Immigration statistics 2023: The effects of international conflicts and of the economic downturn on immigration to Finland
In 2023, Finland’s immigration figures reflected the effects of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the situation at Finland’s eastern border, the economic downturn, and the current labour shortage in Finland.
High migration levels to Finland continue. A significant number of Ukrainians are still fleeing the war to Finland, and a record number of residence permit applications have been submitted by students and family members of employees and students.
“Even though the economic downturn has affected labour migration to Finland, the numbers are still on a record-high level,” says Ilkka Haahtela, Director General of the Finnish Immigration Service.
Ukrainians still a large customer segment, the need for temporary protection is reducing
As a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, Finland is granting temporary protection to those fleeing Ukraine. Temporary protection differs from asylum, as the former may be granted to a specific category of people without the individual consideration of an applicant’s need for protection.
In 2023, Finland received a total of 19,426 applications for temporary protection. In comparison to other grounds for moving to Finland, the figure is significant. Yet, it equals less than half of the number of applications submitted the previous year (2022: 47,302). In 2023, the applications were submitted fairly evenly throughout the year but there was a downward trend. In November and December, the number of applications submitted per month was less than one thousand, which is the lowest figure since the beginning of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. In early summer, an increase was seen in the number of incoming applications due to seasonal workers’ arrival in Finland.
In 2023, temporary protection was granted to 18,969 people fleeing the war in Ukraine (2022: 45,358).
Ukrainian arrivals in Finland expected to continue
This year, the validity of temporary protection residence permits issued to those fleeing Ukraine is automatically extended until 4 March 2025. Normally, residence permit holders wishing to extend their permits are required to submit an application. This time, the Finnish Immigration Service will automatically extend all residence permits granted for temporary protection.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine will continue to have an impact on arrivals in Finland. The Finnish Immigration Service estimates that approximately 8,000–12,000 applicants for temporary protection will arrive in Finland in 2024. However, it is difficult to predict how the war in Ukraine and the number of people fleeing it will evolve.
“The number of Ukrainians applying for protection in Finland depends, among other factors, on the duration and scope of the war, the humanitarian situation in Ukraine and the situation in the receiving countries,” says Antti Lehtinen, Director of Asylum Unit.
No major changes in the number of asylum applications
Last year, a total of 5,372 asylum applications were submitted in Finland (2022: 5,827).
Unlike the year before, Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is not reflected in the number of asylum applications submitted in Finland in 2023. In 2022, a marked increase was seen in the number of applications from Russians in the spring following the beginning of the war, and another even more pronounced surge after Russia declared a military mobilisation in September. (2022: 1,172, 2021: 207). In 2023, Russian citizens submitted 416 asylum applications. The applications were submitted evenly throughout the year. The largest number of applications per month was seen in January 2023 when Russian citizens submitted 60 asylum applications.
The conflict in Gaza is not significantly reflected in the number of asylum seekers arriving in Finland.
A total of 1,571 positive decisions were issued on asylum applications (2022: 1,760). In addition, 1,342 quota refugees arrived in Finland.
Finland not the only country of destination for asylum seekers crossing the eastern border
The total number of asylum applications includes the 1,282 asylum applications registered at Finland’s eastern border in the autumn of 2023. Most of the asylum seekers who entered Finland at the eastern border were men aged 20–30, although there were also a number of underage co-applicants and unaccompanied minors. The applicants represent over 20 nationalities but most are citizens of Syria, Somalia or Yemen.
A significant number of the asylum seekers coming to Finland via the eastern border have previously tried to enter the European Union area through Belarus. This implies that many of the applicants likely aim to settle in Central Europe, not in Finland. Of the asylum seekers who have arrived in Finland via the eastern border, 186 have been registered as having left their reception centre. So far, other EU Member States have presented 50 take back requests to Finland regarding the asylum seekers who arrived in Finland via the eastern border.
– We have issued more than 70 decisions for those arriving via the eastern border. At the moment, no positive decisions have been issued. We are, and have been, issuing decisions for other customers as well, not only for those who have arrived via the eastern border,” says Lehtinen.
Prolonged conflicts will be reflected in the number of asylum seekers
The Finnish Immigration Service estimates that approximately 3,500–4,500 new asylum applications will be submitted in Finland this year. The estimate was made in December 2023.
Migration pressure to the European Union area is expected to be high in 2024 as well. After a certain time, it can be expected to reflect in Finland, too. Other factors behind these estimates include protracted conflicts, especially in countries of origin that are the most relevant to Finland, as well as the strained refugee situation within transit countries.
Sudden and unexpected changes in the number of incoming asylum applications are possible. The estimate does not cover instrumentalised migration. The authorities prepare for such scenarios as part of their contingency planning.
Labour migration to Finland still at historically high levels despite the economic downturn
Labour migration to Finland was on a record-high level in 2022. In comparison to 2022, the total number of applications submitted in 2023 decreased but was still on a high level compared to earlier years (2023: 16,999 applications for a first residence permit on the basis of work, 2022: 20,960).
Reasons behind the high levels of labour migration to Finland include, among other factors, the current labour shortage in Finland and the improved recruitment networks of companies. The main reason behind the notably high number of applications submitted in 2022 was the increased number of applications from Russian citizens after Russia's attack on Ukraine. Other factors behind the decreased number of applications submitted in 2023 were the economic downturn and the slowdown in the construction industry.
