Last year saw a record number of people apply for protection in Finland following Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Meanwhile, the number of residence permits issued on the basis of work continued to grow, with many professionals also bringing their families to Finland.
While work, family and studies have typically been the most common reasons for moving to Finland, Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion made up the largest group to arrive in 2022.
“Russia’s attack on Ukraine had an impact on immigration to Finland in many ways. In addition to temporary protection, its effect was reflected in the number of specialists and seasonal workers, for example,” said Director General Ilkka Haahtela.
Temporary protection mechanism activated for the first time
Finland grants temporary protection to those fleeing Ukraine as a result of the Russian invasion. On 4 March 2022, the European Union activated the temporary protection mechanism, marking the first time the Temporary Protection Directive has been used. Last year therefore also saw Finland issue residence permits for the first time on the basis of temporary protection.
Temporary protection differs from asylum, as the former may be granted to a specific category of people without the individual consideration of an applicant’s need for protection. Last year, 47,302 applications for temporary protection were submitted in Finland, with 45,308 applicants granted protection. Of all applicants for temporary protection, 46,641 were Ukrainian.
The number of asylum applications was 5,827 (2,545 in 2021), of which 1,805 were submitted by Ukrainians. Ukrainians applied for asylum in the spring prior to the activation of temporary protection, but submitted virtually no asylum applications later in the year. Most of those who had made asylum applications in early 2022 also applied for temporary protection later.
The increase in the total number of asylum seekers is primarily explained by Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, which has resulted in more asylum applications from both Ukrainians and Russians. Last year, Russians submitted 1,172 asylum applications, compared with 207 applications in 2021. There was a marked increase in the number of applications from Russians in the spring following the beginning of the war, and another even more pronounced surge after Russia declared a military mobilisation in September.
Ukrainian arrivals in Finland expected to continue in 2023
This year, the validity of temporary protection residence permits issued to those fleeing Ukraine is automatically extended until 4 March 2024. Normally, residence permit holders wishing to extend their permits are required to submit an application. Following a legislative amendment, 42,433 decisions regarding temporary protection residence permits have been made in five days with the help of automation.
“We have been able to extend the permits of those who have fled Ukraine without requiring any action on their part,” said Haahtela.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine will continue to have an impact on arrivals in Finland. The Finnish Immigration Service estimates that approximately 30,000–40,000 applicants for temporary protection will arrive in Finland in 2023.
It is difficult to predict how the war in Ukraine and the number of people fleeing it will evolve.
“The number of Ukrainians applying for protection in Finland depends, among other factors, on the duration and scope of the war, the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, the strain on reception capacity in the countries neighbouring Ukraine and in the Baltic states, and the movement of Ukrainians between EU countries,” Haahtela explained.
Russian citizens are estimated to submit between 1,000 and 1,500 first asylum applications this year. The number of asylum seekers is dependent on a range of factors including entry and visa restrictions imposed by Finland, whether Russian citizens who have already entered the country with a visa will apply for asylum, the internal situation in Russia, and the actions of the Russian border authorities.
In total, an estimated 4,000 first asylum applications will be submitted in 2023, compared with 4,863 last year.
Work-based immigration also impacted by Russia’s attack on Ukraine
Last year, work was the most common reason for positive decisions on first residence permit applications (2022: 16,081, 2021: 11,428). First residence permits are permits typically applied for abroad before the applicant moves to Finland.
There are different types of work-based residence permit, depending on the work undertaken in Finland by the holder. Almost half of all positive decisions regarding first work permits concerned residence permits for an employed person, which entail labour market testing by the Employment and Economic Development Office before the Finnish Immigration Service makes its decision (2022: 9,671, 2021: 5,929).
“Workers move to Finland to take up jobs in cleaning, care, restaurants, and other sectors,” said Deputy Director General Elina Immonen.
