Wednesday. 26.06.2019
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Changes to the Aliens Act as of June 1, 2019

The main changes concern labour market tests, family reunification and subsequent applications of asylum. Authorities will be entitled to temporarily deprive asylum seekers of their passports or other travel documents, until they are granted asylum or expelled from the country.

Changes to the Aliens Act as of June 1, 2019

The changes approved by the Finnish Government to the Aliens Act will get into force within a few days. And they will affect many groups of foreigners, especially those who come to Finland to work from outside the European Union (EU) and asylum seekers.

Mainly, these legal changes concern the non-application in some cases of labour market testing, family reunification and the subsequent applications by asylum seekers. This new regulation will also empower the Finnish authorities to temporarily deprive asylum seekers of their passports or other travel documents, until the moment they are either granted asylum or are expelled from the country.

In addition, new provisions concerning the right to work of asylum seekers will enter into force, which will also restrict this right in those cases in which an enforceable negative decision has been made (for example by the Administrative Court). All those amendments to the Aliens Act will take effect since 1 June 2019.

Labour market tests removed

As of 1 June, if a foreign employee who has worked in Finland with a residence permit for an employed person for at least one year wishes to change the occupation, the Employment and Economic Development Office will no longer perform the so-called labour market tests.

Labour market testing is, as defined by the European Commission, "a mechanism that aims to ensure that migrant workers are only admitted after employers have unsuccessfully searched for national workers". Within the EU, the term 'national workers' is also applied to citizens from other EU member states and the European Economic Area (EEA).

According to the EU regulations, member states are entitled to apply different methodologies when undertaking the labour market tests. And Finland has been applying this mechanism specifically to the foreign workers who need residence permits when changing their work field.

Until now, Employment and Economic Development Offices performed a labour market test and decided whether any suitable labour force was already available in the country for the applicant's job. After the Employment Office issued this partial decision, the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) processed the residence permit application and made the final decision.

This explains why for many applicants, labour market tests were an insurmountable barrier, that prevented them from changing their field of work into a better one, sometimes despite having the proper qualification for it.

But this is about to change in few days. As Foreigner.fi informed already one and a half months ago, labour market tests will be removed for the people who are already employed in the country. According to the information provided by the Finnish Government, "the objective of this legislative amendment is to improve labour mobility".

The change of grounds for asylum

As of 1 June 2019 an asylum seeker who submits a subsequent asylum application -this means, after a previous one- based on new grounds, must explain why he did not present these new grounds earlier. 

in practice, this means that if an asylum seeker filed an application based on, for example, ethnic persecution and later submits another based on his or her membership in a religious or sexual minority, he will be required to explain the reason why he did not claim this reason in his first application. And according to the information published by Migri "the reason must be one that the asylum seeker personally has not been able to affect".

With this change, the authorities intend to avoid the chain of asylum applications that aim to prolong the stay in the country.

Temporary possession of documents

The new law changes include more precise provisions on taking temporary possession of an asylum seeker’s travel document. According to Migri's Customer Bulletin, in the future the Finnish authorities "may take temporary possession of an asylum seeker’s passport or other travel document and keep it until the applicant is granted a residence permit or leaves the country".

The Finnish Immigration Service clarifies that they will do everything necessary to "ensure that all asylum seekers will be able to prove their identity even if their travel document is in the possession of the authorities".

Asylum seekers who turn 18 years old

Another change that will enter into force in June establishes that every asylum seeker who has not yet turned 18 when he or she arrives in Finland but turns 18 during the application process will be regarded as minor when family reunification applications are decided.

The Court of Justice of the European Union has already established this practice earlier, and the Finnish Immigration Service has already been implementing it. Now, the practice becomes law.

Migri reminds all applicants that applications for family reunification must be submitted within three months from the date on which the asylum seeker received a decision on international protection.

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