This is getting filed under self-care. This immigration hearing is so important because it will touch every aspect of my life. The biggest impact at the moment is on my peace of mind. I want to stay in Finland because it’s the best choice for me, personally and professionally.
For those just tuning in, I am an immigrant. My wife Katie and I moved from the United States to Finland in 2014 so she could attend graduate school. During that time, I’ve supported us as a self-employed writer. To get a job here, you need to either have a degree from a Finnish university, be fluent in the Finnish language, or possess a desirable skill that is lacking in the Finnish workforce. I have don’t meet any of those criteria, so I have had to get by as an entrepreneur.
Up to now we have had legal residence based on her studies. She’s now done with school, but does not yet have a job. She has an offer, but the organization is waiting on funding to come through. She’s also in talks with a museum to have an exhibit of her art next year, and to sell some of her work in their gift shop in the meantime. That won’t happen until after our current residence permit has expired, so we’re filing based on my status as a self-employed person.
The Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal
The advantage is that where a permit for studies is only good for one year (recently expanded to 2), a permit for self-employment can be granted for up to 4 years. If things go according to plan, that means I will have resided here long enough to apply to citizenship. It will give me 4 years to gain the language certification necessary to apply for citizenship. At the very least, it’s 3+ years before I need to stress out over applying to renewed residence status.
Yes, we want to stay in Finland and I want to earn citizenship. I’m aware that bothers some people. To avoid being directly political, with all of the problems going on in the United States right now I recognize that I have privilege. I know many people that would love to move someplace like Finland. There are also people I know that are deeply offended that I don’t want to go back to the United States, and that I’m seeking to change my citizenship. Typically I joke that as a good consumer, I didn’t like the service I was getting so I took my business elsewhere. I don’t have a response to people whose patriotism blinds them to the problems, or who won’t try to understand that I’m just happy here for reasons that don’t have anything to do with politics.
Why This Immigration Hearing is So Important
Finnish immigration might shoot me down for any number of reasons. If they don’t grant us residence, I have no idea what we’ll do. We’d have to go back to the United States and start over. Sell everything and begin from scratch, the way we did when we came here. Five years makes a big difference, though. I’m getting older. I don’t know if I’m up for that.
Katie would have to give up the opportunities that are sitting there on the horizon. She’d be impacted both as an educator and an artist. I would likely have to stop writing and get a day job. Again, I recognize my privilege, but I’ve worked hart to get here. The cost of housing and healthcare would be out of reach otherwise. I can only imagine what it will take to get a American bank account again, since I’ve been unemployed had have a 5-year gap in my credit history (they can’t or won’t see activity in European banks).
If you want to help, buy a book. Buy several. Tell other people. The money will be useful no matter what happens, but bolstering my business helps on multiple levels.