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Finland's passport queues grow as summer travel season looms

People planning to travel in the summer are encouraged to submit their passport applications as soon as possible.

Suomen passi
Elusive in-person appointments for passport applications may contribute to processing delays. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

Appointments for passport applications in Helsinki are currently fully booked, according to the National Police Board of Finland.

"The first available appointment in the capital area is now a few weeks away. Elsewhere in Finland, the longest wait times for appointments are in Turku, Tampere and Oulu," said the inspector general of the Police Board, Juhani Ruutu.

Police stations in cities nearby will have available appointments sooner.

"In some parts of the country, like Kuopio, Lahti and Vaasa, you can make an appointment within one to two weeks. In Rovaniemi there are appointments available this week," said Ruutu.

The appointment booking website urges applicants to monitor the situation, and the availability of appointments at other posts, as the police departments may add more appointments at short notice depending on their current situation and resources.

Pent-up demand

Passport application queues may get longer as summer approaches and the desire to travel resurges after a year of Covid confinement, police said.

"As the government talks about its exit plan and how the restrictions will gradually be eased, passport applications will most certainly start to go up in volume because so many people didn’t apply for one last year. There is pent-up demand," said chief commissioner in charge of permits at Helsinki Police, Pekka Kallio.

Police hope that those who intend to travel this summer submit their applications as soon as possible. Last week, the earliest available appointment in Helsinki was four weeks away. Kallio believes that the increase in demand will also be reflected in wait times this summer.

"We will definitely see a rush this summer. Hopefully we can meet the demand. We have added more staff and we keep increasing the representatives at service points. It will be interesting to see how great the demand is," Kallio said

A couple of weeks' wait in Tampere

Passport and ID card applications can be submitted online.

"A passport application is generally processed within one workday following the submission of the application. On the other hand, some delays have been observed regionally in applications that require an in-person transaction at the police station," Ruutu says.

Online applications for the area handled by the Inland Finland Police Department in Tampere, for example, have been processed on time.

"As a rule, applications received in person are usually processed in conjunction with the customer visit. Consequently, the delivery times for passports or identity cards have not been extended. The normal delivery time is five to eight working days," said the Central Finland Police Department license manager Hannele Koskela.

According to Koskela, the delays arise from having to wait longer than usual for an in-person appointment at a police station.

"If a visit to the police station is required, prepare for the first available appointment to be several weeks away," said Koskela.

Licence tourism in southwestern Finland

There is now about a month-long wait in Turku for appointments, but elsewhere in southwestern Finland appointments for passports and other permits come by much faster, some within a few days.

Licence tourism is a phenomenon that police recently have become more aware of, as an application does not have to be dropped off at one’s local police station.

"We’re seeing so-called 'licence tourism'. For example, people will jump on the highway and drive from Espoo to Salo to drop off an application," says Southwest Finland Police Department chief commissioner Petri Kangas.

No rush in Lapland

Chief commissioner Hannu Partanen of the Lapland Police Department told Yle that there are no passport delays in the north. A travel document can be obtained in the time usually allowed for the process, i.e. about a week. Partanen declined to speculate on summer rushes, but his advice to passport applicants applies all over Finland: "Apply online, if possible, and allow ample time for processing".

If there is real urgency, an express passport in Finland can usually be obtained on the same day. A regular passport can also be obtained in about one week, in Helsinki, by lining up at the service point in Pasila. Most customers make it to the front of the line in one hour. However, because of the Covid situation, the police do not recommend in-person transactions, encouraging people instead to handle their administrative business online, or – if a visit is required – by booking an appointment.

"Providing customer service by appointment is the standard, as recommended by the police due to the Covid situation," said Ruutu.

Ruutu points out that it is a good idea for those without an appointment to be prepared for long queuing times.

"One should also be prepared to wait outdoors, because of Covid restrictions," he added.

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