Download MIPEX III Finland in Finnish (pdf)



Finland remains a net immigration country, though numbers fell from a 2008 high. More unaccompanied minors and asylum seekers have recently sought protection in Finland. Labour migration decreased, while family and student applications are unchanged. Policies focus on attracting more students and workers, and fewer groundless asylum seekers.

Finland also remains a country with slightly favourable integration policies, scoring 4th overall behind SE, PT and CA. Even its areas of weakness (citizenship, long-term residence) are better than what most newcomers experience on average in Europe. Still, they encounter many obstacles on several key dimensions where Finland lags behind a range of countries, not only SE: residence equality for spouses and families, eligibility for long-term residence, discretion in naturalisation, intercultural education and new opportunities in schools.

However, little has improved for newcomers over 3 years of policy making. Indeed, Finland’s biggest MIPEX improvement, on access to nationality, stemmed from a court case. Years later, politicians have yet to implement a clear, professional and encouraging path to naturalisation. Debates may intensify in the run up to 2011 elections.

Timeline - What's Changed

0 March 2007
Access to nationality
Proposal on citizenship to shorten residence requirement and facilitate requirements for foreign students
+3 July 2007
Access to nationality
Supreme Court confirms temporary residence permit counts for eligibility
0 August 2008
Access to nationality
Ratification of 1997 European Convention on Nationality and 1968 Convention on statelessness
0 October 2008
True Finns gain seats 
Right-wing populist party “True Finns” gained more seats than ever in municipal elections
+1 November 2008
7.11.2008/679 – Amending Act on Ombudsman for Minorities and Discrimination Tribunal

Key Findings

  • Finland one of top 10 to promote migrant workers’ job and target their needs. 
  • Promotes participation of migrant workers and their families, though equal residence rights a problem. 
  • Finnish school system one of best on access, needs, but just average for new opportunities, intercultural education. 
  • Long-term residence policies is weakness for Finland, though average for most, particularly eligibility and conditions. 
  • All residents have equal political opportunities at local, regional levels – 2nd best after NO. 
  • Access to nationality weakness for Europe as for Finland. 
  • Strong anti-discrimination laws need greater role for NGOs, equality body. 

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

  • Show Labour Market Mobility

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    Finland slightly promotes migrants’ labour market mobility like countries attracting labour migration. Not all temporary migrants with the right to work can change jobs and sectors as Finns can. All residents can work in all economic sectors, but public sector language requirements may disproportionately exclude the foreign-born (see 2005 Irish Garda policy on Irish language). Finland, like leading Nordics, NL and DE, is working on a common area of weakness: general and targeted support migrant workers can use to improve their skills and qualifications for the Finnish job market. All do not have the same access as Finns to study grants (now in 9 MIPEX countries) or equal facilitated procedures recognising foreign qualifications (in 5).

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    Residence equality

    Before being eligible for long-term residence, spouses and adult family members do not enjoy the same residence security as their sponsor. They are not entitled to autonomous status unless in particularly difficult circumstances. Whether they remain dependent on their sponsor depends on whether authorities deem they have ‘solid ties’ to Finland. AT, NL provide entitlements in cases of death, divorce, separation and violence, while several countries (e.g. FR, PT, ES, SE, NO, US) are working on clearer residence autonomy for all families after a few years.

    Sponsors may start integration in society with a secure family life, but family members only have basic residence rights and security themselves. Eligibility provisions aim for a quick and inclusive reunion of the family. Limitations on dependent adult children and relatives are similar in 7 other MIPEX countries, but more restrictive than in 9. Sponsors must have a basic subsistence like most Finns, though these amounts may seem comparatively high for a newcomer in Finland – or compared to most European countries. Families have equal rights to work, study and take needs-based introduction programmes (see BE, SE). But their permit can be withdrawn on several grounds. The major area of weakness, as in most countries, is autonomous residence (see box). 

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    All migrant children benefit from Finland’s rather inclusive education system that addresses their specific needs, particularly compared to the poor scores for most countries. All pupils in the country, whatever their status, have an implicit right to their education, as in most leading countries on migrant education (see problems in NO and SE). From pre-school to university, pupils from migrant backgrounds have the right to language and additional support to access all levels of education. Although teaching professionally, teachers are not specifically trained to assess what pupils learned abroad (see FR, LU); they can use some standards and tools to place the child in the right year and level.

    Measures to facilitate their participation include preparatory training for secondary school and additional language instruction for apprenticeships. Similar facilities are available for university, where they also receive funding and have particular circumstances taken into account. Such measures are encouraged in the 2009 Globalisation Strategy for Higher Education.

