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In love and getting married

Posted 21/11/2018

"When a foreigner first applies for a residence permit based on family ties (read: marriage) to Finland, they have to make a substantial payment to the Finnish Immigration Service which handles the documents, provide marriage certificate and answer a stack of forms. These ask among others, how the dating started, when it started, describe how the dating has been and who wanted to get married. But this does not guarantee gaining residence permit in itself. Finnish Immigration Service can summon the permit applicant and their spouse for an interview, where the officials want to clarify the nature of the relationship. Interviews lasting for several hours ask about everything relating to shared family life, from such everyday matters as nicknames or what your spouse drinks while eating to information provided in the documents."
- Eeva-Maria al-Khazaali

Due to the delicate nature of this topic, I am writing about this on the general level and based on stories I have heard. I know several couples where the man is a foreigner and the woman Finnish. Partly this is because of the large number of asylum seeker that came to Finland in 2015. Young people meet, fall in love and get married.

 

In Finland, it is not customary to rush into marriage, rather a couple will often date for years before matrimony. However, in Islamic culture, dating outside of wedlock is seen as forbidden (haram), so here men will propose very soon after meeting a woman, with highly romantic gestures.

In Arab culture, affection, love, romance and showing them have their own special place. Poetic phrases sound beautiful and vows for the dating partner are sworn, even in the name of death. These are sincere confessions of love which often do not come across as such in the eyes of the officials.

 

When a foreigner first applies for a residence permit based on family ties (read: marriage) to Finland, they have to make a substantial payment to the Finnish Immigration Service which handles the documents, provide marriage certificate and answer a stack of forms. These ask among others, how the dating started, when it started, describe how the dating has been and who wanted to get married. But this does not guarantee gaining residence permit in itself. Finnish Immigration Service can summon the permit applicant and their spouse for an interview, where the officials want to clarify the nature of the relationship. Interviews lasting for several hours ask about everything relating to shared family life, from such everyday matters as nicknames or what your spouse drinks while eating to information provided in the documents.

 

This seeks to ensure that it is a marriage of love and not an attempt to abuse the system in the name of migration policy. Just the mere fact that the couple has only moved in together after marriage, contrary to Finnish norms, is enough grounds for one negative decision. Other answers I have heard among others were that there had been other people besides the couple and their potential children living in the apartment. Some say it is easier to get a residence permit if one can provide a statement of pregnancy or the couple already has children when sending in the application. Nor is this a guarantee the marriage is accepted as one based on love. There are people who have been sent back to their home country even with a small child already in the family or baby on the way. In these cases, many beautiful moments are missed in everyday life with a baby.

 

Granted, this text’s perspective is gloomy. One cannot say that every case results in a negative decision. Those getting a positive decision receive a residence permit for one year, after which they have to partially go through the process again. For this process as well the applicant is responsible for all payments. This can grant one residence permit for four years. Later, the goal for many people is to receive Finnish citizenship. Those receiving a negative decision can file an appeal with the help of a lawyer, with the estimated length for the new process being roughly 14 months. That is a long time to wait and live in uncertainty. Could be that is becomes necessary to leave Finland after all. When the foreign spouse’s home country is unsafe or dangerous, options are limited. Where is love taken seriously?

 

 

Eeva-Maria al-Khazaali