland. Some have had a relatively easy time with the authorities, others have had nightmare experiences. This commentary reflects my opinion and mine only. Do NOT use this as a reference for "how to get a work permit in Finland".
I just got my passport renewed recently, which meant I had to transfer my Finnish residence permit from my old one into my new passport.
Getting the paperwork done for work and residence permits (if you have a job) is actually a relatively painless process in Finland. Compared to the mountain of paper one has to file in Canada (for example), you only have to fill out a form, provide proof of work (to cover your butt), provide a picture and pay the fees.
For people who are married to a Finn I have heard getting a permanent residence permit is a no-brainer. For those wanting to stay in the country on their own merits (work, study, as a single person) – it’s a whole different can of worms. This is what I have had to endure over the last eight years and I am not alone. However, I am sure that the numbers of folks who have come to Finland for work are outnumbered by the folks who came to Finland for love.
Now lots of Finns do not know the hoops foreigners have to jump through in order to live and work here. When I came to Finland to work, I came on a temporary B5 permit. Yes, when you come to Finland you are issued a permit with a classification depending on your reasons for being here (study, work, marriage to a Finn). When I realized that I really wanted to stay, I looked for another job (found one) and my employer helped me get my next work permit, which was a B4. Then I upgraded to a B2 and then a B1. B class permits mean that you are a temporary worker in Finland and (I believe) unless you are employed, the authorities can ask you to leave the country… Don’t quote me on that though as my experience has been very different from others I have met here. The key to getting different classes of permits (B4 is better than B5, B2 is better than B4, etc.) is to ASK. I made sure I asked for a better class of permit every time I filed my application so that it would make my life easier the next time around. To make a long story short, I was finally granted a permanent residence permit, but it
took six years to get it.
Now during all of this permit rigmarole, I met the Mr. and living with him doesn’t make any difference in the decisions made by the authorities. Common-law relationships do not make the process any easier. In fact living with him has had no bearing on any residence permit decision at all.
With the exception of my first two permits, I have always filed my papers in Espoo (or Kirkkonummi) and have never had any long waits and have gotten my passport back within a matter of weeks. This is not what I have heard about the "Alien’s affairs" unit in Helsinki. (I love it – foreigners are ALIENS in Finland… last time I checked my skin was not green and I didn’t have three eyes or anything like that.) I have heard about killer line ups and people having their passports seized for months on end. As an "alien", this doesn’t seem very fair, but hey – when in Finland and dealing with red tape (which has gotten worse*) you have to kowtow to the authorities…
* I had to fill out an eight-page form – just to get a permit transferred to my new passport. It wasn’t like this just a few years ago. The forms ask for a lot more personal detail than in the past.
Okay, so I am a permanent resident of Finland, but not a citizen… Which leads to the next question I am often asked – Will I apply to become a Finnish citizen? That’s another commentary I will save for some other time.
9 Comments leave one →
  1. anonymous permalink
    March 28, 2011 3:17 pm

    I understand that I’m very late to the game, but I just breifly checked about B class permits. They’re not about work as such. B class permits are simply temporary permits. I assume different B permits simply state different reasons for residence.

    That said, the permit can be cancelled if you’ve moved out or resided elsewhere for two years “in permanent purpose”. Unless there is a valid reason, that is.
    Other reasons are lying or withholding information in your application, deportation, and the basis on which the permit was granted no longer being valid. The last one seems to be stated as more like a possibility than something that will automatically happen.
    It still seems, though, that all of this is at least technically discretionary.

    I think the whole thing about common-law arrangements (assuming it is the way you’ve stated – didn’t check that) is sort of out of line with how they are handled otherwise. There has been some development to move the legal status of common-law couples closer to marriage.

    I’m actually against that development. It assumes mutual consent to a lot of things. It is not unheard of two people of different sex who are simply room mates to automatically against their will end up in a common-law marriage.

    If you really intend to seriously spend your life with someone with certain assumed official legal benefits, I don’t think it is unreasonable to require you to confirm this officially. That is what marriage IS in its legal aspect. And it is the legal aspect that we are talking about here.
    (You don’t have to get married in a church, if you think the religious or spiritual aspect isn’t (yet) there. You can do it in maistraatti.)

    • March 30, 2011 1:10 pm

      Well you certainly are a little late in the game – heh! 🙂 I have to say that not once was I ever asked about my living arrangements, which I am going to assume the authorities knew about for taxation purposes. Would the fact I was living with my then-boyfriend (now husband) made a difference on my residence permit? I don’t think so. I am married now, so it makes no difference these days.

      I do know people who have gotten an A permit right off the bat and they were not married to their Finnish partners… The system doesn’t seem consistent.

  2. September 23, 2013 8:49 am

    It is the 5th month I am waiting for my residence permit. Starting to loose hope.. :/

    • September 25, 2013 7:05 am

      😦 Not good! And I suppose they have basically said, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”?

    • kay permalink
      January 12, 2014 3:56 am

      hello. are the police keep the passport with them when apply for resident permit?

      • January 13, 2014 11:28 am

        Yes Kay, the police keep your passport until your permit is issued.

  3. vincent permalink
    May 10, 2016 1:25 am

    Hello, I intend taking a degree(bachelor) programme in finnish but I have to learn finnish first. I’m confused about the application process.
    Do I have to be in finland already(living in finland), before I can apply or before my application can be processed.
    Please I need your advice to go about this,


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