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Finnish Parliament Approves Law to Extend Legal Presence of UK Citizens

(Mar. 21, 2019) On March 5, 2019, the Finnish Parliament approved a government proposal to extend the right of citizens of the United Kingdom (UK) to remain in Finland until December 31, 2020. (Press Release, Eduskunta [Finnish Parliament], The Special Act to Secure British Citizens’ Right of Residence in Finland Approved (Mar. 6, 2019), Eduskunta website (in Swedish); Regeringens proposition [Government Bill] RP321/2018 rd, Eduskunta website (in Swedish).)

The law was introduced in consideration of the possibility that the UK may not ratify the European Union (EU) exit agreement before the March 29, 2019, deadline. The Finnish government in its justification for the proposal found that the risks of a UK exit (Brexit) without an agreement was high. (RP321/2018 rd.) If an agreement were not ratified before the exit date, the legal status of UK citizens in Finland would be voided. (Id.)

Under the new rules UK citizens who have previously registered their stay as EU citizens with the Migration Authority automatically receive the right to remain in Finland until Dec. 31, 2020. Thus, UK citizens and their family members would need not apply for a residency permit before March 29, 2019. The Finnish government fears that if all 5,000 UK citizens residing in Finland were to apply for a residency permit before March 29, 2019, the Migration Agency would be overwhelmed. (RP321/2018 rd.) Individuals who have not registered their stay by March 29, 2019, will not be allowed to remain in Finland.

The Act specifically applies to such citizens of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) and their families who have arrived in Finland before the UK’s exit from the EU and registered their right to be present in Finland or filed a registration application with the Migration Authority before the exit. (1 § RP321/2018 rd.)

The law will be applied when the UK ceases to be a member of the EU, if the UK has not ratified an agreement with the EU regarding its secession. (3 § RP321/2018 rd.) If a UK citizen applies for a residency permit in accordance with the Finnish Aliens Act and is subsequently denied, the right to remain in Finland will lapse once the permit denial has become legally binding and, thus, can no longer be appealed.

Normally, a proposed Finnish law first goes through a committee and receives comments from stakeholders in a referral process. However, because of the urgent nature of the proposed law, no referral process was conducted in this case.

The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) has previously encouraged UK citizens to register their presence in Finland as soon as possible in anticipation of this law. (British Citizen: Register Your Right of Residence as Soon as Possible, MAAHANMUUTTOVIRASTO (Jan. 25, 2019).) It has also encouraged UK citizens who have resided for more than five years in Finland to apply for a permanent residence permit. (Id.)