Finland is known for its high-quality yet affordable education. It attracts thousands of international students each year looking to study at globally ranked universities without paying tuition fees.
As an EU member state, Finland offers free education even for students from outside the EU/EEA. All you need is to obtain a residence permit for studies and cover your living costs.
But what’s the process for getting a student visa to Finland? How do you prove your finances, eligibility, and credentials? This guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of securing your student residence permit.
Follow these key steps, and you’ll be on the path to amazing free education in Finland!
Overview of Student Residence Permit
The most important document for studying in Finland long-term is the student residence permit. This permit allows non-EU/EEA students to live and study in Finland for the duration of their academic program.
To be eligible, you must gain admission to a degree program at a Finnish education institution. This can be university (bachelors/masters/PhD) or upper secondary school/vocational school.
The student permit application involves proving:
- Admission from a Finnish educational institution
- Sufficient funds to cover your living expenses
- Comprehensive health insurance
- Valid passport and documents
Submitting these properly can take 1-3 months, so start the student residence permit process well in advance. Once approved, you can enter Finland 30 days before your studies begin.
Let’s look at each requirement in detail:
1. Gain Admission to a Degree Program
Obviously, you need to gain admission to a Finnish university or school before applying for a residence permit.
Finland has over 35 universities and 20 universities of applied sciences participating in the tuition-free education system. Popular options include:
- University of Helsinki
- Aalto University
- Tampere University
- University of Oulu
- University of Jyväskylä
- Åbo Akademi University
There are also tuition-free vocational schools, high schools, and non-degree programs. Study in Finland has a full database of eligible institutions and programs.
Check admission criteria for international students at your desired school. Application requirements often include:
- Online application form
- Secondary/bachelor’s transcripts
- Proof of English skills
- Letters of recommendation
- Statement of purpose
Many programs are now taught in English, but some require Finnish/Swedish language skills.
Once accepted, you’ll receive an official Letter of Admission that includes your program details, dates, and student ID number. This letter is mandatory for the residence permit application.
Apply well in advance, as admission can take 2-6 months before receiving your acceptance letter.
2. Prove Sufficient Funds
To get a student residence permit in Finland, you have to prove you can support yourself financially. This ensures you have enough money to cover living costs while studying.
The Finnish Immigration Service estimates students need €700-1000 per month for necessities like:
- Health insurance
- Food and daily expenses
- Books, supplies, clothing
- Transportation and communication
- Leisure activities
So for one year of study, you should budget €8400-12,000 at a minimum. Some cities like Helsinki can be more expensive.
You must provide bank account statements or other financial documents showing you have sufficient funds:
- For first year students: must show 1 year’s worth of living costs upfront
- For ongoing students: must show 1 year of costs if visa renewing
Scholarships, student loans, sponsored support from parents/relatives in your home country, or personal savings can count towards this amount.
Having a monthly budget and paperwork verifying those financial means is key to getting your residence permit approved.
3. Have Comprehensive Health Insurance
Non-EU students in Finland are required to have health and medical insurance coverage.
Student insurance policies must include:
- Both sickness and accident coverage
- Minimum coverage of €30,000 per accident/illness
- Valid throughout your visa duration
- Coverage within Finland and the Schengen area
- Repatriation coverage of at least €3000
Finnish students are automatically covered by the KELA national health insurance. But as an international student, you must get private insurance either from home or in Finland.
When selecting insurance, make sure it meets all requirements above. You will need to submit details like the policy name, coverage dates, and amounts when applying for your residence permit.
4. Gather Required Documents
In addition to the admission letter, financial evidence, and insurance, you will also need:
- Valid passport – must be valid throughout your studies with minimum 3 months before expiry
- Passport photo – professional passport-style photo taken within the last 6 months
- Application form – Form OLE_OPI for first permit, or Form OLE_JAT for renewals
- Receipt showing you paid the processing fee:
— Online application: €300 processing fee
— Paper application: €450 processing fee
- Return prepaid envelope – if submitting application by mail rather than online
Photocopy, scan or take pictures of all original documents. Double check you have everything on the checklist before submitting!
5. Submit Student Residence Permit Application
There are two options for submitting your Finnish student residence permit application:
- Available through the Enter Finland portal
- Fill in the online form, upload documents
- Pay €300 processing fee by card
- Usually faster processing than paper applications
- Print out the application form OLE_OPI or OLE_JAT
- Collect paper copies of all required documents
- Mail to Immigration Service address along with €450 fee
- Takes 1-3 months longer than online process
No matter which method, aim to submit your student permit application at least 2 months before your studies start. Processing times can vary greatly.
Check the application processing times page to estimate based on your country. The sooner you apply, the better!
6. Get Health Check and Biometrics Done
After submitting your residence permit application, most applicants from outside the EU/EEA will get a letter assigning your:
- Appointment time for a health check
- Location to submit biometrics (fingerprints and photo)
This health screening looks for any contagious illnesses like tuberculosis that would prohibit entry to Finland. It involves an exam, blood test, and chest x-ray.
Biometrics are taken at designated police stations or immigration offices in Finland or at Finnish diplomatic missions abroad.
Complete your health check and biometrics on time. These are mandatory steps before Finland will approve your residence permit application.
7. Receive Your Finland Student Residence Permit!
Once fully processed, your residence permit card will arrive by mail at whatever address you provided.
Check the card and details are correct – your name, birthdate, nationality, permit start/expiry dates, etc.
You must enter Finland for the first time before the “valid from” date on your permit card. This allows you to pass immigration and officially register your right of residence.
Carry your residence permit card at all times in Finland as proof of your legal status studying and living there. Report any lost/stolen cards immediately.
Now you have the amazing opportunity to study tuition-free at globally ranked universities in Finland!
Jobs and Staying in Finland After Graduation
As a student in Finland, you have the right to work part-time alongside your studies. With the permit, you can work 25 hours per week.
After graduation, you can apply to change your residence permit type to look for full-time employment in Finland. If you secure a job, you can get a worker residence permit and continue living there.
Some programs like at universities of applied sciences include mandatory work internship semesters too. This helps international students gain in-demand job skills and often leads to employment offers after completing the program.
Bring Your Family to Finland
If you want your spouse or underage children to join you in Finland, they can apply for a residence permit as your family member once you have your study permit.
Requirements are similar – proof of finances to support your family, health insurance, valid passports, and application forms. Family permits are usually processed at the same time as yours.
Having your spouse and kids together makes adapting to life in Finland much easier. And your family members gain their own right to access education or employment!
Study Free in an Incredible European Country!
Completing these visa steps is tedious – but so worth it in the end! Once you obtain your Finnish student residence permit, a world of high-quality, globally respected education opens up to you tuition-free.
You also get the amazing life experience of living in Finland with nature, saunas, Northern Lights and more. Make international friendships, travel Europe on breaks, and immerse yourself in the culture.
Just be proactive preparing your documents and finances early. Education in Finland provides huge benefits, but you do have responsibilities getting your student visa in order.
If you put in the diligent work upfront, an incredible free education in Finland awaits. Start your adventure at a top European university without paying tuition fees. The student visa process is complex but totally doable if you follow these key steps.