Note on 24th of March 2016: This information will not be updated. If you have some questions concerning the current situation in Finland, please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
13th September 2015
ASYLUM PROCESS AND CURRENT SITUATION IN FINLAND
23th September 2015 NOTE: The Finnish media and authorities are spreading misleading information to scare potential asylum seekers away from the country. They are speculating on the possibility to close the border and emphasizing increased checks. This DOES NOT mean that the border is or would be closed.
Immigration authorities now stress that people entering Finland and thinking of applying for asylum have to register as asylum seekers immediately upon arrival. Starting this week people entering Finland via Tornio are checked by the police and directed to a new “registration center” in Tornio. This practice WILL NOT alter the right to apply for asylum in Finland in any way. In fact, the obligation to register is nothing new and the procedure remains quite the same: registration, followed by directing to a reception center somewhere in the country. The applicant cannot choose her/himself the reception center: only if s/he finds private accommodation s/he can choose her/his place of living. The reception center to which s/he has been assigned has to authorize any private accommodation and if it is in another area, s/he has to apply for transfer. The aim of the authorities is to speed up the registration process.
The border guard aims to accompany border crossers in the north to the “registration center” without remainder. E.g. the bus companies are obliged to drive directly to the “registration center” in Tornio.
People are not allowed to leave “registration center” before getting registered, not even to the supermarket. Registrations should be done within 72 hours from arrival. The army and a lot of police are working in the center. The yard of the center will not be fenced but the doors of the center are locked.
The previously said has nothing to do with the guidelines for asylum decisions. Yet these are also subject to change in the near future: Immigration service has announced that there will be a reassessment of the security situation in Iraq and Somalia in the next weeks. According to the present guidelines people from the central parts of Iraq as well as from southern and central Somalia are granted residence permits on the basis of subsidiary protection or humanitarian protection solely due to the security situation in their home region.
Up until 20 September this year, 12,471 asylum seekers have arrived in Finland. 62% of them have come from Iraq and thirteen per cent from Somalia.
Situation of Dublin deportations to Hungary: According to the Refugee Advice Centre (PAN), all Dublin deportations have at this moment been halted either by Helsinki Administrative Court or European Court of Human Rights. However it is not yet clear, whether Finland will take this into account (info from 23th September).
—– Original info from 13th September: —–
The situation in Finland and the direction of decisions might change rapidly as increasing numbers of asylum seekers are now arriving. Thus the following statistics have to be read with caution. In 2014 3706 people sought asylum in Finland, 1346 got asylum, subsidiary protection or protection on other grounds, 2015 got a negative (excluding Dublin cases). By July this year 2414 people had applied for asylum in Finland; 946 received positive decisions (asylum or protection), 633 negative (excluding Dublin cases).
Most important countries and decisions:
2014: Total positive: 119 Negative (excluding Dublin etc.): 44. Total: 206
2015: Total positive: 69. Negative (excluding Dublin etc.): 15. Total: 140
2014: Total positive: 366. Negative (excluding Dublin etc.): 112. Total: 789.
2015: Total positive: 298. Negative (excluding Dublin etc.): 53. Total: 548.
2014: Total positive: 158. Negative (excluding Dublin etc.): -. Total: 246.
2015: Total positive: 233. Negative (excluding Dublin etc.): -. Total: 323.
2014: Total positive: 96. Negative (excluding Dublin etc.): 2. Total: 149.
2015: Total positive: 55. Negative (excluding Dublin etc.): 1. Total: 81.
No nationality (probably mostly Palestinians – unclear)
2014: Total positive: 32. Negative (excluding Dublin etc.): 6. Total: 48.
2015: Total positive: 30. Negative (excluding Dublin etc.): 1. Total: 49.
It’s worth comparing these figures to numbers in e.g. Sweden. There are certain differences with regards to the country of origin of the asylum seekers. Yet we cannot say why: whether it is for instance because more people from some regions of Iraq arrive in Finland than to Sweden. All in all these figures may change very quickly.
Basic information on the asylum seeking process
The application is submitted in Finland to the police or the border authority. The applicant is then accommodated at a reception center if s/he doesn’t look for an apartment or find home accommodation (e.g. through the FB group Refugees Welcome Finland). The police examines the applicant’s identity, travel route and requests a comparison of fingerprints. The police can also put the applicant in detention in case his/her identity or travel route is unclear.
