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Immigration statistics 2021: A record-high number of applications for residence permits on the basis of work

Publication date 26.1.2022 10.00 | Published in English on 26.1.2022 at 10.18

In 2021, the Finnish Immigration Service received more applications for a residence permit on the basis of work than ever before, whereas the number of asylum applications was exceptionally low.

There was an upsurge in the number of applications for a first residence permit despite the continued coronavirus situation. A total of 36,206 applications for a first residence permit were submitted in 2021 (21,160 in 2021). The most common reasons for moving to Finland are work, family and studies. A first residence permit is a permit that immigrants usually apply from abroad before they move to Finland.

“In recent years, the operational environment surrounding immigration has changed considerably and is still changing,” says Director General Jari Kähkönen.

A total of 15,012 applications for a first residence permit were submitted on the basis of work (8,771 in 2020). The largest number of applications were related to residence permits for employed persons (TTOL), a total of 8,529 applications in 2021 (4,460 in 2020). Residence permit for an employed person is applied by cooks, nurses, cleaners and restaurant workers, for example. Specialist, such as IT experts, submitted 1,605 applications for a first residence permit (853 in 2020).

There was an increase in the number of such applications for a first residence permit that were submitted on the basis of family ties (13,764 in 2021 and 8,369 in 2020) or studies (6,711 in 2021 and 3,299 in 2020).

Work is the most common reason for moving to Finland

Last year, work was the most common grounds for a positive residence permit decision, that is, a permission to move to Finland.

“Finland needs employees from abroad as well. In 2021, a total of 11,428 first residence permits were granted on the basis of work. In 2020, the number was 8,508,” says Kähkönen.

There are several different employment-based residence permits depending on what kind of work the person intends to do in Finland. A little over half of the positive decisions on work-related applications were related to residence permit for employed persons, which requires labour market testing performed by an Employment and Economic Development Office prior to the decision of the Finnish Immigration Service (5,929 in 2021 and 4,504 in 2020).

In 2021, specialists were granted altogether 1,293 residence permits (864 in 2020, 1,893 in 2019). Most specialists who move to Finland come from Russia, India and China.

The number of seasonal workers continued to increase. A total of 15,892 seasonal workers received a positive decision (13,301 in 2020). The majority of seasonal workers come from Ukraine and work on farms.

Other common reasons for moving to Finland are family (9,821 positive decisions in 2021, 8,592 in 2020) and studies (5,837 positive decisions in 2021, 3,225 in 2020).

Increasing number of people continue living in Finland

In 2021, the Finnish Immigration Service received 30,930 applications for an extended permit (30,161 in 2020 and 27,988 in 2019), and granted 30,623 extended permits (27,750 in 2020 and 25,831 in 2019). Most extended permits were applied for and granted on the basis of work. Extended permit is a residence permit one can apply for after having been living in Finland with a residence permit.

A total of 11,563 persons were granted a permanent residence permit (11,491 in 2020).

EU citizens move to Finland on the basis of work

Last year, EU citizens registered their right of residence clearly more often than before. The increase is likely related to the coronavirus situation. Travel restrictions do not prevent Finnish citizens and those who live in Finland permanently from entering the country.

EU citizens do not need a residence permit in Finland. However, they need to register their right of residence, if they wish to stay in Finland for longer than three months.

In 2021, EU citizens submitted 12,465 registration applications (8,982 in 2020). Most EU citizens applied for the registration on the basis of work (5,905 in 2021 and 4,014 in 2020).

Altogether 11,190 EU citizens were granted registration of their right of residence last year (7,629 in 2020). Of them, 5,333 were registered on the basis of work (3,468 in 2020). The majority of the EU registrations were granted to citizens of Estonia, Germany and Latvia.

Easy and fast immigration as a goal

The Finnish Immigration Service aims to significantly reduce processing times and to make the process of applying for a residence permit as easy and transparent as possible.

By next year, the processing time of applications for a residence permit on the basis of employment and studies will be a maximum of one month. The fast track service, starting in June, will help specialists and start-up entrepreneurs to start working in Finland more quickly. The processing of their and their family members’ residence permit applications will then take a maximum of two weeks.

