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All Points North #58: International students in Finland - obstacles and top tips

Immigration officials say staffing problems are behind a delay in processing students' residence permit applications.

Students in Jakobstad, Finland, featuring All Points North logo.

A new academic year has begun and many international students have arrived in Finland and getting a feel for what lies ahead. While they are just settling in, as many as 1,000 are still waiting for a decision on residence permit applications to begin their studies.

Leena Turku, a senior officer with the Finnish Immigration Service Migri, told All Points North that the agency has issued 3,600 residence permits to international students this year. She added that 500 applications were turned down, while another 1,000 are still to be processed.

Turku said that the agency had been understaffed during the month of June, when it usually begins processing students’ residence permit applications. She pointed out that students may encounter further delays in processing times if their documentation is inadequate or faulty.

The Migri officer explained that most denials resulted from fraudulent bank statements or inadequate insurance coverage. "It can’t be normal travel insurance but must cover the individual for one year," she added.

"Not enough" to have a great education system

Heidi Rättyä is a board member of the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) and responsible for international affairs. In response to Turku’s remarks, she responded that international students have sometimes face difficulty meeting the requirement to provide proof of insurance.

"One problem is that it’s hard to find an insurance agency that provides insurance that is also valid in Finland," she pointed out.

Rättyä said that SYL has been lobbying politicians to make it easier for international students to come to Finland to study and also to stay on and work.

"We have a great education system, but that’s not enough. We are far up north and it gets very cold, so Finland won’t be the first choice for many people," she noted, and called for a one-stop shop to help international students deal with school applications, residence permits, insurance coverage and other requirements.

International students can find out more about the work of the National Union of University Students in Finland online (siirryt toiseen palveluun), but should turn to local chapters of the organisation for advice on practical issues.

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The All Points North podcast is a weekly look at what's going on in Finland. Subscribe via iTunes (siirryt toiseen palveluun) (and leave a review!), listen on Spotify (siirryt toiseen palveluun)and Yle Areena or find it on your favourite podcatching app or via our RSS feed (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

This week's podcast presenters were Denise Wall and Pamela Kaskinen. Yle News team members Tahira Sequeira, Zena Iovino, Ronan Browne and Mark B. Odom also contributed. Our audio engineer and sound designer was Laura Koso.

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