Some months ago, I moved to Finland for my new job as an Associate Professor at the University of Oulu. My family (my twins and my partner Brad Kearn, M.S., a math professor) decided to move out of the United States for a variety of reasons, and between the international opportunities I found, we decided to emigrate to Finland. Brad gave up this job and left the US behind so that our family could have this opportunity.
Unfortunately, Brad had to come on a tourist visa because my children’s father (separated for over 2 years and I am awaiting his signature to finalize our divorce) applied for and obtained a partner visa because he could not figure out how to apply as a family to our children when the children were not yet in Finland.
As soon as we arrived and found a house to rent – a house I am negotiating to purchase – and got settled, Brad started looking for a job. The first day he started sending out his c.v., he was offered a position teaching math at Oulu’s International Baccalaureate program. They were so desperate for a qualified English-speaking math instructor that he would have started the job the next day if he had a residency permit. Instead, Brad applied for a residency permit based on the job he was offered which was part-time to start with the promise of becoming a full-time job. We waited 5 months for a decision. Then Brad got the news: his visa was rejected on financial bases he was ordered to leave the county. We did not realize that there was a minimum income requirement and Brad’s part-time job offer did not reach this minimum amount. Plus, we had provided information on our family in his application, so we did not expect his application to be rejected for this reason.
While shocked, we sprang into action and found an immigration attorney to help us. With his help, we appealed the deportation order and applied for a new visa based on family ties. The administrative court rejected the appeal, and the police told Brad that he had 2 weeks to leave the country or else he faced forcible removal and a travel ban. Immigration told Brad that the new visa may take up to 13 months to process and while he was given paperwork allowing him to stay in the country, the Oulu police said that the deportation order still stands. My family was devastated, shocked and deeply disappointed. I will never forget the 30 minutes the four of us spent in the Police Officer’s office as he told us through an interpreter that Brad had to leave or be forcibly removed. I will never forget the stunning lack of sympathy he showed when I begged him not to separate our family. Until this experience, I did not realize that countries other than the United States engage in family separation as an immigration policy. This is extremely harmful to the people involved, especially the children.
Our family was going to visit Helsinki for a long weekend for my birthday, and instead, Brad was ordered to leave beforehand. So, I faced taking the children alone, feeling Brad’s absence the whole time. Because Brad left his job and sold his belongings for our move, Brad was going to have to move in with his parents as that is the only home in the United States he had to return to. He would not have a car or job as they are both here in Finland. Instead of spending the summer working on our Finnish language skills and exploring this beautiful country, I expected to board our pets and take the kids to live with Brad’s parents in the US too. One of my children has special needs and has been having trouble acculturating to Finland. Brad has been taking care of him while I am at work. Instead of spending time with his stepdad, I would either have to start working from home most of the time or spend money I do not have to hire someone to care for him. Brad reads to Jaelle every night to help her fall asleep, and he would not be here to do that. My divorce has been extremely hard on the kids (and me), both financially and psychologically and we were about to lose the man who made us feel safe and loved.
This is not the welcome I was expecting from Finland. It cost me nearly a year’s salary to move my family, our pets, and possessions here and I started to consider leaving. But we love it here. We want to stay here. And both my skills and Brad’s are both needed in Finland. So instead of giving up, I got to work. I talked to colleagues and one of my college best friends with Finnish citizenship. We brainstormed. I got my employer involved. We emailed immigration, but we had so little time that I did not stop there. Brad and I went to our local Migri center begging for help, but they said they could not override the police. I emailed members of parliament and heads of any government agency that I thought could help us and sought guidance from the various organizations that exist to help immigrants. I even repeatedly begged the Oulu police to stop the deportation. To their credit, every single person or organization I contacted replied to my pleas for help even if they were unable to help me. Eventually, I got lucky. One of the people I emailed (and I am intentionally leaving their identity unknown) read my email and forwarded it to the right person in Migri. After a bit of discussion, this person thankfully rescinded the deportation order. Brad can now stay until his new visa application is processed.
It took all of us over a week to calm down. We went on our trip to Helsinki and tried not to think about how hard it would have been to go as a threesome instead of a family of four. I keep telling myself that we are lucky because we are highly skilled workers from a first-world nation and because I had the gumption and communication skills to find help. But the feeling of safety we once had about living in Finland is gone. I hope it comes back someday.
By Rosanna Guadagno, Ph.D.
Dr. Rosanna Guadagno (Ph.D., Social Psychology)
The author is an Associate Professor of Persuasive Information Systems at the University of Oulu. She completed her postdoctoral work at UC Santa Barbara and has previously taught at University of Alabama, University of Texas at Dallas, University of California at Berkeley, and Stanford University. Dr. Guadagno is a former Program Director at the National Science Foundation managing three programs: Social Psychology; the Science of Learning Centers; and Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) and directed the Information Warfare Working Group at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. Her research interests focus on Social Influence and Persuasion and Digital Media. Her work has been published in journals such as: Perspectives on Psychological Science, Psychological Inquiry, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Computers in Human Behavior, Media Psychology, CyberPsychology, Behavior, & Social Networking, and Frontiers in Psychology; covered in the press by: CBS News, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The Associated Press, The New Scientist, MSNBC, and Alabama Public Radio. Dr. Guadagno’s forthcoming book is entitled Psychological Processes in Social Media: Why We Click. She also serves as the Specialty Chief Editor in Media Psychology for Frontiers in Psychology.