Effects of COVID-19 pandemic on Finnish missions’ entry permit services – current situation
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to influence the entry permit services of the Finnish diplomatic missions abroad. All missions are not able to provide these services in the same way and to the same extent as in normal circumstances before the pandemic. The missions have been able to serve customers in questions related to entry matters in the countries where this has been possible taking into account health security and local official regulations. In this fall, the missions have been reopening their services as far as possible, and currently entry services are provided in most countries at least to a limited extent.
However, in certain exceptional cases, it has not been possible to reopen the entry permit services. The limited availability of and access to customer service is caused, among other things, by restrictions imposed by local authorities due to the pandemic, lockdown, local or cross-border restrictions on mobility, and other official regulations.
Processing visa applications in countries where Finland does not have a mission or where another Schengen country represents Finland continues to be challenging. In many countries, diplomatic missions are currently unable to accept visa applications submitted to the countries they represent.
“The situation is difficult and we hope that the pandemic will soon be brought under control and that we will be able to accept visa applications in different parts of the world as usual. We are trying to find solutions together with the countries representing Finland so that they could also accept visa applications to Finland,” says Pasi Tuominen, Director General of Consular Services in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
The Foreign Ministry works for safe international movement also in future
Missions that are able to provide visa services can currently accept visa applications submitted by persons belonging to specific categories. For example, visa applications based on a relationship are accepted on this basis. The Schengen Visa Code remains in force and the conditions for issuing a visa must be met as before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has an occupational safety and health obligation to prevent the spread of a generally hazardous communicable disease. VFC Global has temporarily suspended the activities of its Visa Application Centres or they operate in a limited manner. It is important to also notice that the customer service facilities of the missions are not suitable for the presence of a large number of customers without putting the safety of both customers and staff at risk. Safety is ensured, for example, by using protective equipment, limiting the number of customers, and disinfecting and cleaning surfaces.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is constantly working to ensure safe international travel and movement also in future. People-to-people contacts are important for everyone – for people as well as for companies and for Finland as a whole.
”We understand very well that the pandemic has caused very difficult situations, for example for families with a residence in more than one country, and we are doing our best to be able to provide safe customer services to all our customers in all parts of the world as soon as possible,” Director General Tuominen says.