When I was searching for the things that would happen when we were summoned to be interrogated by the immigration services here in Finland to determine whether or not our marriage was a real one, I couldn’t find much information or experiences related to it. This post reflects on the happenings that day, our experience as a fresh married couple in Finland, getting the residency permit based on family ties.
It’s my Birthday!
It came as no surprise to me that the Finnish system gives no craps about the people in reality, and this thought was validated further by the emails I had with them about the meeting. My first request was to change the location of the meeting, as they dictated it to be in the capital (despite there being a perfectly valid immigration office in our town that also does these types of things). I kindly explained to them my mental health situation and asked what can be done to make things easier for me. To cut things short, they were not going to accommodate any of my mental needs, other than the option to take breaks should I fall into a panic over the stress. Thanks, Finland, you do so care about your citizens!
After it was all said and done, and the appointment was dictated by the system to be on my birthday of all days, we set out on our journey. More than an hour on the train, we arrived at the station nearest to our destination. From there, we figured it would be best to get a cab for the rest of the journey. You know, to ensure we won’t be late.
The driver was foreign, and as such, it would make sense to assume they know where the immigration office would be. Or at the very least it would be fair to think they know how to get to an address, them being in the business of driving people and all. I do think he knew, and so, after having been driven around for quite a while, I felt very swindled when the cab stopped at the immigration office’s doorstep, just one block (or 5 minutes by foot) away from the train station. What a great wake-up call to the world of capital taxis that was.
At this point, I was already extremely anxious because of the train trip and the cab failure. But it was not over.
We stepped into the security check room, furnished with metal detectors and a room for the guards to eye us from without us seeing them. An over-the-top female guard came out with her pal, the more sensibly carried male. Now, I had previously talked in my emails about my ID, and how the new one had not got to me yet after I married and changed my name. The person responding to my emails assured me it would be alright, and they would inform the security about this. Take a wild guess if that actually happened. I stood there, now even more anxious as they took my old ID and vanished behind the darkened glass for what felt like hours before they came back and let us pass.
The waiting room was a big, grey area with generic chairs to sit on. In one corner they had toilets, which we promptly took advantage of before taking a seat for a while to stew in our thoughts. Of course, my beloved husband had not a worry on the horizon, he took this as more of an adventure than anything else. To me, it was life and death, I was so scared I would end up messing up so badly that they’d deport him. This is why I tried to ask them to help me out as well, the stress induced by the whole ordeal for me was feeding the borderline.
Then they came. A male and a female attendant. It was time to go. Walk the grey hallway, past the weirdly huge design cabinet keys, and to the left, through the door. Mr. Vana was amazing, grabbed me into his arms, and gave me a kiss. We would see each other again soon.
The room was as bland as the rest of the areas we’d been in. A tall makeshift wall of plexiglass stood between me and the attendant, a wall of separation and fake security. Underneath it, sort of centered, was the typical opening to slide papers back and forth. Sitting in that opening, on the plain desk, was a black puck. She explained to me that that was the microphone that would record the conversation.
She started asking her questions, and While I won’t go into personal detail about them, I will give you a general idea of what you might expect from the immigration questionnaire.
She started from the beginning, from how we met, and what we had been doing since. She continued asking about our family matters, who is a part of the family and such, and I answered well, knowing these things by heart. She asked about the wedding, when it was, how it was, who was there. She continued to ask about my husband’s past (even to things from eons ago) as well as what our future plans were. When it comes to the attendant asking about your spouse’s past, especially if they are from certain areas, be prepared for questions that might be uncomfortable, or that may be somewhat insulting.
After the interrogation was over she handed me the notes to read and check. I urge you to do this properly, as they are mere humans and make mistakes. It is also good to check for how things might be perceived, as I recall having to correct her on a few points to make sure the notes would be portraying the actual reality, and not her perceived one.
Waiting for the Husband
She escorted me out of the room, back into the lobby area. It had been close to the 3-hour mark, much like they said it could be. Mr. Vana had not been freed yet, and it was another half an hour or more before I heard his laughter and bright chatter from the hallway. He had apparently become bros with his interrogator. He told me it had been pretty much pleasure for him to be there, since if nothing else, he got to talk about Ishti (he calls me Ishti, his one and only, his wife) and our life together. His newly found friend had to urge him to stop in the end so they could actually end the interview, or so I hear.
The decision had been made a day or two after the meeting, but we got the mail months after it. It was a huge relief, as I had been fearing the results for the entire time, fussing over having told the person that we didn’t get any presents for our wedding while my husband told them about the glass tea set I got for that purpose.
Our case was solid, and I understand their need to call us in for the questioning. Mr. Vana had come to Finland on a 2 days notice, with a temporary passport, and stayed on a ”she needs help” kind of permit for the first few whiles before we married and could go for the family ties. What I mean by solid is that we were an actual married couple from the moment that decision was made, and before that, we had lived for the months he was in Finland together 24/7. We still do that, by the way!
That being said, should you be called in, know that you will have nothing to worry about if you two are truly together for the right reasons. I actually would love to have normal Finnish couples go through the process, there’s nothing quite like systemic validation of whether your marriage is genuine or not. I have a sneaking suspicion that many typical couples would not be able to go through that test with as much grace as we who have no choice as dictated by the immigration services.