New EU permanent residence permit introduced in Finland

From May 2007, a new permanent residence permit has been available for the benefit of non-EU nationals residing in Finland, called the "long-term resident – EC" residence permit.
With the introduction of the new permit, Finland has finally implemented EU Directive 2003/109/EC on the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents, fifteen months late.

The new permit complements the pre-existing Finnish permanent resident status. Inside Finland, it gives enhanced rights to equal treatment with Finnish nationals in such areas as access to employment, remuneration, and recognition of diplomas.
Like the old permanent residence permit, it is lost after two years of absence from Finland; however, the new permit stretches this period to six years if the absence is due to residence in other EU countries.
Once back in Finland, the long-term resident permit may be re-acquired immediately, unlike the old permanent residence status. In addition, the new permit facilitates moving to other EU countries, and persons doing so enjoy more rights in their new host country than if they move there without the new permit.

To apply for the new status a foreigner needs to have resided in Finland for five years without interruption immediately prior to the submission of application and must have income other than unemployment benefits.
However, only residence on "continuous" grounds, the so-called A-status (and not the "temporary" B-status), counts toward the five-year residence requirement. The total absences over this period should not exceed ten months and must be shorter than six consecutive months.
Availability of income needs to be documented by a copy of an employment contract, bank statement, or some other documentation attached to the application.

The implementation of this new permit in Finland appears to be still problematic, however.
While both European Community and Finnish law clearly indicate that supporting documents must be attached, at least one immigration officer at the Turku police station denied that documentation was required; such an application may, however, be rejected for lack of supporting documents. One such case has already landed in front of the Finnish Supreme Administrative Court.

In addition, new fees for the new residence permits have not yet been published.
Despite the lack of published fees, the first applications for the new permits were filed in Turku last June. It is not clear how any fees established after the time of application can lawfully be charged from the applicant.

Those who have resided in Finland for four years and are qualified for the old permanent residence permit may now consider instead waiting for the fifth year and applying directly for the new EU permanent residence permit. This would provide enhanced rights without having to pay for two similar permits.

Anna Kocharov

Julkaistu alunperin Turun ylioppilaslehden numerossa 11/2007 (21.9.2007)