In 2023, the largest applicant groups in work-based residence permits were citizens of the Philippines, Russia, India, and China. The most common grounds for applying were, again this year, work that requires a partial decision. This means residence permits for employed persons where the granting of the permit requires a partial decision from the Employment and Economic Development Office.
“To give an example, the number of positive decisions on residence permits for employees in healthcare and social work reached an all-time high in 2023 and has increased very rapidly over a few years,” says Pauliina Helminen, Director of Permit and Nationality Unit.
In 2022, the number of residence permit applications from specialists was exceptionally high due to the increased number of applications from Russian citizens after the war in Ukraine started. In 2023, the number of applications was significantly lower than the previous year’s record levels (2023: 1,604, 2022: 2,995). In addition to the reduced number of applications from Russian citizens, other reasons behind the drop in the number of specialists' applications may be the global competition for specialists and the economic downturn.
Among specialists, the citizenship distribution was very similar as before, the year 2022 excluded. In 2018–2021 and in 2023, the largest applicant category was citizens of India.
In 2023, the total number of positive decisions on first work-based residence permits was 15,081 (2022: 16,081).
The Finnish Immigration Service estimates that the number of work-based residence permit applications submitted in 2024 will be 19,000 but states that the unpredictable economy makes it difficult to produce accurate estimates.
New record in applications for a first residence permit for studies
The total number of applications for a first residence permit for studies submitted in 2023 was 12,867 (2022: 9,855). The reasons behind the growth include, among other factors, the amendments made in the legislation covering students’ and researchers’ residence permits and the increased number of study programmes designed for international students.
Especially the number of applications from students from Asian countries has been increasing. For example, the number of applications from citizens of Sri Lanka more than doubled in comparison to 2022.
Last year, students were granted a total of 12,795 first residence permits (2022: 8,383).
The number of applications from students is estimated to keep increasing in 2024 since international students have shown a keen interest in Finland. The Finnish Immigration Service estimates that the number of applications for a first residence permit for studies submitted in 2024 will be 14,000.
The primary factor affecting the total number of international students in Finland is how many new students the Finnish educational institutions can admit each year. Additional factors will be Finland’s attractiveness as a place to live and study, competition between countries to attract students, and the increase of education export and of the alternative forms of studying.
The number of applications from family members follows the development of immigration for work and studies
In 2023, a record number of residence permits were applied for on the basis of family ties. The total number of such residence permit applications was 21,583 (2022: 18,981). Most applications on the basis of family ties were submitted by citizens of Sri Lanka, Russia, India, the Philippines, and Bangladesh.
How the number of applications from family members will develop depends on the development of other forms of migration to Finland. As the number of applications for work-based and study-based permits has increased since 2021, the number of applications from family members has followed that trend.
Applications from family members of people who have been granted international protection amount to approximately 8 per cent of all applications for a first residence permit on the basis of family ties.
Last year, family members were granted a total of 20,278 first residence permits (2022: 15,457).
Most of EU citizens who moved to Finland moved here because of work
In 2023, EU citizens submitted a total of 9,570 registration applications (2022: 10,166). As in the year before, most EU citizens apply for registration on the basis of work (2023: 3,675, 2022: 4,256).
Last year, 8,479 EU citizens confirmed their right of residence in Finland (2022: 10,183). Of them, 3,261 were registered on the basis of work (2022: 4,270). The most common citizenships among those registered were Estonian, German and Romanian.
More than 13,000 new Finnish citizens
More people than before wanted to continue living in Finland. A total of 43,961 applications for extended permits were submitted (2022: 34,136), and a total of 42,621 such permits were granted (2022: 28,665). Extended permits were most commonly applied for and issued on the basis of work. Extended permits are residence permits that can be applied for by those who have already lived in Finland as residence permit holders.
A total of 16,255 people were issued with permanent residence permits (2022: 11,352).
Finland gained 13,077 new citizens: 11,594 of them were granted Finnish citizenship on application (2022: 9,509) and 1,483 by declaration (2022: 970).
A notable increase was seen in the number of citizenship applications. In total, Finland received 18,296 citizenship applications (2022: 12,915). The highest number of citizenship applications came from citizens of Russia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Approximately 30% of those who applied for citizenship had been granted international protection.
The substantial increase in the number of citizenship applications was partly due to the changes proposed in the most recent Government Programme to the requirements for obtaining Finnish citizenship.
The number of citizenship declarations increased as well (2023: 1,513, 2022: 1,178). The highest number of citizenship declarations came from citizens of Sweden, Estonia, and Russia.
More statistics available on the Migri.fi website
Statistics for 2023 are available in our statistical service at tilastot.migri.fi. See the Statistics page at Migri.fi for instructions on using the statistical service, for reports on immigration to Finland (in Finnish) and for statistics from 2015 and earlier years in PDF format. The statistics page at Migri.fi also contains quota refugee statistics and application volume forecasts for 2024 and 2025.
Contact requests: Press and Communications Services, Finnish Immigration Service, tel. +358 295 433 037, email: firstname.lastname@example.org