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Upturn in the number of international students

Publication date 17.9.2021 10.32

This year, the number of applications submitted by international students is significantly higher than last year when going abroad to study was difficult because of the coronavirus situation.

Between January and August 2021, 4,233 applicants from countries outside the EU applied for a residence permit for studies. Last year, the corresponding number was only 1,756. Most students come to study in higher education institutions and apply for a residence permit during the summer months, after having received a study place.

Most foreign students applying to study in Finland come from Russia (899) and China (504). The top applicant countries have been the same for the past years.

Last year was exceptional, as the number of applicants was clearly lower than in previous years due to the coronavirus situation.

“All over the world, the coronavirus situation still affects the possibilities of our customers to travel or visit Finnish missions. As Finnish missions are reopening their operations, their queues are longer than normally”, says Head of Section Anu Tarén.

The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs is responsible for the operations of Finnish missions.

Most applicants receive a positive decision

During January–August of this year, students were issued 3,870 first residence permits. The majority, 93 per cent, of these decisions were positive.

In addition to having a study place in Finland, being issued a residence permit for studies also requires that the student has sufficient funds for living in Finland and insurance that covers medical expenses in case the student becomes ill in Finland. Students from non-EU countries are not entitled to financial aid for studies and are charged tuition fees by Finnish higher education institutions.

“Most student applicants have received a positive decision. The reason for negative decisions is usually the student having difficulties related to financial resources”, says Tarén.

Residence permit for studies was granted in a couple of weeks

The Finnish Immigration Service aims at streamlining the process of applying for a residence permit and at shortening the processing time of applications. The aim is that a residence permit for studies is issued within a month by 2023.

In January–August 2021, the median processing time for a first residence permit for studies was 12 days. This means that half of the applicants have received their decision in 12 days or less.

At the moment, a first residence permit for studies is issued for one or two years, after which the student applies for an extended permit. Students who have completed their studies can stay in Finland to work and apply for an extended permit on the basis of work, for example.

“If the student does not have a job, it is also possible to apply for an extended permit to look for work or to start a business. This makes it possible to look for a job after studies”, says Tarén.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is working on a legislation project to make it easier for foreign students and researches to stay in Finland. The goal is that students are granted longer permits than at present.

“We are working in close collaboration with educational institutions to streamline the processing of residence permits for studies. We have, for example, developed facilitative measures together with higher education institutions, ministries, and other authorities in a project aimed at improving the conditions of entry for international students. The project provided us with many good ideas”, says Tarén.

Media inquiries

Anu Tarén, Head of Section, tel. 0295 433 037, email:

Statistics on residence permits for studies between January and August 2021 are available in our statistical service at

Press release