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New law in Finland will grant int’l students extension on residence and work permits

Studying in Finland: Amendment to student resident permit announced
Under the new law, non-EU students in Finland will not have to renew their residence permit for the duration of their studies, and may apply for a two-year work permit after graduation. Source: University of Helsinki

Good news, international students: there is now another reason to love the happiest country in the world. If you’re looking into studying in Finland, now might be the best time to make the move — the country has just passed a new law on April 15, 2022, granting international students residence permits for the entire duration of their studies, Helsinki Times reports. 

Previously, foreign students in Finland would have to extend their residence permit every year or two even with uninterrupted study. The change, which is intended to attract more global talent to the Nordic country, would also grant non-EU students and researchers a two-year jobseeker’s permit. 

“By doing away with the need to apply for a residence permit separately for each academic year, the new legislation makes international students’ lives easier,” Elina Immonen, Deputy Director-General of Finnish Immigration Service, was quoted saying. “The amended rules also make sense from the perspective of public authorities, as residence permits can always be withdrawn if the relevant conditions are no longer met.” 

In a press release, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland clarified that students and their family members are entitled to a residence permit corresponding to their years of study. The work hours for non-EU students will increase from an average of 25 hours to 30 hours weekly. Graduates may apply for the work permit within a five-year period after graduation, and may even do so from abroad. 

Studying in Finland has become easier with a new law

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin had proposed that President Sauli Niinistö greenlight the legislation on March 13, 2022, with the law going into effect two days later, YLE reports. Source: Aris Oikonomou/AFP

“With seamless permit practices, the government wants to make it easier for international students and researchers to stay in Finland. The new law will enable those who have studied here to look for work and will make Finland a more attractive destination for international experts,” Finland’s Minister of Employment, Tuula Haatainen, was reported saying in the statement. 

Old conditions still apply for studying in Finland

While the new law is a win for non-EU students and signals Finland’s readiness to compete with other countries in the global higher education race, prospective students will still need to abide by existing conditions before they can begin studying in Finland. 

Foreign students will only need to produce proof of funds for a year of their studies in Finland, regardless of the total length of time required for graduation, the press statement read. Students will be responsible for living costs, and will be closely monitored by the authorities in their ability to have a secure means of subsistence throughout the validity of their residence permit. 

Non-EU students are still obligated to pay tuition fees, and are not entitled to receive financial aid from the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela), according to Helsinki Times.

The new legislation was first proposed in February 2022. Current students will undergo a change in the status of their international student visas from the “B” (temporary) category to “A” (continuous), effectively reducing the duration of residency needed to qualify for fFinnish citizenship. 

“This is yet another signal to international students, namely that they are welcome to take part in the Finnish job market and to become members of Finnish society,” Immonen was quoted saying.

The work permit extension will certainly give more breathing room for graduates to secure employment in the country. For international students, starting their career in Finland can prove challenging, as not all fields of study offer jobs before graduation, according to Study in Finland. Prospective employees might also require fluency in Finnish or Swedish for their application to be considered.