Finnish Immigration

Finnish Immigration

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People from Finland first began arriving in the United States in the middle of the 19th century. After the American Civil War migration to the United States increased rapidly. The main reasons for leaving Finland included unemployment and low wages. Another problem was that there was not enough land to divide the farms to the younger members of the family. Others left because they wanted to avoid military service in the Russian Army.

The Finns tended to settle in those parts of America which were geographically most similar to their homeland. This usually meant Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Massachusetts. Significant numbers worked in the copper mines at Calumet, Michigan and the granite quarries of Quincy, Massachusetts. Detroit was another popular destination for Finnish people.

Over half of all Finns that arrived in the United States lived in rural areas. It was claimed you could always tell a farm owned by a immigrant from Finland because of its buildings. This included a traditional bathhouse and its distinctively-shaped hay barn.

Most Finnish settlers were Lutherans and tended to hold progressive political views. Finns were active in trade unions and the early socialist movement in the United States.

Emigration reached its peak in 1902 when 23,000 Finns arrived in America. By 1920 there was 273,000 people from Finland in the United States. This meant that this group constituted only about 1.1 per cent of the total foreign-born population in the country. Several talented artists and performers from Finland have moved to the United States since the war including the film director, Renny Harlin and the classical composer Esa-Pekka Salonen.

An investigation carried out in 1978 revealled that since 1820 over 33,000 people emigrated to the United States from Finland. This amounted to 0.1 per cent of the total foreign immigration during this period.

The Finn has demonstrated many qualities that make a desirable pioneer. Like his Scandinavian neighbors in the West, he is preserving, tenacious and thrifty. He has come to America to stay and is generally eager to complete the naturalization process as soon as possible. He appreciates public education and, in the Northwest, has been called "the backbone of the night school." Politically, the Finnish-American has been a progressive, and a large percentage of Finnish workers are ardent Laborites and Socialists.

It is the consensus of opinion among competent observers that Scandinavians have been the most useful of the recent great additions to the American race. They were particularly fitted by nature for the conquest of the great area which they have brought under subjugation. Above all, the Scandinavian has never looked upon himself as an exile. From the first, he has considered himself an American.

Finnish americans

Finland, a nation-state created in the closing days of World War I, is located in the far northern reaches of Europe. It is bounded by Sweden to the west, Russia to the east, Norway to the north, and the Gulf of Finland to the south. About 90 percent of Finns are Lutheran the Russian Orthodox church (two percent) is the second largest in the nation. Finnish people continue to maintain a unique language spoken today by only about 23 million people worldwide.

The nearly five million people of contemporary Finland reflect the traditional groups who settled in the nation centuries ago. The largest group consists of Finns who speak Finnish the second largest group, some six percent, are Finland-Swedes (also known as Swede Finns) who speak Swedish the most visible minority groups are the Sami (about 4,400), who speak Sami (or Lappish) and live in the North, and the Gypsies (about 5,500), who live in the South.


The ancestors of these peoples came under the domination of the Swedes in the twelfth century, when Finland became a province of Sweden. While the Swedish provinces operated quite independently for a time, efforts to centralize power in the kingdom in the sixteenth century made Finns citizens of Sweden. Sweden was the primary power in the Baltic region for more than a hundred years, until challenged by Russia in the eighteenth century. By 1809 Sweden was so weakened that she was forced to cede her entire Baltic holdings, including Finland, to Russia.

Russia gave Finland a special status as a "Grand Duchy," with the right to maintain the Lutheran religion, the Finnish language, and Finnish constitutional laws. This new status encouraged its leaders to promote a sense of Finnish spirit. Historically a farming nation, Finland did not begin to industrialize until the 1860s, later than their Nordic neighbors textile mills, forestry, and metal work became the mainstays of the economy. Then, in the final days of the nineteenth century, Russia started a policy of "Russification" in the region, and a period of oppression began.

Political unrest dominated the opening years of the twentieth century. Finland conducted a General Strike in 1906, and the Russian czar was forced to make various concessions, including universal suffrage—making Finland the first European nation to grant women the right to vote—and the right to maintain Finland's own parliament. The oppressive conditions returned two years later, but Finland remained a part of Russia until declaring its own independence in the midst of the Russian Revolution of 1917. A bitter civil war broke out in Finland as the newly independent nation struggled between the philosophies of the bourgeois conservatives and the working class Social Democrats. In 1919 the nation began to govern itself under its own constitution and bill of rights.


With basic democratic rights and privileges established, the 1920s and 1930s emerged as a period of political conservatism and right wing nationalism. Then, in 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland. War between the two nations ensued—first in a war known as the Winter War, then in the so-called Continuation War. When it ended, Finland made major concessions to the Soviets, including the loss of a considerable portion of its eastern territory.

In the 1950s Finland continued its transformation from a predominantly agricultural economy into a modern industrial economy. By the 1960s it had established itself as a major design center in Europe, and by the end of the 1970s it maintained a post-industrial age culture with a stable economy that continued to produce premier quality work in the arts. Throughout the rest of the twentieth century, Finland maintained a strict policy of neutrality towards its neighbors to the east and west.


