According to a recent decision by the Finnish Parliament, international students are now eligible for a D visa, which, in the best case, speeds up the process of entering Finland by weeks.
Ever since the D visa for growth entrepreneurs and specialists was created to speed up the entry to Finland, we have also been working on making students eligible for it. International students are often on a particularly tight schedule and sometimes have only 3–5 weeks before they have to start their studies after accepting the study place. Now, students who have a D visa, do not have to wait in their home country for their residence permit card to be posted, but can come directly to Finland with the visa.
The proposal has now been adopted by the Finnish Parliament, and researchers have also been included in the target group. Excellent!
However, the high cost of entry remains a challenge for international students, and the D visa may, in fact, increase the cost even further, as a fee of around €100 has also been planned for the visa. In our lobbying, we have argued that a lower fee should be charged from international students, or otherwise the price of entry to Finland will become too high. At the moment, in addition to the cost of travelling to Finland, international students have to pay over €300 for a residence permit, the trip to the embassy to identify themselves and often over €10,000 in tuition fees. What is more, to get a residence permit, the students have to meet the required level of income, which is €7,000, and prove that they have the sum in their account.
According to surveys, financial and income-related difficulties are one of the main reasons why international students do not progress in their studies at the expected pace. Skilled international students studying in higher-education institutions have difficulty networking with Finnish companies and professionals, as well as learn the local languages, when they are disproportionately burdened by the pressure of studying and the need to secure an income. Finland aims at 75% of international degree students being employed in Finland after their graduation, however, this will be difficult to achieve without a significant reduction in the financial burden placed on international students.
Much also needs to be done to help foreign students enter Finland and settle in the country. At the moment, international students are having difficulty opening a bank account, which may, in the worst case, take as long as months. During this time, it is difficult, if not impossible, for international students to pay rent or buy a ticket for public transport, for example. In addition to making it easier to open a bank account, one important step in improving the situation for international students could be the digitalisation of the entry process, so that the students would not have to travel to the embassy for strong identification, but could take care of it at the border.
So, there is still plenty for the next government to do! We here at SYL hope that immigration and the attraction of international professionals be considered critical for the future of Finland and that improving the well-being of international students and making it easier for them to get by be made a high priority.