Integration and solutions to challenges faced by international students are needed now

The state of emergency caused by the coronavirus has had serious effects on the daily lives of many students: the state of emergency has resulted in e.g. unemployment, loss of income, coping difficulties and slowdowns in studies. Some students are in a particularly challenging situation: international students are not, in principle, covered by Finnish social security, and the loss of job earnings may have left students even more lonely in the absence of any other social safety networks. At least in the field of technology and compared to Finns, highly educated immigrants have also more likely become unemployed due to the state of emergency (1).

In order to study in Finland, you need regular income or sufficient assets. In addition to liability to tuition fees, students outside the EU/EEA are also required to meet the income requirements of their residence permit (560 e/month). As some students now experience income losses due to unemployment, getting a permit extension can be at risk, and students might be facing deportation in the upcoming months. It would, however, be beneficial for both students and the society that a student who has started their studies in Finland could remain in Finland to complete their studies and work. Attracting international talent is a perquisite for Finland to remain at the forefront of education and know-how when our dependency ratio weakens. 

Some of the concrete solutions to the situation are already under investigation: there has been plans to reform the permit processes of students in Finland even before this spring's state of emergency, and AYY's goal to grant students a residence permit for the full period of their studies is also in Finland's Government program. The situation for new students starting in the autumn will most likely be alleviated if legislation amendments prepared by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture are completed. In this case, students could retain their study place even if they could not start their academic year in Finland. 

More can still be done. At its next meeting in June, AYY's own Representative Council will decide whether, in this state of emergency, AYY can use a part of its funds to support the housing costs of students and especially those who are not included in social security systems. In the long run, we want to see that all students have a chance to focus on their studies and that their income and residence are secured throughout the studies. We therefore call on Aalto University, City of Espoo, Finland's Ministries, the Finnish Immigration Service and Kela to come up with and share their solutions to ensure that we hold on to our international talent and build a brighter future for all. 

More information is available from 

Imran Shamsul, Board Member, tel. 041 7981581 

Rosa Väisänen, Policy Specialist, tel. 050 5272401 

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