The first Finns in North America came as colonists to New Sweden, a colony founded along the Delaware River in 1638. The colony was abandoned to the Dutch in 1664, but the Finns remained, working the forest in a slash-and-burn-style settlement pattern. By the end of the eighteenth century, their descendants had disappeared into a blur amidst the dominant English and Dutch colonist groups. However, many Finnish Americans believe that a descendant of those Finnish pioneers, John Morton, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Few material signs—other than their distinctive log cabin design and place names—remain to mark their early presence.

A second colonial effort involved Finns in the Russian fur trading industry. In Sitka, Alaska, Finns mixed with Russian settlers in the 1840s and 1850s, working primarily as carpenters and other skilled craftsmen. Two of Alaska's governors were Finnish: Arvid Adolph Etholen (1799-1876) served from 1840 to 1845, and Johan H. Furuhjelm (1821-1909) served from 1859 to 1864. A Finnish pastor, Uno Cygnaeus (1810-1888), who later returned to Finland to establish the Finnish public school system, also served the Finnish American community. Today, this Finnish presence is represented in the Sitka Lutheran church, which dates from that period. After 1867, when Alaska was transferred to the United States, some of the Sitka Finns moved down to communities developing along the northwest coastline—places like Seattle and San Francisco.

Colonial settlers were small in number. Similarly, according to Reino Kero in Migration from Finland to North America in the Years Between the United States Civil War and the First World War, the Finnish sailors and sea captains who left their ships to enter the California Gold Rush or to establish new lives in American harbor cities like Baltimore, Galveston, San Francisco, and New York, numbered only several hundred. One sailor, Charles Linn (Carl Sjodahl 1814-1883), became a wealthy southern merchant who ran a large wholesale business in New Orleans and later established Alabama's National Bank of Birmingham and the Linn Iron Works. He is credited with opening the immigration from southern Finland to the United States when, in 1869, he brought 53 immigrants from Helsinki and Uusimaa to work for his company.


Finnish immigration is considered to have occurred primarily between 1864 and 1924. Early Finnish immigrants to the United States were familiar with agricultural work and unskilled labor and were therefore new to industrial work and urban life. Later, skilled workers like carpenters, painters, tailors, and jewelers journeyed to the States, but the number of professionals who immigrated remained small until after 1965. Most scholars have estimated that, at the most, some 300,000 Finnish immigrants remained to become permanent residents and citizens of the United States of America. Of these, about 35,000 were Finland Swedes and about 15,000 Sami.

The first immigrants arrived in 1864, when Finns from northern Finland and Norway settled on homestead prairie lands in south central Minnesota. The next year 30 Finnish miners living in Norway went to work in the copper mines in Hancock, Michigan. These Finns, originally from northern Finland, developed the first permanent Finnish American communities in the American Midwest. Continued economic depression in Finland encouraged others to leave their homeland the number of immigrants grew to 21,000 before 1887.

Those from northern Norway and Finland who traveled as family groups were part of the Great Laestadian Migration of 1864-1895, a migration that began shortly after the death of founder Lars Levi Laestadius (1800-1861). Looking for ways to maintain a separatist lifestyle as well as to improve their economic standing, Laestadian families began a migration that has continued in some form to the present day. Finnish American Laestadian communities formed in the mining region of Michigan and in the homestead lands of western Minnesota, South Dakota, Oregon, and Washington. These Laestadians provided a sense of community stability to the additional immigrants, single men who had left their families in Finland and who migrated from job to job in America. Some of these men returned to Finland others eventually sent for their families.

After 1892 migration shifted from northern to southern Finland. Most emigrants from this phase were single and under the age of 30 women made up as much as 41.5 percent of the total. A very large increase in the birthrate after 1875 added to the pool of laborers who left home to work in Finland's growing industrial communities. This wave of internal migration to the city foreshadowed an exodus from Finland. "Russification" and a conscription for the draft added even further to the numbers after 1898.

Twentieth-century emigration from Finland is divided into three periods: before the General Strike after the General Strike and before World War I and between World War I and the passage of the Immigration Restriction Act. Before the General Strike, the immigrants who settled in the States were more likely to be influenced by the concepts of Social Democracy. After the General Strike, the immigrants were largely influenced by the use of direct force rather than political action to resolve social problems. Immigrants after World War I—now radicalized and disenchanted from the experience of the bloody civil war—brought a new sense of urgency about the progress of socialism.

Two immigration periods have occurred since the 1940s. After World War II, a new wave of immigration, smaller but more intense, revitalized many Finnish American communities. These Finns were far more nationalistic and politically conservative than earlier immigrants. A more recent wave of immigration occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, as young English-speaking professionals came from Finland to work in high-tech American corporations.


Finnish American communities cluster in three regions across the northern tier of the United States: the East, Midwest, and West. Within these regions, Finland Swedes settled in concentrations in Massachusetts, New York City, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and California. Sami peoples settled predominantly in Michigan, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Oregon, and Washington.

