Passport and Residence Permit

Please read the information on this website carefully before starting the residence permit application process and make sure you follow the instructions for the correct permit that is applicable to your individual situation.
Please note that Finland has suspended the reception and processing of residence permit applications in the missions. (As of March 27, more information here.)

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 who take part in the Fulbright Program travel on their U.S. passports, even if it entails extra time and expenses.

However, the Finnish Immigration Service (the authority making Finnish residence permits decisions) 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 that the Fulbright grant does not cover expenses related to any passport or residence permit fees (such as visits to the VFS Visa Application Center/consulate). Such expenses must be borne by the grantee without being able to claim reimbursement (for more information, see 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. Visas are usually issued for business and tourism purposes, and are required from non-visa exempt citizens.

“Residence permit”, in turn, refers to a permit issued for reasons 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 (as advised by Migri in September 2019). Please note that collecting all the 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 one of the different residence permits you need to apply for.
  • After reading the instructions on this site,  fill in an electronic residence permit application at Migri’s online service website 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 residence permits through the VFS Global Application Centers or Finnish Consulates. Please see details below.
  • As part of the residence permit application, you are required to make an in-person visit to one of the Application Centers in the U.S. (maintained by VFS Global) or the Consulate General of Finland in New York  or Los Angeles. However, 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 (as of October 2019) and you cannot visit any of the VFS Global Application Centers.
    • The Application Centers are located in Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Washington State residents can also alternatively visit the Center located in Vancouver (Canada).
    • You can decide which Application Center or Consulate you prefer to visit. Please note that there are differences between visiting an Application Center and Consulate:
      • More appointment slots may be available at the Application Centers than at the Consulates, and thus you will receive your permit faster if you get an earlier appointment.
      • The benefit of choosing to visit either of the Consulates is the possibility of receiving the Finnish ID number in conjunction with the residence permit. When visiting one of the Application Centers, you are not given the Finnish ID number. You can, however, apply the Finnish ID number in Finland (done by many previous grantees), but sometimes this takes a long time (several weeks) which then in turn prevents you, for example, from opening a bank account in Finland, and hence postpones your Fulbright grant instalment, and hinders your ability to pay bills with a local  account. 
    • Your biometric data (fingerprints) will be collected during your visit to the Centers or Consulates, 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 U.S., which for some time has collected fingerprints from all visa applicants.
  • After you have submitted your application online and visited one of the Visa Application Centers or Consulates, Migri 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 are coming to Finland for a period shorter than 90 days to work as a researcher on the basis of an invitation or a contract. 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 also possible to apply for a residence permit for stays under 90 days, but please note that there are some practicalities to consider, such as the cost of the permit, and the costs of traveling 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 the Fulbright Finland Foundation before starting the application process.

 

Residence Permit Application Process

We strongly recommend that you begin the application process well in advance – preferably 5 months prior to your planned arrival in Finland, as securing appointments for biometrics may take time. The earlier you do so, the more time you will also be giving yourself to get all of your necessary paperwork and documentation in order. Additionally, you should keep in mind that the processing of your residence 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 will also 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 a maximum of 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 in Finland for purposes other than tourism, please contact the Fulbright Finland Foundation for more information.

Detailed 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 (All Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program participants except the Mid-Career Professional Development Program participants)
  • 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 their stay in Finland beyond the Specialist program dates for professional or personal reasons, such as for continued cooperation with the department or for 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).