Dealing with Immigration Authorities 3: Things turn ugly (Migri and registering right of residency)


Part 1 of our immigration bureaucracy saga left us with the ability to pay taxes, and Part 2 even provided a partly functioning Finnish bank account. Which, it seems like, is a lot of accomplishment for only a month in Finland.

But the level boss was still waiting in the wings - Migri, the feared Finnish immigration authority, who should hopefully set us up with a residential address, and thus register us as permanently living here.


We had been warned, our friend L.S. from Latvia, by virtue of coming from the Baltics, was sent to the construction worker queue by default - the Migri worker did not even ask why she’s in Finland, and decided to completely ignore the fact that as a rather short, nerdy, curvy, legging-wearing Millennial woman she is not exactly carved out for construction work. It was just assumed Baltics must equal construction. And in the bigger picture, from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service losing Green Card applications all the way to the German Ausländeramt randomly accusing Eastern European women of being prostitutes, we’ve only heard super scary stories about immigration authorities and how they treat their clients.





Our arrival at Migri fitted this theme as a security guard who was rude, unhelpful, and condescending at the same time checked for proof of us even having an appointment before we were allowed to enter the building.


Then our luck changed for a moment and our “we are good foreigners and being super prepared” shtick started working. We were on time, we were dressed well and at our best behavior, we had all our documentation (Passports, apartment rental contract, work contracts, Finnish ID numbers as received by Vero) ready. We got called up on time, and after only a few minutes, our permanent residency in Finland got registered by a very nice and helpful clerk. The confirmation would be sent via e-mail the next day.


Or, as it turns out, not. As agreed, Philipp received a note from Migri on his permanent residency. Julia, on the other hand, received a note that she did not provide enough proof of employment since her working contract did not specify a number of working hours per week.

This is outrageous in several ways:

  1. because the contract specifies a fixed monthly income, so the number of hours worked is moot

  2. because Julia would have been entitled to a permanent residency by virtue of being Philipp's wife alone

  3. because the EU has freedom of movement within the Schengen area so even if we would have shown up at Migri telling them "our plan is to live off KELA (Finnish social security) money and drink Karhu all day" they would have no legal grounds to refuse our residency

We also learned that Migri does not actually register your residency, but only your right of residency.


Time to split our resources: Julia's employer issued a clarified working contract, she uploaded it to Migri, and through the magic of "having jumped through the burning hoop and given the Migri clerk a sense of power and accomplishment" Julia actually got her right of residency approved a day after Philipp. He meanwhile gave a call to DVV (the Finnish population registry) and nicely asked to add a municipality of residence to his and his wife's record. This actually worked out well, albeit in two sessions due to Julia's right of residency being registered later.


Hyped by the positive DVV experience, we went back to Sokos’ lingerie department (see Part 2), registered Philipp’s residential address to unlock his bank account fully, and opened another bank account for Julia. Maybe one day we will switch our bank accounts to Nordea since they offer an english-language app. Maybe.



All in all, it is remarkable that the government officials we dealt with at Vero, Migri, and DVV were super friendly and competent - yet still managed to create unnecessary roadblocks to ruin our day.

The pain of the whole process comes from the fact that it is not designed to accept people into it, but assumes one is set up with a Finnish ID from birth and a bank account from teenage years onwards. The pathways to become part of the system later are band-aids at best and borderline chicane at worst, frustrating both immigration workers and immigrants. So clerks channel their frustration into being overzealous and making life hell for immigrants. Those dump their frustration on clerks, which leaves them even worse off, which creates a downward spiral. It is why we direly need the Reform Migri movement. For us, the "Migri adventure" was only about frustration and inconvenience, but there are a lot of people for whom losing or not being grated residency status can or will lead to a loss of everything they own, or even life-threatening situations.


And the fun just does not end - to our horror we discovered that we are not married in the eyes of the Finnish government! To absolutely no one's surprised, this means another in-person appointment, this time to show our marriage certificate (and authorized translation) to a DVV clerk. But this is a story for another day...