Located in Northern Europe where it is bordered by Norway, Sweden, Estonia and Russia, the Nordic country of Finland consistently ranks as one of the best places to live in reference to quality of life, economic opportunities and education. Finland boasted a per capita income of nearly $50,000, one of the highest in the world. Sparsely populated due to its cold climate and rugged terrain, Finland is the eighth largest European country in terms of land measurements, with most of its five million residents living in the southern part of the country, specifically Helsinki, Lahti and Tampere.
Fast Facts about Finland
- The average temperature during winter in south Finland stays below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 Celsius), with snow remaining on the ground from November to April. However, Finnish summers can get terribly hot. Temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) in mid July are not unusual.
- Farmers in northern Finland focus on animal husbandry, while southern farmers emphasize cereal farming
- In 2002, Finland's currency (the markka) was replaced with the Euro.
- Finland has two official languages: Swedish and Finnish. 90 percent of Finland's population speaks Finnish. English is spoken by 60 percent of Finns while 20 percent speak German.
Government and Legal System of Finland
A parliamentary democracy governed by a prime minister, head of state and a constitution implemented in 2000, Finland allows its citizens to vote in all country elections as well as European elections. Supreme legislative authority is exercised by Finland's unicameral Parliament comprised of 200 individuals who are given the power to change the constitution, override vetoes by the Prime Minsiter and dismiss the cabinet.
Finland's judicial system is based on civil law and divided between administrative courts and criminal/civil courts. Finnish law is based primarily on Swedish law but is also heavily influenced by Roman law. Appellate (regional) courts and local courts decide cases brought to judges in various jurisdictions throughout Finland. A High Court of Impeachment also exists that deals solely with crimes committed by high-ranking holders of government offices.
Punishment for breaking laws in Finland involves probation, fines and community service. Manslaughter, drug trafficking and other serious crimes generally warrant nine years in prison. Finland does give life sentences for premeditated murder but generally awards the prisoner probation after 10 to 15 years. Finland abolished the death penalty in 1971.
Study in Finland
Earning a Law Degree in Finland
Finland allows anyone to practice law but only individuals obtaining licensing by the Finnish Bar Association can legally use the title of "asianajaja" (literally meaning "lawyer", "advocate" or "attorney"). Lawyers who are considered "asianajaja" have completed a three-year Bachelor of Laws program ("oikeusnotaari") and a two-year Master of Laws ("oikeustieteen maisteri"). In addition, lawyers must also experience a four year apprenticeship with a law firm or private lawyer and pass the bar exam.
The highest law degree students can obtain in Finland is the "Oikeustieteen tohtori", or Doctor of Laws. Students need to earn 60 credits and complete a doctoral dissertation called a "monograph" that is typically around 250 pages. This monograph must also be verbally defended in front of a panel of designated law professors. Law degrees can only be obtained from one of three universities: the University of Lapland, the University of Turku and the University of Helsinki.
Finnish lawyers are allowed to practice independently, in limited companies or in partnerships. In addition, practicing lawyers must spend 18 hours or more in a continuing education course each year to maintain their licensing.
Tuition and Living Expenses
Students wishing to study in a Finnish law program will be happy to know that education is free and financing of living expenses is largely provided by government-based student benefits offered through the Ministry of Education. The World Economic Forum recently ranked Finland's higher education system as the best in the world due to its emphasis on research, science and practical course degrees.
Monthly living expenses in Finland (this includes food, accommodation and travel) is approximately 750 Euros ($1000 USD). Students needing medical insurance are advised to join a student union and obtain a student card from the union which often provides discounts for school-related expenditures.
If you are a Nordic or EU/EEA citizen, you do not need a visa or a residence permit to Finland. However, you are required to register your residence with Migri if your stay in Finland exceeds 90 days (6 months for Nordic citizens). Additionally, if your stay in Finland lasts for more than a year, you should register in the Finnish population system.
If you are a non-EU/EEA citizen, you will usually need a visa or a student residence permit. Which one you should apply for, depends on the length of your stay in Finland.
- Short stay visa - for a maximum of 90 days’ visits. For example, you may need this visa if you are invited to take an entrance exam in Finland, or if you take part in a course or exchange that lasts less than 90 days.
- Residence permit for studies - a long-term temporary residence permit that is usually granted for one year at a time. If you come to Finland for a student exchange period exceeding three months, or if you have been admitted to a full degree program, you need to apply for this one.
You can start your student residence permit application online at Enterfinland.fi, but in the process, it is also necessary for you to personally visit a Finnish embassy or consulate. A Finnish student residence permit application cannot be processed until the applicant visits the embassy, regardless of whether the application has been submitted electronically or at the embassy itself.
In order to apply for Finland student visa or residence permit, you must provide a number of documents, among others the official letter of acceptance issued by your hosting Finnish university, proof of your financial ability to support yourself financially during your entire period of study in Finland and for your return transportation, and proof of health insurance. Your passport must have a validity that exceeds the duration of the visa or residence permit you are applying for by at least 3 months.
The processing times of a Finnish student visa vary, you can check them here: http://migri.fi/en/processing-times
A student residence permit is usually granted for one year at a time. After your first year in Finland (in good time before your previous permit expires) you should apply for an extension of your student residence permit from Migri. You can use the Enter Finland e-service for this purpose. It’s also worth noting that when you apply for an extended permit when your initial permit is about to expire, you must be in Finland when submitting your application.