The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) examines whether the applicant: has submitted an application in another country following the Dublin II regulation (EU-countries, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland); has a family member with refugee status in said countries; has a visa or a residency permit granted by one of said countries; or has entered Finland illegally via one of the said countries. In case one of these conditions of Dublin regulation is fulfilled, another state is responsible for examining the application and Migri can return the applicant to the state responsible. At this moment Finland doesn’t return people to Greece. A return may not be implemented if there are “individual grounds”. Most often these are: vulnerable condition, health, pregnancy, and usually the person has to have family or relatives in Finland at the time (for an adult this means: a partner or a child minor of age; for a child arriving alone this means any family member) or fulfill another ground for a residency permit. In some cases Migri has decided not to return someone even to Sweden, when the applicant’s health has been poor. However, usually these “individual reasons” don’t count, Finland follows the Dublin regulation quite efficiently: Even pregnant persons have lately been returned and people are being returned e.g. to Hungary at the moment. In principle even video image of the applicant in another country might be sufficient grounds for the Dublin procedure, yet in the current situation the procedure is mainly based on fingerprints.
If the conditions of the Dublin regulation are not fulfilled, the application will be examined by Migri. In the asylum interview the grounds for applicant’s need for international protection are examined. At the same time whether s/he can get a residency permit based on other grounds is examined: e.g. if s/he cannot be removed from the country or is victim to human trafficking. If the applicant appeals to other grounds, s/he has to submit a separate application (to which a fee applies). All applications are however examined at the same time.
The asylum interview and minutes of the interview are crucial for the decision. The applicant has the right to an interpreter and an assistant. Legal assistance is important, yet currently Finnish reception centers for asylum seekers offer no information on this right. Currently, taking advantage of the situation, there are quite some law firms offering incompetent and outright bogus assistance. The Free Movement Network offers advice on how to find good legal assistance which is free of cost (see contact info below).
The applicant is granted asylum or residency permit based on secondary or humanitarian protection or on other grounds. A residency permit can also be granted on individual, humane grounds. After this the applicant is found a place in a Finnish municipality (this process may however take some time).
Normal procedure: The applicant can appeal to the administrative court.
Express procedure or the application has not been examined (Dublin): removal of the applicant from the country
Following the normal procedure the applicant is allowed to appeal to the Helsinki Administrative Court within 30 days. The applicant can stay in Finland during the time that the appeal is examined.
Appeal is approved: The applicant is granted a residency permit.
Appeal is rejected: Removal from the country is possible.
Permission to appeal to the Finnish Supreme Administrative Court (KHO) can be requested.
If the permission to appeal is granted and the case examined at the KHO, the decision can be positive or negative.
International protection and other residency permits
International protection refers to asylum, that is, refugee status, to subsidiary protection and to humanitarian protection.
Asylum or refugee status is granted if the applicant is outside of his/her country of origin or of permanent residence due to a well-founded fear of persecution in his/her country of origin, for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
If asylum is not granted, an applicant may be granted a residence permit on the basis of subsidiary protection. This applies to cases where the applicant is under threat of death penalty, execution, torture or other inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in the country of origin.
A permit on the basis of humanitarian protection may also be granted if s/he is unable to return safely to the country of origin because of armed conflict or an environmental disaster, for example.
An applicant may also be granted residency on humane grounds. In this case the applicant’s health, ties with Finland, conditions in the country of origin, and his/her vulnerable position are considered. This is not a permit based on protection, and as a result e.g. the right to family reunion is more limited. The applicant also has to collaborate with authorities and try to return “voluntarily” in order to be granted the permit. The permit can be granted for two years, after which a regular permanent permit is granted.
Other important information
The asylum process takes normally 3-6 months. During early 2015 the average time for processing an application was 157 days. It is to be expected that examination times get longer given that the amount of applicants has risen, and even at the moment the real duration of the process is 1-2 years according to a lawyer source, depending however on nationality of the applicant. Lodging an appeal following a negative decision can easily add a year to the process.
After a positive asylum decision or residency permit the applicant can apply for family reunification with his/her nuclear family. There are no income limits (except in residency based on a work permit). There are many practical problems though, for instance for people from Somalia, as the Finnish authorities don’t accept local documents. For more information see: http://www.migri.fi/moving_to_finland_to_be_with_a_family_member
Iraqis who get negative decisions often come from areas considered “safe” or not dangerous (the authorities may claim that they come from these areas based on language tests). On 15th September the Helsinki Administrative Court issued a press release that Kurdish areas and Southern Iraq are considered “safe” (Karbala, Wasit, Najaf, Qadisiya, Missan, Muthanna, Thi Qar ja Basra) and that people from these areas will not be granted permits by Migri (appeals to the Administrative Court will also be rejected). On “individual grounds” people from these areas might still get protection. But generally authorities are willing to deport to Iraq. Yet, recently many people from Baghdad got permits.
