Stories of Welfare

What is it like to be questioned about the authenticity of your marriage?

man in white crew neck t shirt sitting next to a woman in a white off shoulder top
Posted by Maria

When my husband came to Finland, he packed his bag, flew to a country he’d barely heard of, and did it all within days. We had known for a few months online at that point, he had never been abroad and even had to get his passport as a temporary one from the airport. After he had been in Finland for a while based on the crisis I was going through (‘’other reasons’’), we got married, and the process for the actual permit begun.

It begun on July 13th, 2020

We had sent the application and were told there might be an interview regarding our marriage. It was very suspicious that someone would come to Finland so fast and marry within months, less than half a year of knowing the person. And even more so when we had just met 4-5 months prior to the wedding in real life. So, as per the government rules, we got called in for questioning.

When we got the e-mail asking us to come in, I panicked. My borderline immediately took the center stage, and with my paranoia triggered, I sent them a mail requesting a few things. I wanted them to change the location, as they wanted us to go to the capital, about an hour’s trip on a train despite there being an office in our town. I asked them about support systems to help with my anxiety. 

They did not change the location, nor did I give any sort of support other than a kind reminder that I can take someone with me (I didn’t have anyone else other than my husband to support me like that, and I still don’t), and that I could have as many breaks as I want. I was wrecked. But, I complied. My fear of questioning was overpowered by the thought of my husband being sent back to his country, and me never seeing him again.

Heading to the appointment

We took the train and ended up in a station that could’ve been a small airport. Boutiques, stores, the mandatory mall decoration piece in the middle. I had never been to such a grandiose train station. Even the diner we chose to have a bite to eat in had an elegant touch, with some fuzzy grass-like table decor. To me, they seemed to not fit the summer season and should’ve been seen during harvest.

While we were enjoying our breakfast, I had a call with a friend from vocational. It was my birthday. It was my birthday, and I was going to be examined in case I had entered a fake marriage. My thoughts of the ludicrous nature of the questioning do not matter to the state, and I understand perfectly fine why. When so many people enter the country on fake premises (I’ve even seen some people asking for advice on how to get the mother of their child, their actual spouse, into Finland while being married to a Fin for the sake of permits), it’s nothing outside of a miracle if couples like me and my husband don’t get called in. Doesn’t make it any easier to cope with, or any less violating. 

Either way, we finished our meal and took a cab to the final destination. The driver took us around and around the blocks until we arrived two traffic lights away from the station to the immigration offices. I felt slightly scammed. It didn’t make it easier knowing that the driver was foreign and thus I would assume they would know where immigration in their area is. But then, maybe I was wrong about that. 

Being questioned

We entered the building, a very sanitized security check under heavy guard. Well, for me it was heavy, seeing there was a metal detector arch and several guards ready for us. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, as even if I had informed the place of my name change and the fact that my new ID had not arrived yet, I got into trouble in the security check. They had not informed the guards of my predicament, even if they promised to do so, and we had to wait around, anxious, while they ran a check on my old ID. In the end, we were let into the stereotypical blue waiting lobby. 

It didn’t take too much time for the female/male combo of attendants to come to pick us up. We walked through a corridor laced with lockers that had huge keychains dangling from the keys. My husband headed to the end of the corridor, while I turned left and entered the very grey room there. Before our separation, my husband grabbed me and gave me a kiss. The door behind me closed, and I was alone, facing a woman and having to convince her of the realness of our marriage.

She headed behind the table, there was a high plexiglass wall between us. In the sliver for documents, there was a black puck, a recorder. The questions asked of me were pretty much about normal everyday life with my husband. How did we meet? Why did he come to Finland? Why we got married so fast? And what was the wedding like? The usual. Towards the end, the questions turned into things that I didn’t feel comfortable answering, as they were quite frankly irrelevant and somewhat offensive. All those coming from the Middle East, prepare for the inevitable terrorist check-up.

The resolution

There was one break in the middle of the three-hour interrogation, so you can imagine how relieved I was when I finally got out. That first breath after hours of questioning was heaven-sent. And with that, I managed to wait nearly an hour of overtime before my husband finally emerged from his office cell, laughing and joking around with the attendant. Apparently, they had become ‘bros’ during the interrogation. 

We started our trip home and had some dessert in the train station to celebrate the end of the ordeal, and talked about our experiences. I almost fell into a panic attack after he revealed he had remembered that the one wedding present we got was the tea set I bought for us. I hadn’t recalled that and told the attendant we gifted each other to one another. Other than the tea set scare, our stories were very similar. As they should be, as we live together, and have lived the day he came to Finland. 24/7 under the same roof, and since then we’ve even upgraded to living in a studio instead of a house.

After the draining drip to the capital, after months of waiting and trying to figure out the Finnish social system and not being overly terrified because my husband didn’t have any medical (or any other sort of) cover, and after having paid well over 1 000 € in total, we finally got the first permit in the mail. Now, in 2021, we got our continuation permit (easily, they didn’t ask anything of us), and are looking forward to the five-year mark, when my husband can get a permanent residence or even apply for citizenship!

Do you have an immigration story? Let us know in the comments!

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