Minister of the Interior Mari Rantanen (PS) attended a plenary session in the Parliament House in Helsinki on Thursday, 13 October 2023. Rantanen on Monday held a press conference to shed light on the amendments the government is planning to citizenship criteria, viewing that the tighter requirements should have no impact on work-based immigration to Finland. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)

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MINISTER of the Interior Mari Rantanen (PS) on Monday shed light on how the government plans to tighten citizenship requirements, report YLE and Helsingin Sanomat.

“I reckon it’s clear that tightening the requirements and encouraging integration is likely to cause that you can’t get citizenship as easily as currently. And that’s very much the goal,” she outlined at a press conference in Helsinki.

“The goal is that successful integration is a requirement for citizenship. Citizenship is the reward of that.”

The government intends to raise the residence requirement from five to eight years while reducing the number of days the applicant may have spent abroad during that period and specifying that only residence on a residence permit is counted toward the requirement. The exemption that has enabled people granted international protection to receive citizenship after a residence of four years will be removed.

Rantanen reiterated yesterday that the changes to the residence requirement are in line with those planned in the rest of the Nordics.

Minna Hulkkonen, the director general of immigration at the Ministry of the Interior, viewed that the government can facilitate the naturalisation of people granted international protection in other ways, such as by supporting them with the costs of the application.

The government will require aspiring citizens to pass a language and citizenship test.

“I reckon the intention is to determine if the person has understood the values and principles of Finnish society, that the person has factually orientated themselves with Finnish society,” summed up Rantanen.

The government will also revise the income and integrity requirements. Presently, the processing of a citizenship application can be discontinued or suspended for a certain time period if the applicant is found guilty of a criminal offence. The Ministry of the Interior is exploring the possibility of lengthening the waiting period or expanding the category of crimes that could invalidate the application altogether.

Citizenship applicants are currently also required to “reliably” demonstrate their source of income, which can include social security benefits disbursed by the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela).

Rantanen on Monday declined to comment on where the income requirement could be set but indicated that in future applicants are unlikely to be able to refer to benefit decisions by Kela.

The planned revisions to the citizenship requirements reflect especially the objectives of the Finns Party. The Ministry of the Interior will draft the bills in three phrases: the proposal on the residence requirement is to be debated in parliament next spring, that on the income and integrity requirement in the second half of next year, and that on the citizenship test in the first half of 2025.

The revisions should not have a negative impact on work-based immigration to Finland, argued Rantanen. People moving to the country for work, she viewed, primarily examine factors such as the safety, services and tax rate of their destination country.

“This tightening is surely within reason. It may of course have a bit of an effect that our citizenship act has been relatively lax so far. But I don’t think the citizenship law is decisive for people’s choices about where they work,” she commented.

The Finnish government is also planning on decreeing that people who have provided false information about their identity or committed serious crimes, such as treason or terror crimes, can be stripped of their citizenship.

Statistics from the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) reveal that Finland processed around 10,700 citizenship applications in 2022, granting citizenship to 9,500 applicants.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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