Finland this summer has seen an almost unprecedented plunge in the number of people immigrating to study in its educational system. According to the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri), the main reason for this fall is the coronavirus pandemic, which has had a major impact on the immigration of international students to Finland.
At the Finnish Immigration Service, summer is the peak season for residence permit applications submitted by international students. But this year, the number of applications submitted by students "was significantly lower than last year," the immigration agency explains in a press release.
Between June and September, 1,692 international students applied for a first residence permit compared with 3,909 in the same period of 2019. These figures represent a year-on-year drop of 56.7% in the number of applications for permits to study in Finland in the summer period.
That does not mean, however, that the work of the immigration agency collapsed. In the same period from June to September Migri issued 1,823 decisions on applications for a first residence permit for studies (many of them previously submitted and pending). 90% of these decisions were positive.
Migri says that, on average, it took 15 days to get a decision on an application for studies.
The number of requests for study permit extensions also dropped significantly (-38.6%) last summer. Between June and September, 2,050 students applied for an extension of their residence permit compared with 3,342 in 2019.
The Finnish Immigration Service issued 1,615 decisions on extended permits for studies in this period and 97% per cent of them were positive.
“If a student has applied for an extended permit before his or her previous residence permit expires, he or she can continue studying and working normally while his or her application is being processed,” says Senior Adviser Paananen.
Covid-19 and remote learning
Students who apply for a first residence permit must prove their identity at a Finnish mission (embassies or consulates) abroad. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the missions have been able to receive only a very limited number of customers applying for a residence permit. By law, the processing of an application cannot begin before the customer has proved his or her identity.
“According to our information, many students begin studying remotely this year, because many educational institutions start providing contact teaching in January 2021 at the earliest. It is therefore expected that we get applications throughout the autumn. We are prepared for this,” says Pannanen.
The possibility of studying remotely does not affect the decision-making. Migri decides the applications in the order customers prove their identity at the missions.