Press release in Finnish: (http://www.migri.fi/medialle/tiedotteet/lehdistotiedotteet/lehdistotiedotteet/1/0/hallinto-oikeus_vahvisti_etela-irakista_ja_kurdistanista_tuleville_ei_myonneta_suojelua_62306)
In Somalia, northern Somaliland was seen as “safe” and in Afghanistan at least Kabul. It is clear that people at this moment cannot be deported to Syria, and many Syrians get permits. These are mere examples and the definitions of the authorities may change. We don’t have exact information on the current criteria.
People who get a positive decision normally get a permanent permit. Some people from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia have gotten temporary permits which make normal life in a Finnish municipality possible. They may be granted permanent permits after two years. At the moment however you can only get this kind of temporary permit if you agree to return “voluntarily” but your return is not successful. This concerns mostly people who come from “safe” or not dangerous areas in Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq.
On 12th September the government issued plans to tighten conditions for both asylum seekers and for people already granted asylum. It is however not certain whether these will pass, as arguably they are unconstitutional. More information:
More information on asylum:
Inquiries can be sent to the email of the Free Movement Network: email@example.com
The Network gives advice on asylum and residency permit cases on Wednesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. during a reception hour (Kaarlenkatu 15, Kallio, Helsinki).
WORK PERMIT AS A WAY TO STAY IN FINLAND
In order to be employed as a foreigner in Finland, a residence permit based on work is required. Having a residence permit based on work is a means of residing in Finland legally. It is one of several types of residence permits which are issued.
A residence permit based on work can be applied for from within Finland. You can submit an application for a residence permit based on work if you have come to Finland on some other basis, for example with a visa, or as an asylum seeker, or if you have a permit based on a family member’s citizenship or residency, . If you leave your application with the police, you are, as a rule, allowed to stay in Finland during the time it takes to process the application, even if your visa expires during this period.
If you intend to employ yourself in Finland, you need a residence permit for a self-employed person granted by the state of Finland.
A third-country national with a tourist visa does not have permission to work in Finland (although there are some exceptions: seasonal agricultural work such as berry picking, for example). This applies also to those individuals who have a residence permit in another EU country. A residence permit based on a family relation includes the right to work, as does a permit based on international protection. Students from abroad studying in Finland have a limited right to work, they are allowed to work a maximum of 25 hours per week.
The following things should be paid close attention to when applying for a work-based residence permit:
- The terms and conditions of your work contract must fulfil the criteria required by Finnish legislation and the collective bargaining agreement.
- Finland gives precedence to its own citizens in the labour market: it is easier to get a permit in a sector that has labour shortages.
- If you apply for a residence permit in order to work in Finland, you need to be able to earn a living in Finland through gainful employment throughout the time that your residence permit is valid.
- You must pay the application fee, and officials do not usually use their discretion to the benefit of the applicant: make sure that the criteria required by the permit is met and that the application is filled out with care before it is submitted.
Asylum seeker’s right to work
As an asylum seeker, you are allowed to engage in gainful employment in Finland without a residence permit after three months have passed from the submission of your asylum application, provided that you have a valid travel document that allows you to cross the border. If you are not in possession of such a document, you may engage in gainful employment in Finland without a residence permit after six months have passed from the submission of your asylum application.
As an asylum seeker, you have the right to work under Finnish law, and this is not subject to separate application. If you wish, you may ask the Finnish Immigration Service for a certificate showing your right to employment using form TOD_P. A processing fee of 20 euros will be charged for your certificate request. Sometimes employers will demand to see this document before employing an asylum seeker.
An asylum seeker’s right to work is valid until his/her application has been decided upon and has become legally valid. Validity means that an administrative court, or the Supreme Administrative Court has decided on the matter, or that the Supreme Administrative Court has not granted leave to appeal.
Applying for the work permit
Before applying for a work-based residence permit, you must receive a job offer. If an employer has made you a job offer, this employer must confirm in a separate form that he or she will definitely employ you.
A work-based residence permit is granted to the professional sector that your job belongs to. Thus it is possible to have several jobs in the same professional sector under one permit. If you have a second job offer in another professional field, you must apply for a permit for both sectors within one application. In this case, you may be granted a permit for several lines of trade.
A residence permit application must be submitted personally – the employer cannot do it in your behalf!
If you are already in Finland, submit your application to the police. You will be charged an application processing fee when submitting your application. In 2015, the fee is 500 euros. The fee is non-refundable, even if you receive a negative decision. The police will also collect your fingerprints for a biometric residence permit card.
