Consolidation of foreigners’ permit affairs in Finland
At the start of 2017 almost all matters related to the handling of permits of foreign nationals were consolidated to the Finnish Immigration Service. This means that since the beginning of this year all residence permit and EU-registration matters are handled in the service points of the Immigration Service rather than police stations, which was the case before. The changes won’t affect the basis for decisions, but the process will become more uniform. We believe that this will lead to potentially faster processing times in some cases down the line. At the start of the transitioning period the Immigration Service hopes for patience from its customers due to possible delays. Good foreign employee management and support practices in official registrations are highlighted in such situations. For companies this change may mean learning new procedures.
The shift in responsibilities reduces the number of location in Finland where registrations can be done. This leads to longer distances to services in many areas. There are nine service points in total and they are located in the largest cities across Finland: Helsinki, Lahti, Raisio, Lappeenranta, Tampere, Vaasa, Kuopio, Rovaniemi, and Oulu. Many of these are net migration cities, which already attract a relatively large number of immigrants.
The authorities ask for the applications to be filled in electronically. Regardless of whether the application is filled electronically or on paper, a personal visit to one of the service points is required within three months of filing the application. Booking an appointment is highly recommended, but in many cases the closest available times may be a few months away, unless preparation for rapid reaction is part of normal operations. At the time of writing the closest times to Helsinki are at the end of February or March, depending on the type of permit. Queuing is also an option, but in that case one has to arrive hours before the office opens and still needs to prepare for a long wait. In either case, the application must be filled, either electronically or on paper, and all attachments prepared diligently before meeting with the authorities. Incomplete applications or attachments may delay the processing of the application considerably. A specialist’s assistance will ensure that documents are correct and complete on the first try. Otherwise there is a very real risk of a new, long, and expensive waiting period.