The new Finnish coalition government which was finally shaped today after 11 weeks of negotiations is yet to officially publish its program, but according to drafts handed out to the media, the government will introduce changes include reducing the refugee quota, differentiating social security between immigrants and permanent residents, tightening penalties for employee exploitation, altering international protection, and introducing new prerequisites for permanent residency.
Additionally, reforms in social security, housing assistance, and unemployment benefits are included.
Reduction in Refugee Quota
Finland’s government announced that the refugee quota will be reduced from 1,050 to 500 individuals per year.
Differentiation in Social Security and Benefits
The government plans to differentiate the social security and benefits between immigrants and permanent residents in Finland. However, the government has also stated that it will take the constraints of the constitution into account.
Employee Exploitation and Monitoring
There is a planned increase in penalties for employee exploitation. The monitoring mechanisms will also be enhanced to protect workers' rights.
Temporary International Protection
International protection status in Finland will be temporary in nature. The duration of international protection permits is being shortened to the minimum length permissible under EU law.
Restricted Access to Services for Illegal Residents
Individuals residing in Finland without proper documentation will only have access to urgent social and health services. This policy reinstates the legal situation before the last electoral term.
New Requirements for Permanent Residency
To obtain permanent residency, individuals must have lived in Finland for six years and must demonstrate language proficiency through a language test. Additionally, they must have a two-year work history without significant reliance on unemployment benefits or welfare, and stricter good conduct requirements will be applied. However, permanent residency can still be granted with four years of residence if the individual, for example, has an annual income of 40,000 euros or a recognized higher education degree in Finland, along with a two-year work history without significant reliance on unemployment benefits or welfare.
Notification Requirements for Employers
Employers are required to notify the Finnish Immigration Service if an employee's work permit expires and they haven’t secured new employment within three months. This notification is mandated under the risk of sanctions.
Income Threshold for Residency Permits
The income threshold for employee residency permits will be raised to reflect sector-specific minimum wages, with a general minimum of 1,600 euros per month. The government will also investigate the possibility of further increasing these thresholds.
Expedited Processing for Specialized Workers
The government aims for a one-month maximum processing time for work-based residency permits. However, for specialists earning more than 4,000 euros per month, the processing time goal is one week.
Recruitment efforts will be focused on specialized worker groups in India, the Philippines, Brazil, and Vietnam. The government will monitor the economic impacts of this targeted recruitment model.
Replacement of Income Support with Integration Support
For immigrants, income support and employment benefits will be replaced with an integration support that includes incentives and requirements for integration.
Tuition Fees for Non-EU/EEA Students
Finland is poised to significantly increase the tuition fees for higher education students coming from outside the EU and EEA. The fees are expected to be set at around 8,000 euros per academic year on average, which represents an average increase of 6,500 euros from the current fees, and is aimed at covering the actual costs of education. This move is in line with an agreement reached during government negotiations, and would require higher education institutions to ensure that international students bear the costs of their studies in Finland. The raised fees are anticipated to release approximately 83 million euros which could be used for educating domestic students, potentially allowing for an additional 2,500 new starters per year. However, there are concerns that the increase in tuition fees may lead to a reduction in the number of international students coming to Finland.
In Finnish higher education institutions, according to the Ministry of Education and Culture (OKM), there were a total of approximately 13,000 students from outside the EU or EEA area in 2022. Around 10,000 of these students were subject to tuition fees.
New “General Support” Model
The upcoming government will create a new “general support” model for basic security. This aims to combine the minimum benefits, such as rehabilitation allowance, sickness and parental daily allowance, and unemployment basic daily allowance into one new form of support.
Housing Assistance and Unemployment Benefits Reform
Several reforms will be implemented in housing assistance, including removal of the 300 euro income deduction and raising the basic deductible to 50%. Unemployment security will see a lengthening of the work requirement to 12 months, and a switch to a euro-based system, tying benefits to earned wages rather than hours worked.
Allowances for families with children under three years old, multi-child families, and single-parent supplements will be increased.
These reforms represent a significant shift in Finland's approach to immigration and social security, reflecting the government's focus on ensuring sustainable integration and social support systems.