Passport and Residence Permit

Passport

If you do not already have a valid U.S. passport, obtain one from the nearest U.S. passport office or its local agent. 

Dual Citizens

The U.S. State Department’s position is that dual U.S. citizens taking part in the Fulbright Program travel on their U.S. passports, even if it entails some extra time and expense.

However, the Finnish Immigration Service (the authority deciding on Finnish residence permits) advises the following:

  • Dual Finnish-U.S. citizens can stay in Finland without a Finnish residence permit. They cannot apply for a Finnish residence permit.
  • Grantees with U.S. and other EU country citizenship should follow the EU citizen registration process when coming to Finland instead of applying for a Finnish residence permit. Please see detailed EU citizen registration instructions at the Finnish Immigration Service website.

Residence Permit

Most Fulbright grantees and their accompanying family members need a residence permit for their stay in Finland. Grantees are personally responsible for obtaining a passport and the residence permit required.

Kindly note the Fulbright grant does not provide for expenses related to any passport or residence permit fees (visit to the VFS Visa Application Center/consulate). Such expenses must be borne by the grantee without recourse to claim for reimbursement (more information: section 631, Policies of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and section 16 of your Terms and conditions of award document).

The residence permit is issued in a form of a separate residence permit card.

Visa or residence permit?

In Finland the term visa refers to a permit issued for a short term (max. three months) stay in Finland. Visa is usually issued for business and tourism purposes and required from other than visa exempt citizens.

Residence permit in turn, refers usually to a permit issued for other than business and tourism purposes and for a stay of longer than three months in Finland.

If your stay exceeds 90 days, you must receive a residence permit before entering Finland. Begin the process at least 5 months ahead of time.

Application Process in Short

  • Begin the residence permit process at least 5 months before your planned arrival to Finland (advised by Migri in September 2019). Please note that collecting all documents required for the permit application may take several months.
  • The Finnish Immigration Service Migri makes the decision on your residence permit application.
  • Begin your residence permit application process by first reading the instructions on this page so that you learn which residence permit you need to apply for.
  • After reading the instructions on this site, begin filling in an electronic residence permit application at Migri’s online service website called Enter Finland. You can track the progress of your application in your personal user account. Please note that even though Migri uses the term "embassy" in the Enter Finland portal, U.S. citizens cannot apply for residence permits through the Finnish Embassy in the U.S. You can apply for the residence permit through the VFS Global Application Centers or Finnish Consulates. Please see details below.
  • As part of the residence permit application, you are required to visit in person one of the Visa Application Centers (VAC) which represent Finland in the U.S. and are maintained by VFS Global or a Finnish Consulate. Your biometric data (fingerprints) will be collected during the visit and your original application documents will be checked. The collection of biometric data is an EU-wide regulation where the EU is following the lead of the USA which for some time has collected fingerprints from all visa applicants.
    • The VFS Global offices are located in Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. You can decide yourself which office you prefer to visit. Washington State residents can also visit the VAC located in Vancouver (Canada).
    • The Consulate General of Finland in New York and Los Angeles also take in residence permit applicants. Please note that, if you are required to use the OLE_MUU residence permit application, your only option is to visit the Consulate in New York or Los Angeles (information on October 2019) and you cannot visit any of the VFS Global Application Centers.
  • After you have submitted your application online and visited one of the Visa Application Centers or Consulates, Migri in Finland will make a decision on your application. At the end of the process, the Visa Application Center/Consulate will mail the residence permit to your address in the U.S.

Application Center Helpline - VFS Global

Call Center: +1 212-203-0023 (Mon-Fri from 8:00 to 18.00 CST)
Email: info.finres.usa(a)vfshelpline.com
FAQ's: Please see here

Please see detailed application instructions below.

If your stay is less than 90 days

According to the Finnish immigration regulations, you do not need a residence permit if you come to Finland to work as a researcher and you come to the country on the basis of an invitation or a contract, for no longer than 90 days. This regulation concerns Fulbright scholars, specialists and teachers. According to the grantee feedback, the residence permit may however at times come in handy when handling practicalities in Finland.

In retrospect, I should have applied for a residence permit, even though my stay was less than 90 days because the residence permit is necessary for receiving a Finnish ID number. Having the ID number is extremely helpful for: opening a bank account with full services, registering for child care, and receiving discounts on bus passes, among other things.  
-  U.S. Scholar 2015-2016

It is possible to apply for a residence permit also for stays under 90 days, but please note that there are practical considerations, including the cost of the permit and cost of the travel to one of the Application Centers in the U.S. If your stay in Finland is less than 90 days and you are considering obtaining a residence permit, please contact Fulbright Finland Foundation before starting the application process.

Residence Permit Application Process

Begin the application process well in advance (at least 5 months prior) to your planned arrival in Finland as securing appointments for biometrics may take time, to give yourself enough time to get your paperwork and documentation in order. You should be aware that the processing of your permit application cannot be started until you have submitted all the required paperwork.

Please also check the pages of the Finnish Immigration Service Migri and VFS Global prior to applying for the residence permit, since there might be changes after the writing of this Guide.

You have an opportunity to stay in Finland (and the passport-free Schengen area comprised of twenty-six European countries) without a valid residence permit for 90 days as a tourist before or after your Fulbright period. Many Fulbrighters have arrived early or stayed after their grant period to enjoy the beautiful Finnish summer, or to travel in Finland and around Europe. Please remember that your ASPE benefit is valid only during your official grant term dates.

If you would like to stay on in Finland for other purpose than tourism, please contact the Fulbright Finland Foundation for more information.

Instructions

Listed below you can find program specific instructions on applying for a residence permit. Please make sure that you follow the instructions meant for your grant category.

  • Scholars
  • Professionals (Mid-Career Professional Development and Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program participants)
  • Students (All Fulbright U.S. Student Program awardees)

Fulbright Specialists

Fulbright Specialists generally spend 14-42 days in Finland. For visits shorter than 90 days no visa or residence permit is required. A Specialist may extend his/her stay in Finland beyond the Specialist program dates for professional or personal reasons, such as continued cooperation with the department or tourist travel. The Specialist is required to notify Fulbright Finland of any such plans. In such cases, if the stay in Finland or other Schengen countries exceeds 90 days, please refer to instructions for Fulbright scholars (above). The CIES Specialist grant will not cover any extensions to the program. The Specialist and/or the Finnish host department are/is responsible for any additional costs.

New Century Scholar Grantees

The NCS grant includes an international research visit component. If the NCS scholar’s stay in Finland and other Schengen countries does not exceed 90 days, no visa or residence permit is required. If the stay exceeds 90 days, please refer to instructions for Fulbright scholars (above).