    On targeting needs, Finland scores top marks together with NO, SE and CA. Pupils who need help learning Finnish have the right to high quality language courses. Teachers must be specifically trained and follow a standard course based on the National curriculum of preparatory training for basic education (2009). Pupils also have the right to learn their mother tongue (Finnish National Board of Education: National core curriculum for basic education 2004). Together with their parents, they receive an induction programme and parents are encouraged and supported to get involved in school life under the National Curriculum for Basic Education. However, while academic needs are addressed, the school system does not fully harness the new opportunities brought by diversity since systems to promote social integration and monitor segregation in schools are absent. They may learn about cultural identity and internationalism, but not specifically the immigrant cultures in their local communities (e.g. BE, SE). Intercultural education stands out better in school life in BE, CA, ES, SE and UK. Finland can enlarge programmes like SPECIMA so that teachers better reflect the diversity in the classroom (e.g. DE, NL, NO, UK).

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    Consulting migrants to improve policies:

    Finland scores 68 on consultative bodies, with ETNOs covering all regions for government consultation, immigrant NGO activities and public information. They also appoint ‘Goodwill Ambassadors’: influential persons working to make Finnish society more diverse and equal. One of the vice chairs and a minimum of 10 of the 30 members in the national ETNO must represent migrant communities or ethnic minorities. Representatives are asked to nominate both genders and prioritise those with migrant/ethnic background. For further good practice, see BE (Flanders), DE (regional/local), DK, NO.

    Scoring 2nd after NO, Finland’s approach to democracy encourages all residents to participate in the decisions that concern their daily lives. Newcomers can fully vote and stand in local and regional elections (see also DK, IE, NL, NO, SE). All residents enjoy the same political liberties: joining a political party, forming community associations, creating new media. Authorities also reach out to migrants by fostering immigrant civil society and consulting it through bodies that create slightly positive environments for dialogue. Migrants are consulted at national and regional levels as elected NGO participants in an Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations (ETNO, see box). 

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    To fully participate with secure status and rights, migrants can only qualify for long-term residence with some difficulty. Temporary workers cannot apply to settle down permanently. Former international students cannot count time spent studying in Finland, despite European trends to the contrary (AT, BE, PT, ES). Depending on the circumstances, the conditions may be more demanding (income, length, cost). Permits are automatically renewable but can be lost on various grounds: fraud, security threats, serious crimes. Even Finnish-born or 20-year residents can be expelled. However, personal circumstances are considered and they have good legal guarantees. Long-term residents enjoy equal rights in most areas of society, though the recognition of non-EU qualifications remains a problem.

  • Show Access to Nationality

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    Six years total

    The Supreme Administrative Court found that migrants could apply after a reduced time period. 6 years is counted from when the migrant receives their first residence permit, not the permanent permit. Although the Supreme Court did not specifically mention integration, the lower court referred to applicants’ ‘strong ties’ to Finland when overturning the original refusal. The proposed Nationality Act would shorten it to 5 years. 5 to 6 years is standard – even a little longer – compared to established immigration countries. See BE, CA, FR, IE, NL, PT, SE, US.

    Naturalising migrants lack a clear, professional and encouraging path to citizenship. In 2007, courts improved unclear residence requirement, now at 6 years total (see box). Applicants undergo a long and costly (around 400€) procedure, involving conditions that are actually slightly counterproductive for integration. Naturalisation is not reserved for those with specific incomes in 13 countries. Indeed, naturalising helps immigrants integrate economically (see OECD SOPEMI 2010). Current language requirements are also slightly unfavourable. Only 6 countries set such explicitly high levels that discourage many, even with quality support. Unlike Finland,10 countries provide some entitlement for those meeting agreed legal conditions. Otherwise Finnish procedures are average for established and reformed immigration countries: dual nationality, jus soli and protection against withdrawal. 

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    Refining and improving the equality body

    A 2008 amendment to the Act on the Ombudsman for Minorities and Discrimination Tribunal clarified Finland’s compliance with the EU Racial Equality Directive. It confirmed the Ombudsman’s role in conducting independent surveys on national or ethnic origin and in deciding independently on its targets and methodology. However, since such surveys are often general by nature, a stronger mandate of inquiry may be required for more efficient supervision. Moreover, its budgetary capabilities remain uncertain.

    All residents benefit from broad laws in all spheres of life against nationality, religion, race and ethnic discrimination, as in other leading countries. As victims they can obtain legal aid to seek a range of sanctions via a choice of legal, administrative and alternative actions, and do not always carry the burden of proof. However, they cannot rely on NGOs for support (unlike 24 countries) and must bring the case themselves, without class actions or actio popularis (unlike 14). They do receive some independent assistance from the Ombudsman for Minorities and Discrimination Tribunal (see box) although the decisions of the Ombudsman are not binding. The government has obligations to promote equality beyond what is required in most countries.