With less than six million inhabitants, Finland is the least densely populated country in the European Union. Noted for its stunning scenery and numerous lakes, the country is a popular tourist destination for Europeans and visitors from further afield and ranks number six in a list of most visited Schengen member states.
Already a member of the European Union, Finland signed the Schengen Agreement in 2001. Since that time it has been necessary for all intending visitors who are not citizens of an EU or Schengen country, or on an official list of visa-exempt countries, to possess a Schengen Visa for Finland if the country is the first port of call in the Schengen Area or to use a Finnish airport to connect with onward flights.
Who Requires a Schengen Visa for Finland?
Basically, most of the world will need a Schengen Visa of some kind to enter any of the Schengen Member states including Finland. There are only three exceptions to this rule requiring a visa:
- Citizens of a European Union country
- Citizens of a Schengen country
- Citizens of around sixty countries worldwide that are on a visa liberalisation list
The visa liberalisation list contains the names of countries around the world whose citizens enjoy visa-exempt access to the Schengen Area. Included on the list are the U.S.A., Canada, Australia and many South American countries. Citizens of countries not appearing on the official list are deemed to be “world citizens” and are required to possess a Schengen Visa to enter, transit through or travel within the Schengen Area.
The particular type of visa required will depend on several factors. The main factors influencing the type of visa are:
- Purpose of visit
- Country of arrival
- Onward travel
- Length of stay
Although a visa for a short holiday is the most commonly sought visa it is far from being the only type of visa and it is vitally important for applicants to ensure they have the correct visa to cover the intended visit to Finland.
Main Visa Types
Citizens of countries who do not qualify for visa-exempt entry to the Schengen Area must have the correct form of visa to enter Finland or any Schengen Member country.
The main visa types issued by Finnish authorities are:
- Airport Transit
- Family and Friends
- Official Visit
- Culture and Sports
As can be seen from the listing, the names of the types of visa are pretty much self-explanatory but here is a more detailed description of each:
- Airport Transit is simply for world citizens who need to use a Finnish airport in order to catch a flight to another destination.
- Transit is similar to Airport Transit but relates instead to seaports.
- Tourist covers any short-stay holiday in Finland for world citizens.
- Family and Friends is specifically for world citizens visiting Finland for the principal purpose of visiting friends or family members resident in the country.
- Business relates to any short visit in pursuit of business interests such as meetings, conferences and trade fairs.
- Official Visit visas are solely for delegates visiting the country on official business.
- Medical visas are mandatory for world citizens who require a medical procedure or treatment at a Finnish health centre.
- Study visas cover educational courses of less than three months duration.
- Culture and Sports visas cover a wide spectrum of events in Finland pertaining to cultural or sports events and activities.
Regardless of the type of visa being applied for the ninety day rule always applies. This means that the visa holder cannot remain in Finland (or the Schengen Area) for any more than a total of 90 days out of 180. The 90 day limit need not be continuous but can be broken up into smaller segments as long as the total does not exceed the allocated 90 days. Another thing to note with regard to the Family and Friends Visa is that the applicant will be required to provide proof of any relationship as well as an invitation from the relative or friend in question.
Filling out a Schengen Visa application form is not a simple matter as much of the information sought will require some research on the applicant’s part. However, the most complicated and time-consuming part of the process is finding and securing copies of the multitude of documents that must accompany the application form.
A simple Tourist Visa, for example, will necessitate the applicant supplying the following documentation:
- Completed application form.
- Current, valid passport.
- Copies of previous visas (where applicable).
- Two identical and recently taken passport photos.
- Proof of sufficient emergency health insurance (minimum coverage of €30,000).
- Copies of flight (or other form of travel) bookings showing flight numbers and dates.
- Proof of hotel or other accommodation.
- Proof of sufficient funds for the time in Finland (recent bank statements or similar).
- Documentary proof of applicant’s civil status.
- Proof of an applicant’s civil status could include marriage or death certificates or birth certificates of children if deemed necessary.
On top of all the documentation required, an applicant must also write an explanatory letter outlining the purpose of the visit and detailing any planned outings, excursions or visits to other countries.
Additional Documentation for Certain Applicants
The amount of documentation required to secure a Finnish Schengen Visa increases yet again depending on the applicant’s employment status.
Employed people need to provide:
- Contract from the employer.
- Recent (last six months) bank statements.
- Holiday permission from company or employer.
- Copies of income tax statements.
- Self-employed applicants should secure:
- Copy of business or trading license.
- Recent company bank statements.
- Proof of income tax paid.
- Students will be asked for:
- Certificate of enrolment.
- Letter from educational establishment showing the student will leave at the end of the course.
- Pensioners are required to supply:
- Copies of pension statements for preceding six months.
- Documentary proof of income from property owned (where applicable).
When all the necessary documentation has been collected, checked and collated it is then necessary to arrange and attend a personal interview.
The final step in the visa application process is attending a personal interview. This is a mandatory requirement and must be arranged by the applicant and not the Finnish embassy or consulate.
The interview will be held at a Finnish embassy or consulate in the country where the application is being made or, if these are not present, at an approved Visa Application Centre (VAC) which may incur an additional cost.
At the interview the applicant must provide fingerprint samples and turn in all required documentation for checking and verification. Although a visa can be processed and approved within a week or two it almost always takes longer so it is advisable to make an application well in advance of any intended visit to Finland although this should not be done any earlier than three months before the first date of arrival in the country.