My journey to Helsinki, Finland began when I first met my wife in 2006 on a Muslim matrimonial website that no longer exists. After courting for several months, I proposed to her.
My wife visited me in Abuja, Nigeria in February 2007, and in the same month/year we got married. A week after our wedding, she returned to her home and job in Helsinki, Finland.
The Journey begins
Like most countries, Finland has specific travel requirements that you must meet in order to enter the country if you are not a citizen. I am a Nigerian, thus; I needed to apply for a visa to enter Helsinki, Finland.
I thought that by virtue of being married to a Finnish citizen, I would automatically become a Finnish citizen as well. On February 7, 2008, I gathered all my documents (marriage certificate, passport etc), and headed straight to the Finnish embassy in Nigeria to obtain my visa and get a Finnish passport.
I remember how I walked into the Finnish embassy in Abuja with such confidence that I was now a Finnish citizen! Little did I know that my assumption was incorrect.
After filling out the tourist visa application, I was interviewed by a consular officer who told me that the result of my visa application would be emailed to me after two weeks.
The tourist visa application result
During that two-week period, I waited anxiously to receive an email from the embassy. I had already started telling friends and family that I would be traveling to Helsinki, Finland. On February 21, 2008, I was at my usual internet cafe in Kaduna when I received an email notification from the Finnish embassy. After reading the content of the email, I was shocked and saddened.
The email read:
“The Embassy of Finland in Abuja has examined your visa application dated 7.2.2008. The visa has been refused.”
All the excitement I had in anticipation of leaving Nigeria and joining my wife in Finland was snuffed out like a brightly burning candle, sending me into an abyss of dark loneliness
My second tourist visa application
I applied a second time for a tourist visa and was refused again:-(. At this point, I was frustrated and overwhelmed. I felt victimized because I was a Nigerian married to a Finn. Unfortunately, Nigeria had a reputation for money laundering, marriage scams, and other issues at that time.
Resident permit application
After a series of emails back and forth with the Finnish embassy, I realized that I have been applying for the wrong type of visa all along. I was advised by the Finnish embassy to apply for a Resident Permit on the basis of reuniting with my wife. My wife applied for a Resident Permit in August 2008 on my behalf. I was interviewed in September 2008. I was told that the processing time for Resident Permit Application can take 3-6 months. It was a long, slow wait.
Resident permit application results
My Resident Permit Application to Finland was refused in December 2008 on the grounds that there wasn’t enough proof to show that our marriage was genuine. This period was the most devastating for both me and my wife. The back-to-back disappointments were starting to become unbearable.
The setbacks made us question whether we were going to be able to stay married or not. I personally started to think that maybe we weren’t meant to be together.
Fortunately, the Resident Permit decision could be appealed. My wife appealed the decision with the help of a lawyer. In July 2009, I was at the usual cyber cafe (as it is called in Nigeria) when I received an email notification with the subject “Residence Permit”.
At first, I was so nervous seeing the email, that I was afraid to open it; However , after reading the contents of the email, I screamed out so loudly that it startled everyone around me. The memory of that day is still fresh in my mind. It is a day I will never forget. I was overwhelmed knowing that my dream of moving to Finland and living with my wife was coming true.
Leaving my Dad
That day I went home and told my Dad that I would be traveling to Abuja the next day to obtain my visa to Helsinki, Finland. He seemed happy and sad at the same time. Certainly, I would feel the same way if I was in his shoes — It is hard to say goodbye to people you have lived with for 29 years (since birth).
The journey to Finland
The next day I traveled to Abuja to obtain my Resident Permit from the Finnish embassy. I was scared that the embassy might reverse their decision, so; I was in a hurry to get the visa. I got the visa from the embassy on July 2nd. The same day, I bought a one-way ticket to Helsinki, Finland and traveled out of Nigeria the next day. Why I chose Helsinki, Finland as my home
Detained at Frankfurt airport
I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany July 4th to board a connecting flight to Helsinki, Finland. At the passport checkpoint, I was taken out of the queue by a border patrol officer on the grounds that they suspected I had a fake visa (well, am a Nigerian right?) I wasn’t allowed to board my flight (which was scheduled to take off in 45 mins).
I was taken to a detention room where I stayed for 2 hours while they verified the authenticity of my resident permit — which led me to miss my flight.
Fortunately, the border patrol officer came back to say that they had confirmed that my visa was genuine and apologized for any inconveniences they may have caused — he re-booked another flight to Helsinki, Finland for me on the same day (I had to wait another two hours to board the plane).
Arrived Helsinki, Finland
I arrived in Helsinki, Finland on July 4th, 2009, while on the plane, the view of the city was calming — I instantly felt a sense of serene seeing the trees that make up the forest. Anyway, I disembark the airplane and was welcomed by my wife and her brother.
We went straight to meet her parents who were very welcoming (such wonderful people). And for the first time ever, I ate Salmon (Lohikala) my mother-in-law had prepared — it felt so delicious.
It was a joyous end to a stressful journey that took over a year to complete. From the day I arrived in Helsinki, I must admit, I fell in love with the city and the country. Some journeys you take will change your life forever.
I hope you enjoyed my story “My Journey to Finland”.