In 2018, Finland received 23 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status and free mobility), -2.5% compared to 2017. This figure comprises 30.4% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 7.4% labour migrants, 45% family members (including accompanying family) and 17% humanitarian migrants. Around 5 200 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 17 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants (excluding intra-EU migration). In addition, 20 000 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2018, a decrease of -12% compared to 2017. These posted workers are generally on short-term contracts.

Estonia, Iraq and Russia were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2018. Among the top 15 countries of origin, India registered the strongest increase (300) and Syria the largest decrease (-1 300) in flows to Finland compared to the previous year.

In 2019, the number of first asylum applicants decreased by -16.9%, to reach around 2 500. The majority of applicants came from Turkey (400), Russia (300) and Iraq (300). The largest increase since 2018 concerned nationals of Turkey (+75) and the largest decrease nationals of Iraq (-300). Of the 4 900 decisions taken in 2019, 34.3% were positive.

Five new categories of residence permits were introduced in 2018: start-up entrepreneurs; seasonal workers; workers in seasonal employment requiring a separate preliminary decision; intra-corporate transferees; and participants in voluntary service.

In March 2020, a new Permit and Nationality Unit was created in the Finnish Immigration Service. The unit processes citizenship and residence permit applications for work, studies and family ties and registers EU citizens and their family members. The change should allow wider use of automation in permit processing and increase efficiency in a context of record high application numbers for a residence permit for employment prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

From 2020, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is responsible for the administration of labour migration matters. The transfer from the Ministry of the Interior aims to link labour migration more closely to employment, education and training policies. The government will allocate an increase of EUR 11.4 million for immigrant integration and work permit procedures in 2020. The additional funds should support identifying the skills of immigrants and the role of municipal centres of expertise and other organisations in integrating immigrants.

Since May 2019, national citizens with dual nationality found guilty of serious offences may lose their Finnish citizenship. This can apply to individuals convicted of an offence against the vital interests of Finland and sentenced to at least five years of imprisonment.

The Finnish Immigration Service changed its reporting practices on country of origin information required for asylum decisions to make reporting more flexible on an increasing number of countries from which asylum seekers and quota refugees come to Finland. Introduction of the Lets Talk about Children method, a discussion and consultation programme, to support asylum-seeking families and children in reception centres was advanced to be in all reception centres in 2020.

Due to the spread of COVID-19, Finland closed its borders to inward passenger traffic except for returning Finnish citizens and long-term residents on 19 March 2020. Processing of visa and residence permit applications in missions abroad were suspended and procedures for inland permit applications changed. The processing of asylum applications continued otherwise but asylum interviews were suspended on 16 March 2020 and resumed gradually as of late April. Return operations were suspended, while preparatory work and support for voluntary return continued. Escorted returns were largely suspended until June 2020. Temporary permits allowed some of those unable to return home to stay and legal residents were enabled to change employer and field of employment. Some seasonal workers were allowed to enter. Finland also adopted temporary measures to reinforce the capacities of its border guards.

Due to travel restrictions, the entry of foreign labour has decreased significantly and employers faced shortages of seasonal workers. A new law entered into force on 29 June 2020 and will be effective until 31 October 2020 to overcome shortages in seasonal labour in agriculture, forestry, horticulture and fisheries. Asylum seekers’ right to work was temporarily extended.

For further information:

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2020

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at