“Moving to Finland must be quick and easy if the customer has a job or a study place and meets the criteria for a residence permit,” says Deputy Director General Elina Immonen.

There was improvement in the processing times of employment-based permits in 2021. On average, a first residence permit was granted to specialists in 15 days (22 in 2020), to start-up entrepreneurs in 24 days (70 in 2020) and to employed persons in 75 days (143 in 2020).

“Last year, we were able to shorten the processing times as regards employment-based immigration. However, that is not enough as the number of applications is expected to grow. Thus, more development activities are needed,“ says Immonen.

The Finnish Immigration Service will reach its goals by enhancing its processes and activities on a broad scale. The change project is extensive and requires a vast development of our systems as well as changes in legislation and in our practices. In addition, we are heavily investing in customer instructions and guidance.

“Facilitating employment-based immigration requires a change in thinking – this applies to the entire society. Overall, it is a question of how easy it is to move to Finland and establish the foundations of a good life. We will do our part by making it easy to apply for a residence permit,” says Immonen.

Successful reforms will be extended to other permit types. Development work is carried out to speed up the processing of applications related to family-based residence permits, citizenship and EU registration.

Number of asylum applications low – number of subsequent applications decreasing

The total number of asylum applications was exceptionally low in 2021. An increasing percentage of international protection is related to quota refugees.

In 2021, the Finnish Immigration Service received 2,545 asylum applications (3,209 in 2020). As in previous years, most asylum applications came from citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. Compared to 2020, somewhat more new asylum applications were submitted this year (1,383 in 2021 and 1,275 in 2020).

The decline in applications was partly caused by the reduced number of subsequent applications (1,162 in 2021 and 1,934 in 2020). Subsequent application is an asylum application that an asylum seeker submits after having received a final decision on an earlier asylum application.

In 2021, the Finnish refugee quota was 1,050 persons. During last year, 1,090 quota refugees were selected for resettlement in Finland, part of them from the 2020 quota. The timetable for the selections depends on the proposals of the UN refugee agency UNHCR. A total of 891 asylum seekers arrived in Finland in 2021. Refugees usually move to Finland the year they are selected or the year after that.

“Currently, few asylum seekers arrive in Finland, even though there still are reasons for refugees leaving their country. Only a small proportion of the world’s refugees are able to move away from areas near conflict zones,” says Kähkönen.

The situation in Belarus has not significantly affected the number of asylum seekers in Finland. There are indications of using Belarus as a route in approximately 40 asylum applications.

Last year, the situation in Afghanistan changed quickly. The Finnish Immigration Service coordinated the reception of the evacuees from Afghanistan in Finland. By decision of the Finnish Government, 236 Afghan citizens were granted a residence permit on special humanitarian grounds. These persons are not included in the asylum statistics. A total of 88 of the Afghans who arrived on the evacuation flight applied for asylum in Finland. The majority are family members of persons who received consular protection.

The unstable situation in Afghanistan has not affected the number of asylum applications in other respects. Afghans submitted altogether 403 asylum applications in 2021.

The Government decided in February 2020 that Finland would receive 175 vulnerable asylum seekers from the Mediterranean region. The relocations from the Mediterranean countries were completed in 2021.

Finland got 7,585 new citizens

In 2021, Finland got 6,070 new citizens by application (7,193 in 2020) and 1,515 by declaration (1,551 in 2020).

The number of citizenship applications has increased (14,366 in 2021 and 11,569 in 2020). Iraqi citizens were the largest group of applicants in Finland (2,240 in 2021 and 1,881 in 2020). For years, Russian citizens submitted the most applications for Finnish citizenship, until Iraqis topped the statistics the year before last.

More yearly statistics available at

You can find the confirmed statistics for 2021 in our statistical service at Instructions on how to use the statistical service as well as statistics for 2015 and backwards in PDF format can be found on the website of the Finnish Immigration Service.

Media inquiries

  • Immigration in 2021 and asylum matters: Jari Kähkönen, Director General, tel. 0295 433 037, email:
  • Immigration on the basis of work and the objectives of the Finnish Immigration Service: Elina Immonen, Deputy Director General, tel. 0295 433 037, email:
  • Other questions about statistics: Press and Communications Services, Finnish Immigration Service, tel. 0295 433 037, e-mail: