Skip to main content
European Website on Integration logo
European Website on Integration

Governance of migrant integration in Finland

Net migration has been positive in Finland since 1981. Most migrants coming to the country used to be Finnish citizens returning from Sweden, but the number of international migrants started increasing in the early 1990s. They came mainly from Russia due to the geographical proximity of the two countries as well as their common history. A large share of these Russian immigrants were also descendants of Ingrian Finns who moved to Russia in the 17th century.

The statistics in the chart above are based on Eurostat's Non-national population by group of citizenship, 1 January 2020, with third-country nationals (TCNs) counting 168,500 persons and representing 3% of Estonia’s population, while other EU citizens made up 1.7% of the total.

Statistics Finland, in addition, counts that on 31 December 2020, 180,206 TCNs were living in Finland. Most of them were Russians and Iraqis. Additional data from the Finnish immigration services reveals that in 2019, out of 71,392 permits issued, 36% were first-time residence permits, another 36% were extended residence permits, 14% were permanent residence permits, and 14% were other residence certificates and notifications. Within the first and extended residence permits, 40% were issued for family reasons, 34% for work, 20% for studies, and 6% for other reasons.

In addition, there are around 330,000 people in the Finnish population with a third-country background, regardless of citizenship; a total of 9,001 people were naturalised in 2019.

Integration strategy

To foster the inclusion of migrants, Finland has a Government Integration Programme for 2016-2019. The strategic document highlights 4 focus areas: its main thematic priorities include using migrants’ cultural strengths to enhance Finland's innovation capacity, improving their participation in higher education, labour market and leisure activities, and fighting against racism; the document also clarifies the role of municipalities.

The previous and first strategy covered the period of 2012-2015. Its 63 measures were meant to support migrants’ participation in society and fostering a positive interaction between all population groups. Specific emphasis was given on promoting employment and supporting immigrant children, youngsters, families and women through basic services.

Integration programme

The 2016-2019 programme mentioned in the previous section also requires local integration services to set up individual integration plans for newcomers. Participation to the plans is mandatory for migrants and includes:

  • language course
  • civic education
  • vocational training

Legislation

Municipalities evaluate their individual integration plans established by the Government Integration Programme for 2016-2019 but no data is made public. Likewise, the consulting firm Ramboll Finland drafted a monitoring report of the first strategic integration programme for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment’s internal use. The second programme has so far not been evaluated, neither by governmental institutions nor by non-profit organisations.

However, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment’s yearly reports on immigrants’ participation in the labour market and on ethnic relations are public. They are based on indicators such as employment, education and training, health and well-being, housing, participation, and two-way integration. They revealed for example that integration plan had a positive impact on immigrant’s children and that salary subsidies had a positive influence on migrant employment. This ongoing monitoring results in a comprehensive review of integration in Finland after each government term.

Legislation

Law on foreigners

The first act came into effect in 1984 while the current aliens act is applicable since 2004. It includes provisions about both migrants and beneficiaries of international protection (see chapter 6). The latest amendments were made in 2017.

Asylum law

There is no separate asylum legislation in Finland. However, an Act on Reception Points and Centres for Asylum Seekers was issued in December 1991 to respond to the increasing number of asylum seekers arriving in Finland. It was repealed by the Act on the Integration of Immigrants and Reception of Asylum Seekers in 1999.

In addition, the Act on the reception of persons seeking international protection and recognition of victims of trafficking secures the subsistence of persons seeking international protection and receiving temporary protection and lays down provisions on the identification of and help to victims of human trafficking, on the basis of EU legislation and international agreements.

Integration law

The current Act on the Promotion of Immigrant Integration dates back to 2010. It mainly focuses on promoting immigrants’ active role in the Finnish society, non-discrimination and positive interaction between different migrant groups. Previously, the 1999 Act on the Integration of Immigrants and Reception of Asylum Seekers promoted the integration and freedom of choice of immigrants through measures helping them acquire essential knowledge and skills to function in the Finnish society.

Citizenship law

The first Finnish citizenship act took effect in 1920. The subsequent acts are from 1941 and 1968. The current Nationality Act took effect in 2003. One of its key objectives is to promote the social integration of foreign nationals permanently living in Finland. It therefore made the acquisition of Finnish citizenship more flexible. The latest amendments took effect in 2017.

Anti-discrimination

The current Finnish Non-Discrimination Act first took effect in 2014, or 10 years after the original act. It aims at promoting equality and preventing discrimination, as well as at enhancing the protection provided by law to those who have been discriminated against. It provides that “no one may be discriminated against on the basis of age, origin, nationality, language, religion, belief, opinion, political views, trade union activity, family relationships, state of health, disability, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics.”

Public authorities

On the one hand, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is in charge of the general development, planning and guidance of the migrant integration policy. It also collaborates with the ministeries of interior, education and culture, and social affairs and health, as well as with bureaus such as the Finnish National Agency for Education. It also proposes legislation and steers the activities of the 15 regional Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment. The economic ministry is also responsible for the overall coordination of integration activities, project evaluations, and monitoring of good ethnic relations. It further represents Finland at the European Integration Network.

Municipalities, on the other hand, are in charge of implementing integration policies, in collaboration with the Employment and Economic Development Offices (or TE Services). They also make their own integration programmes and plans for individual immigrants, within the framework provided by the integration act.

Civil society

Finland does not have a consultative body dedicated to integration.

However, the Centre of Expertise in Integration of Immigrants, part of the Immigrant Integration Unit in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, supports practitioners working in the field of integration locally, regionally, and nationally. It helps them develop their professional skills, strengthen their networks and better define working processes. It also develops integration indicators to improve the knowledge of integration in Finland.

Funding

Non-profit organisations and local authorities can apply for financing for migrant integration through several EU funds. In addition, national and private funds are made available for service providers and other stakeholders to carry out projects aiming for a better integration of the migrant population.

Once the national programmes under the 2021-2027 funding periods become available, the information below will be updated.

EU funds

Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in Finland

  • Details: The national allocation for Finland under AMIF for the 2014-2020 period is €26 million, with 42.4% earmarked for integration. AMIF also provides for additional allocations for resettled refugees and applicants for international protection who have been transferred from other EU countries. The national integration priorities described in the Finnish AMIF programme aim to improve interactions between migrants and the host society. The measures are also aimed at improving municipal reception capacity and integration services.
  • National managing authority: The national managing authority for AMIF in Finland is the Ministry of the Interior, International Affairs Unit.

European Social Fund (ESF) in Finland

Other EU funds for integration available in Finland

ERASMUS+, the EU’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe

National managing authority: Finnish National Agency for Education

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the EU by correcting regional imbalances

National managing authorities:

Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD), offering material assistance to the most vulnerable or in need

National managing authority: Finnish Food Authority

European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), supporting the development of rural economies and communities

National managing authority: Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (mainland), Åland Provincial Government Department of Trade and Industry (Åland)

European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)

National managing authority: Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry; regional management through the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and Environment; EMFF supports coastal communities in diversifying their economies and finances projects that create jobs and improve quality of life along European coasts

Other funds

Other public funding in Finland

Private funding in Finland

Other stakeholders and useful resources

Providing integration services

  • trade unions
  • private companies
  • educational institutions

Implementing the integration programme

Campaigning

Publishing statistics

Related content

| EU Wide

An analysis of the housing situation of migrants in Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia and Spain, and related integration implications.

More content