Only those coming from a country outside the European Union, know how much it takes to obtain a residence permit in order to study in Finland. Studying abroad is not only about applying to a program and start a whole new life (that would be a lot easier!) it’s also about crossing borders and bureaucracy, a lot of bureaucracy.
I’m not going to describe step by step what is needed in order to come to Finland for the first time, or you’ll be terribly bored by the end of this post. I will only briefly mention the things I remember and how I felt about it, in order to explain how different was to obtain the residence permit extension.
Note: It’s important to mention that I’m talking about my experience as an international student, if you’re an exchange student, your experience might’ve been different.
How does it work??
Through the web page of EnterFinland, is necessary to submit an application. Several questions about your identity and previous studies must be responded, so as information about the institution where you’re going to study.
One of the things that caught me by surprise when I was trying to obtain the residence permit for the first time, was to have the required funds in my personal bank account. For the Finnish government to extend a residence permit, is necessary to prove that you have enough funds to sustain yourself for an entire year. When I was trying to obtain my permit, the required amount was 560 euros per month for a year.
Besides the proof of income, we need to explain and show with documents where those funds came from (bank statements, a loan, sponsors, etc.). If you don’t have a scholarship, you will also need to show that you already paid the tuition fee or that you have funds to do it.
After proving that you have enough funds to survive in Finland, you will need to answer questions about the insurance you just purchased. These questions seemed tricky to me and had to think the response carefully. Also, the pdf showing that you have insurance must be attached.
Actually, everything must be attached: letter of acceptance, insurance, bank statements, a photo of your passport, etc. Then you’ll have to go to the Finnish embassy in your country to deliver original copies of your documents.
As you can see, obtaining the first residence permit is time and energy consuming, but it’s also very rewarding when you finally have the residence card in your hands. This card is valid only for one year, so I knew it must be renewed during summer.
The second time
I don’t know why, I thought that obtaining an extension of the residence permit would be easier than the first time, but once again, I was completely wrong. As in the first time, you will need to go to EnterFinland, start a new application and filling in all the personal information required. To have enough funds is a “must”and the section about the insurance seemed even trickier than a year ago. The documents to be attached are even more this time, since you will need an extract of your studies during the academic year that just ended and -in some cases- a scholarship agreement.
Once again, we all need to go to an office and present the original documents. Why am I writing about this if you can find all this information in the web page?
Simply because I had no idea of what was the process and it caught me by surprise, so if you’re reading this and you already did all I just described, congratulations! (including those who finally got or are waiting the card for the first time)
At the end of the day, bureaucracy is good to remind ourselves that stating a whole new life in a different country takes more than courage and a suitcase, and for that, we all deserve a pat on the back once in a while.