Specialists, such as IT experts, received a total of 2,358 positive residence permit decisions (2021: 1,293). Specialists’ most common countries of origin were Russia, India and Türkiye. Finnish companies withdrew from Russia, which was reflected in the increase in the number of permits issued to Russian specialists (2022: 874, 2021: 191).
“The fast-track service for specialists and start-up entrepreneurs was launched in June, and later expanded to cover managers. A distinguishing feature of the fast-track service is the two-week service pledge, which involves multiple authorities and encompasses the process from visiting a Finnish embassy or consulate to arriving in Finland,” Immonen said.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine also had an impact on the number of seasonal workers. A majority of seasonal farm workers are Ukrainians who come to Finland every year with a certificate for seasonal work. Last year, a total of 5,264 seasonal work certificates were issued, compared with 13,870 in 2021. This figure cannot be taken as a complete account of the number of seasonal farm workers, however, as Ukrainian beneficiaries of temporary protection have an unrestricted right to work.
Other common reasons for moving to Finland include family (2022: 15,457 positive decisions, 2021: 9,821) and studies (2022: 8,383, 2021: 5,837).
“Most family members who moved to Finland last year were the children and spouses of foreign nationals working in Finland,” Immonen explained.
Application volumes on the increase
In 2022, a total of 20,960 applications for first residence permits on the basis of work were submitted, compared with 15,012 in 2021. The Finnish Immigration Service received 13,534 applications for residence permits for an employed person (2021: 8,529), while specialists submitted 2,594 first residence permit applications (2021: 1,605).
The number of applications for first residence permits on the basis of family ties (2022: 18,981, 2021: 13,764) and studies (2022: 9,855, 2021: 6,711) also saw growth. In total, 50,728 applications for first residence permits were submitted (2021: 36,206).
Finnish Immigration Service aiming for best immigration experience in Europe
“The Finnish Immigration Service is set to undergo significant reforms in 2023. The goal is to speed up the agency’s operations and increase our focus on the customer,” Immonen said.
While the total number of applications for first work-based residence permits grew by 40 per cent last year, processing times were barely affected. For example, the number of applications by specialists increased by 60 per cent in 2022, but processing times went down by 36 per cent. Last year, first permits for specialists were issued within nine days on average, compared with 15 days in 2021. The number of applications for start-up entrepreneurs’ first residence permits saw a 96 per cent increase (290 in 2022, 148 in 2021). Decisions were available in 13 days (24 days in 2021), representing a 46 per cent decrease in processing times.
“Our efforts this year will include continued investment in automation and online services in order to make the residence permit process more efficient and customer-friendly,” said Immonen.
Labour from EU countries
In 2022, EU citizens submitted a total of 10,166 registration applications (12,465 in 2021). Most EU citizens apply for registration on the basis of work (2022: 4,256, 2021: 5,905).
Last year, 10,183 EU citizens confirmed their right of residence in Finland (2021: 11,190). Of them, 4,270 were registered on the basis of work (2021: 5,333). The most common nationalities among those registered were Estonian, German and Latvian.
10,000 new Finnish citizens
Many also wanted to continue living in Finland. A total of 34,136 applications for extended permits were submitted in 2022 (2021: 30,930), with 28,665 permits issued (2021: 30,623). Extended permits were most commonly applied for and issued on the basis of work. Extended permits are residence permits that can be applied for by those who have already lived in Finland as residence permit holders.
A total of 11,352 people were issued with permanent residence permits (2021: 11,563).
Finland gained 10,479 new citizens, of whom 9,509 were granted citizenship on application (2021: 6,070) and 970 by declaration (2021: 1,515).
More statistics available on the Migri.fi website
Confirmed statistics for 2022 are available in our statistical service at tilastot.migri.fi. For instructions on using the statistical service and statistics for 2015 and earlier years in PDF format, see the statistics page at Migri.fi. Also available are quota refugee statistics and application volume forecasts for 2023 and 2024.
Source: Finnish Immigration Service