Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo (the Greens). Photograph: Jussi Toivanen/The government’s office

On January 22, the government decided to tighten the restrictions on entry into Finland.

The new restrictions will enter into force on January 27 and will remain in force until February 25. The new restrictions aim to reduce cross-border traffic to prevent the spread of the new Covid-19 variants.

The epidemiological situation in Finland differs considerably from that in other Schengen countries. For this reason, the risk that travelers might spread the virus variants is significant in Finland.

Commuting across internal borders

Internal border traffic refers to traffic between Finland and other Schengen countries. As of January 27, Finland will restrict entry from all Schengen countries.

Only essential travel for work will be permitted across internal borders. People themselves cannot determine whether their commuting is deemed essential.

People themselves cannot determine whether their commuting is deemed essential.

Essential travel constitutes work that is important for the functioning of society or for the security of supply, that must be performed by a person or persons arriving from another country and that must be carried out without delay.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment maintains a list of the work that is considered important for the functioning of society or security of supply.

However, any critical task included in the list does not automatically mean that entry into the country is warranted.

Employers must use a separate form to justify why the job of a worker seeking entry into Finland is essential and why the work must be performed without delay. The worker seeking to enter Finland presents this form in the border check in addition to other documents required for crossing the border.

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The changes would not affect those working abroad from Finland. The quarantine and testing recommendations also apply to Finnish citizens working abroad.

Entry for essential reasons only

Entry is still permitted for healthcare and rescue service personnel (including emergency medical care) and for professionals who take care of the elderly in their duties; freight transport and logistics personnel in their duties, as well as for authorities in essential duties, diplomats, the staff of international organizations, military personnel and personnel of aid organizations in their duties, as well as for representatives of states participating in international negotiations, and for persons participating in the work of international organizations.

The entry of foreign nationals is also permitted for essential and justified reasons. These include the entry of foreign media representatives; transit of regular, scheduled flights at an airport, travel to a property, private residence or holiday residence in Finland, asset arrangements in Finland, and the entry into the country of a family member of a Finnish citizen residing abroad.

The entry of foreign nationals from Schengen countries subject to restrictions and certain other countries (restriction category 1) is permitted for family reasons. In restriction category 1, spouses (including cohabitant and close personal relationship), children and parents are considered relatives. This also includes parents-in-law and grandparents. This means that it is no longer possible to visit, for example, siblings or cousins based on a family relationship.

Entry from other third countries subject to the restrictions (restriction category 2) is only possible for imperative family reasons (e.g. the birth of one’s child, a serious illness of an immediate family member, one’s wedding, a close personal relationship).

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Studying in Finland is a permitted reason for entry from the Schengen countries subject to the restrictions and certain other countries (restriction category 1).

People traveling with a Finnish residence permit, those in need of international protection or those traveling for other humanitarian reasons, and for compelling personal reasons are still permitted to enter the country.

Certain special groups are permitted to enter the country. Special groups cover those involved in culture, sports and business life, for example. All special group applications should be sent directly to the Border Guard. The inviting party submits the application.

Border community

The previous decision will also be amended so that belonging to a border community at Finland’s land border with Sweden or Norway is no longer a valid reason for entry. In practice, this applies only to non-Finnish citizens. Finnish citizens and those living in Finland can continue to cross the border under the Constitution.

Furthermore, residents of border communities no longer have the right to cross the border other than through border crossing points. This also applies to Finnish citizens, who will have to cross the border through the border crossing points set out in the decision.  This would provide health authorities with the widest possible scope for targeting the necessary health measures at those crossing the border. The restrictions do not apply to the constitutional right of the Saami to practice their livelihoods and culture.

 Restrictions on external border traffic

External border traffic refers to traffic between Finland and non-Schengen third countries. The validity of the decision made on 7 January will be extended until 25 February. The decision will be amended as of 27 January so that restrictions on external border traffic will be lifted for traffic arriving in Finland from South Korea for residents of South Korea.

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In addition, the Imatra border crossing point will be closed to passenger traffic. Goods traffic will continue as usual. In terms of passenger traffic, there may be changes to the opening hours of border crossing points at the western and northern borders in Lapland.

Restrictions have already been lifted for traffic arriving in Finland from the Vatican, and for traffic between Finland and Australia, Rwanda, Singapore, Thailand and New Zealand for residents of these countries.

 Avoid unnecessary travel abroad

Under the Constitution of Finland, Finnish citizens and residents of Finland always have the right to return to Finland, and everyone has the right to leave Finland if they so wish, provided that there is no legal impediment to this. However, the government still recommends avoiding unnecessary travel to other countries, except for countries for which the restrictions on entry have been lifted. Travelers must be aware of the current entry and quarantine regulations of their country of destination.

Travelers arriving in Finland must take into account Finland’s quarantine and testing recommendations.