Students at the Helsinki University library. LEHTIKUVA


In a move to accelerate and standardize the processing of student residence permits, the Finnish Immigration Service initiated a pilot program on 19 October 2023, introducing automated decision-making into its workflow.

The innovative system is set to fast-track applications that fulfill every criterion for the issuance of the permit.

It promises a smoother and more efficient procedure for applicants, cutting down the wait time significantly. The agency's objective is to bring down the average processing duration for employed individuals and students to a mere month.

Deputy Director-General Elina Immonen believes that this step towards modernization will promote "safe and seamless immigration." By automating the standard processing, specialists at the Immigration Service will have more time to dedicate to applications that require specialized attention or need further details.

Initially, this automated procedure is being tested on applications from degree-seeking students at Finnish universities and all exchange students. Depending on the pilot's success, the service plans to expand the automated system to cater to other applicant groups in the future.

What sets this automation system apart is its rigorous verification process. It adheres to the same stringent standards applied when an official reviews an application manually. Furthermore, applicants must have their identity verified either at a Finnish mission or a service point of the Finnish Immigration Service. If any inconsistencies arise or additional information is required, an official steps in to review and make the decision.

In recent times, the Finnish Immigration Service has already been leveraging automation, particularly for vetting records maintained by public authorities. As of 28 September, the agency also began automated post-permit issuance surveillance for student residence permits. New general legislation enacted in May has facilitated this shift towards automated decision-making, especially in straightforward cases where permits are issued as per the application without involving third parties, like family members.

Anna Cheung, Chief Digital Officer, sheds light on the agency's long-standing commitment to automation, aiming to bolster both decision-making and post-decision scrutiny. She emphasizes that while automation will enhance efficiency, certain vital steps, like the verification of the applicant's identity and the scrutiny of register checks, will remain under official oversight, ensuring the highest levels of security.