Processing of work permit and its resolution
The application is processed in two stages:
- The work permit unit of the Employment and Economic Development Office makes a partial decision on the application. During this process it may ask for more information from the employer.
- When the partial decision has been made, the Finnish Immigration Service will process the application and make a decision on it.
The officials will check before making a decision that the terms and conditions of the employment contract are in accordance with Finnish laws and regulations. It takes approximately 4 months to receive a decision. The application will be processed faster if it is filled out properly.
Your employer can ask the Employment and Economic Development Office for prior information as to whether the requirements for granting the permit have been met. If the office does not endorse your application, it is certain that you will not be granted a residence permit with that particular application.
Labour market testing
The process of applying for a work-based residence permit pays close attention to the availability of a national labor force, whose employment is prioritized before a work permit is granted to a non-EU citizen. Practically, this means that if a specific professional sector has significant rates of unemployment among Finnish citizens, it is unlikely that foreigners will be granted a work permit in that sector.
If you have completed a degree in Finland, or if you have a job that requires higher education, you may be eligible for another kind of residence permit, in which case labour market quotas are no longer applicable to your case.
Employment officials decide which professional sectors are in need of foreign labour. Employment officials update these regulations every six months, and they vary by region.
The work permit alignment for 2015 in the region of Uusimaa (Helsinki + surroundings)
At this moment (from 1.1. 2015 onwards, the next review of the regulations is expected in the summer 2015) work permits for non-EU citizens are granted to following professions:
- Chefs, cooks (but NOT pizzeria or kebab cooks or other fast food workers)
- Domestic helpers and nannies working in private households
- Office, hotel, and facility cleaners
- Health care professionals
Cooks and chefs must be qualified professionals, with a record reflecting their status as either educated or well-experienced workers. The amount hours worked must be at least 90 hours per three week interval. In the cleaning sector, the employer must employ a worker for a minimum of 37.5 hours per week, or if there are fewer hours available the earnings paid have to be equal to a full-time employee’s paycheck.
Minimum income requirement
To be eligible for a work permit, it is required that your income is sufficient to sustain yourself. Your income is calculated from net earnings, meaning the portion of your salary you take home after income taxes and social security contributions are deducted. In 2015, the minimum income to be met in order to meet requirements is 1000 euros per month (the gross earnings per month have to be approximately 1200 euros).
Minimum income must be guaranteed by the employment contract, so the contract cannot be a zero-hour contract (for example between 0-36 working hours per week). If you work on the weekends or in the evenings, the extra pay must be distinguished from the regular salary in the form filled out by the employer.
The employer must guarantee stable income for each month, otherwise the permit will not be granted. When after one year the permit has to be renewed, it will be verified that the minimum income requirement has been fulfilled. Minimum income has to continual, and be paid to an account each month (e.g. it would be considered unacceptable if you earn 3,000 euros in one month and nothing during the following two months), otherwise the permit may not be renewed.
A family member may apply for a residence permit on the basis of family ties
If you intend to work in Finland and you are granted a work-based residence permit, your family may apply for a residence permit the basis of family ties. The minimum income requirement then also applies to your family members, and will increase based on the size of your family. A family of two adults and two children must have total net income of 2,600 euros per month (1000 + 700 + 500 + 400 euros).
If you are having problems with your employer
Relationships between employers and employee in Finland have to respect Finnish laws and international agreements that bind Finland. The employment contract must also be in accordance with the collective labour agreement, if the professional sector in which you work has one. These agreements determine work-related rights and obligations, such as the rate of minimum wage. The purpose of these agreements is to protect employees.
It is unlawful to force an employee to consent to inadequate pay, excessive working hours, or dangerous working conditions.
If you are a member of a trade union, you may ask for help from your union representative. Another source of information if you encounter problems with your employer is the Free Movement Network’s advice reception.
Generally speaking, it is always a good idea to keep a record of your working hours per day, and to make a copy of the diary of working hours if your workplace maintains one. If you need to fight against your employer on the basis of inadequate pay, you will have to be able to prove that you haven’t been paid what your are rightfully due.
If you suspect your employer of human trafficking violations concerning yourself or someone else, you can find help via the www.humantrafficking.fi website.
Finnish Immigration Service: http://www.migri.fi/
The Police: poliisi.fi.
Local TE-offices (job seeker services): http://toimistot.te-palvelut.fi/uusimaa-tyolupa-asiat.
Inquiries can be sent to the email of the Free Movement Network: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Network gives advice on asylum and residency permits on Wednesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. during a reception hour (Kaarlenkatu 15, Kallio, Helsinki).