Family members of a person who is residing lawfully in Finland can apply for a residence permit in Finland on the basis of family ties. This process is called family reunification. The family member who is already living in Finland may have moved to Finland for work or studies, for example, or may have been granted asylum in Finland.
The family member living in Finland is called a sponsor.
Residence permit applications on the basis of family ties can be divided into the following categories:
family members of Finnish citizens;
family members of other foreign nationals who live in Finland with a residence permit;
family members of persons who have been granted international protection.
Under the Finnish Aliens Act, residence permit may usually be issued on the basis of family ties only to family members who belong to the nuclear family of the person living in Finland (the sponsor). They include the sponsor’s:
spouse, partner in a registered partnership or, under certain conditions, cohabiting partner;
dependent children under 18 years of age;
guardians, if the sponsor is a child under 18 years of age.
Other persons outside the nuclear family may be granted a residence permit on the basis of family ties in certain specific circumstances defined in law, but only if the sponsor is a Finnish citizen or has been granted international protection.
Statistics on residence permit applications and decisions on the basis of family ties are available in our statistical service.
A large number of the foreign nationals moving to Finland are moving here for family reasons. Other reasons for applying for a residence permit in Finland include, among others, work and studies.
Some of the residence permits issued on the basis of family ties are issued to applicants whose family member has been granted international protection in Finland. However, a larger percentage of the applicants are either family members of Finnish citizens or living in Finland with some other residence permit, such as a residence permit for work.
As a rule, a person applying for a residence permit in Finland on the basis of family ties must have secure means of support in Finland. Applicants usually secure their means of support with their sponsor’s earned income.
However, family members of Finnish citizens do not need a secure means of support.
There is also another exception: family members of a person who has been granted refugee status can apply for family reunification without income requirements within three months after the sponsor who lives in Finland has been informed of the decision to grant him or her refugee status.
International protection means granting a person refugee status or subsidiary protection status.
A person who has been granted refugee status can apply for family reunification without income requirements within three months after being informed of the decision on the matter, if the family has been started before the sponsor's arrival in Finland. The same condition applies to quota refugees.
The family members submit their residence permit applications abroad at a Finnish embassy or consulate.
By contrast, family members of a person who has received subsidiary protection must meet the income requirement. The income requirement also applies to family members of a person who has received refugee status, if the family has been started after the sponsor’s arrival in Finland. It also applies to quota refugees, if the family has been started after the sponsor was accepted into the refugee quota.
When applying for a residence permit on the basis of family ties, the applicant must present reliable proof of the family relationship between the applicant and the sponsor. Usually this proof is a document, such as a marriage certificate or a child’s birth certificate.
If no such documents exist, the Finnish Immigration Service will investigate the matter by hearing the applicant and the sponsor. The applicants are interviewed at a Finnish embassy or consulate abroad.
In the interview, the applicants may be asked about their family life and everyday topics in connection with it, such as the family’s home and place of residence. The statements given in the interview are not expected to be identical. In fact, family members often tell a little differently for instance about their daily chores or the neighbourhood they live in. These interviews can be used to investigate, for example, whether the family members have led a family life before the sponsor left the country.
The Finnish Immigration Service may provide the applicant and sponsor with an opportunity to prove their biological kinship with DNA analysis, if no other adequate evidence of family ties based on biological kinship is available. The DNA analysis is carried out by the National Institute for Health and Welfare. In practice, DNA tests are not performed often.
Foreign nationals applying for family reunification are asked to present proof of their family ties. As a rule, the applicant must have led an actual family life with the sponsor living in Finland.
Biological kinship does not always constitute sufficient grounds for granting a residence permit on the basis of family ties. If for instance a parent who lives in Finland is applying for a residence permit for his or her biological child who is a foreign national, the child may not necessarily be granted a residence permit if the parent has never lived together with the child.
However, there are situations in which a family life has not been possible. This is always taken into account when decisions are made. A newly married couple, for instance, may not have been able to live together prior to the marriage because of cultural reasons.
The family relationship between an applicant and a sponsor can be deemed to have broken voluntarily, if they have lived apart in a way that has ended their family life.
When this concerns a refugee, the reason for living apart is always taken into account. If refugee status has been the reason why the family members have been living apart, residence permit will not be refused because of this. In fact, the family life of refugees can only very rarely be deemed to have ended, even in cases when the family has been living apart for a long time.
The Finnish Immigration Service investigates whether the requirements for granting a residence permit are met.
Sometimes an application for a residence permit on the basis of family ties may give rise to suspicions about evasion of the provisions on entry into or residence in the country. This can be detected in a number of ways. The authorities may, for instance, find out that the applicant has previously used a different identity. Another possible reason for a negative decision is that the applicant and the sponsor have given entirely contradictory statements about their family life.
Biological kinship does not always constitute sufficient grounds for granting a residence permit. In addition to being biologically related, the applicant and the sponsor must have led an actual family life.
In cases where the sponsor is a child under 18 years of age, the Finnish Immigration Service investigates very carefully the reasons why the child has left his or her home country. The purpose of this is to protect the child, because children should not be used to gain someone else access to a country. Young children should not end up in a position where they are sent abroad alone to seek asylum for their family.
A sponsor’s spouse may be refused residence permit if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the purpose of the marriage is to evade the provisions on entry into or residence in the country. Suspicions of a sham marriage, or a marriage of convenience, may arise for instance if the spouses give contradictory information about each other’s important personal details, such as name, citizenship, family, occupation or address.
There may be grounds to suspect a sham marriage if:
the spouses have not lived together or have only lived together for a very short time;
a sum of money has been handed over in order for the marriage to be contracted;
the spouses do not speak a language understood by both;
the spouses are inconsistent about their respective personal details;
the past history of one or both of the spouses contains evidence of previous marriages of convenience;
the spouses have never met before their marriage;
the past history of one or both of the spouses contains residence anomalies.
When the possibility of a sham marriage is evaluated, cultural differences are one of the factors taken into account. In some cultures, spouses may not live together prior to marriage.
There may be grounds to suspect the genuineness of an applicant’s marriage, if the applicant has married someone:
immediately after his or her residence permit application on some other grounds has been rejected;
immediately after his or her residence permit has been withdrawn;
immediately after he or she has been informed of a decision on refusal of entry or deportation.
However, the relevance of each of these factors is always assessed individually. The applicant and the spouse will always be heard either in an interview or in writing.