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Finland: delays leave students facing uncertainty

International students intending to study at universities in Finland this year are facing uncertainty about their studies after delays in processing their residence permits has left them unable to start their courses.

FinlandStudents are at risk of missing out on studying due to permit delays. Photo: Ninara via Flickr

As of September 23, there were 970 pending applications for first-time study permits

According to the Finnish Immigration Service, as of September 23, there were 970 pending applications for first-time study permits and 976 for extended ones.

“We have 30 students whose residence permits are still being processed”

Applications that arrived as early as July 1 are still awaiting processing, even though residence permits for studying are treated as urgent.

Those studying in Finland for a period of over 90 days are required by law to apply for a residence permit, which can be valid for up to two years.

The Finnish Immigration Service says that it received 4,376 applications from students between May and August this year, attributing the delays to a 7% increase in applications and a lack of staff to handle all the paperwork.

“We have 30 students whose residence permits are still being processed. Studies already started in late August but we have extended the deadline for arrival for those students who have been affected by the delays,” a spokesperson for Tampere University told The PIE News.

A survey conducted earlier this year revealed that of the 26 universities interviewed, only three felt the current residence permit system was effective, with some stating processing times were “unreasonable” and in need of “fine-tuning”.

According to a spokesperson at Aalto University near Helsinki, how the university can accommodate delayed students depends on the course they take.

“Some programs offer flexibility to start in January, for example. [But] in some programs, there is practically no flexibility, since autumn courses are prerequisites for spring courses or there might be lab work in the beginning,” they told The PIE.

The University of Oulu in northern Finland told The PIE that new students will need to get their residence permit and register before September 30 or else they will not be able to start their studies until the next academic year.

They explained that students on scholarships will not be able to carry them over into the next year.

According to an online tracker that helps applicants check the average waiting time for their application, a student who verified their identity via the service as early as August 1 could be waiting until November for their permit.

Residence permits are managed by the Finnish Immigration Service and VFS Global, a multinational company based in the UAE who currently lists 62 governments among its clients.

At the time of publication, neither had responded to The PIE’s request for comment.

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