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Married to a foreigner and worried about the future

Government measures aimed at making the country less attractive to immigrants would also affect Finnish citizens who want to settle here with a spouse from outside the EU. Tougher family reunification rules that may come into force by next summer have come under fire from some civic groups and some mixed-nationality families.

Valokuva pariskunnasta heidän kotialbumistaan.
Mesut Turan and Milja Rämö are planning to settle down in Finland once Mesut finishes his studies in Turkey. Image: Yle

Milja Rämö, a resident of Helsinki, got married last month. Right now the couple live separately, Milja in Finland, and her husband Mesut in Turkey. They intend to settle down in Finland once Mesut finishes his degree this spring, while Milja continues her studies. Milja says since he finishes first, it's just smarter that he comes here.

However, if government plans to discourage immigration are imposed, they will also affect Finns - like Milja - who have a spouse from outside the EU. Getting residence in Finland may soon require a minimum of so-called "assured income".

Rules will call for at least 1,700 net income a month if the spouse does not have a job waiting in Finland. If, for example, a Finnish citizen married to a non-EU national who's lived abroad wants to return with a spouse and one child the family will have to net 2,200 euros a month. A couple with two children will need to net 2,600 euros.

Change of plans

The rules that the government hopes to roll out this summer have changed plans for Milja and Mesut. As students it is unlikely that they will have the income level that will be needed once the rules come into force so will apply for a residence permit for Mesut as soon as possible.

Milja says what probably saddens her most is having to wonder what kind of Finns she is, how she belongs here if her family life can be restricted, if she'd be more "acceptable" if she'd fallen in love with a Finn or a European.

Erja Ivanova is also shocked by the plan. Her husband is Russian and the family intends to move from St. Petersburg, Russia to Finland in five years, before their daughter starts school.

She says that once her husband heard of the proposal, he thought they should consider the move immediately. The couple are both highly educated. Erja could get a job in Finland. That's not so certain for her husband, who is currently a financial director in an international firm.

Erja is confident they could meet income requirements for now, but it would a source of concern if they have more children or if the minimum income requirment is raised.

The government would like to see young Finns studying abroad to return home someday. This latest plan may make that easier said than done for at least some.

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