The 1990 U.S. Census Bureau report confirms that these regions still exist for the 658,870 Americans who claim Finnish ancestry. The five states with the largest populations are Michigan, with 109,357 (1.2 percent of the total state population) Minnesota, with 103,602 (2.4 percent) California, with 64,302 (.02 percent) Washington, with 44,110 (0.9 percent) and Massachusetts (0.5 percent). Half of all Finnish Americans—310,855—live in the Midwest, while 178,846 live in the West. Three further regions—the southeastern United States (Florida and Georgia), Texas, and the Southwest (New Mexico and Arizona)—have developed as retirement communities and as bases for Finnish businesses selling their products to an American market.

Reverse immigration occurred both in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the nineteenth century, many men came without families and worked for a while in mining (especially copper and iron ore mining) and lumber, in fishing and canning, in stone quarries and textile mills, and on railroads and docks they then returned to the homeland. Others came and worked as domestics, returning to Finland to retire. The most significant reverse immigration occurred in the late 1920s and early 1930s, when 10,000 Finnish American immigrant radicals and their families sold all their belongings and left to settle in the Finnish areas of the Soviet Union. They took their dreams of creating a workers' paradise with them, as well as solid American currency, American tools, and technical skills. Today, reverse migration occurs primarily among the Laestadians who may marry and move to Finland.

Like the Swedes and Norwegians, Finns in America were tolerated and accepted into the communities of "established" Americans during the first wave of mass immigration. Their early competitors for work in the mines were the Irish and the Cornish, two groups with whom they had ongoing strained relations.

Finnish Americans soon developed a reputation for clannishness and hard work. Work crews of strictly Finnish laborers were formed. As documented in Women Who Dared, Finnish domestics were always sought after because they worked so hard and excelled at cooking and homemaking. Reputations for good and hard work were tarnished, however, when the second wave of immigrants began to organize themselves and others to fight poor wages and working conditions. Finns became known as troublemakers for organizing strikes and leading protests. They were blacklisted and efforts were made to deport them. Racist slurs—epithets like "Finn-LAND-er" and "dumb Finn"—developed, and some Finns became victims of violent vigilantism. Specific efforts to single them out from other working-class immigrants as anti-American put them on the front pages of local, regional, and national newspapers.

By the end of the twentieth century, Finnish Americans had essentially become invisible. They worked hard to be indistinguishable from other Euroamericans and, as descendants of white Europeans, fit easily into the mass culture. Many do not visibly identify with any part of their heritage.

Key issues facing Finnish Americans in the future relate to their position as a culture on the margin. Recent generations seem to be drawn more strongly to America's hegemonic culture and therefore continue to move away from their unique heritage.

America Letters (Finnish)

In the 1960s, the Department of History of the University of Turku, Finland, conducted a project that gathered materials pertaining to Finnish overseas emigration. As part of the project, in 1964 and 1966, the Department collected letters sent by Finnish immigrants living in various destinations (mainly in the U.S. and Canada) to their family, friends, and relatives in Finland. The project yielded over 12,000 letters, which were collected in three provinces in the coastal areas of Finland (the area from which most Finnish immigrants to the U.S. originated): Varsinais-Suomi, Satakunta, and Etelä-Pohjanmaa. These "America Letters" (ca. 1880-1964) are now part of the IHRCA's Finnish American collection in microfilm format.

The topics discussed in letters include family news health economic conditions living conditions working conditions weather and moving in search of employment.

Finns in Michigan

This is our new series, in which we will look into the history and present day of Finns and Finnish-Americans living in different states.

Finns first arrived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula after the Civil War, when a copper mining company recruited them from mines in Norway because of their reputation as hard workers. The Upper Peninsula was a major destination for Finns during the peak years of migration in the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century. Several Upper Peninsula communities had large Finnish populations and Finnish churches, lodges, cooperative stores, and temperance societies. Ishpeming and Hancock, especially, were important nationally as Finnish cultural centers.

In 1880, about 1,500 Finns lived in Keweenaw and Houghton counties. By 1930 there were nearly 75,000 Finns and their descendants, founding small towns with Finnish names like Nisula and Tapiola and Paavola. The region became the world's biggest producer of copper, and generated more mineral wealth than the California Gold Rush.

It should also be noted that more Swedish-speaking Finns came to Michigan than any other state. They often assimilated into the Swedish communities, congregations and halls prior to the greater American assimilation. Consequently, they are harder to claim as Finns. Because of this, the real number of people with Finnish ancestry in Michigan is no doubt higher than recorded in the census records.

Swede-Finns settled in the lower half of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as well Muskegon, Ludington, Brevort, Grayling, Grand Rapids, Roscommon, East Tawas, Detroit, Flint and Benton Harbor. They largely began as lumberjacks, or otherwise associated with the lumber industry in Michigan. The first Finnish speakers were employed in mining, later moving into the auto industry and farming.

Calumetchigan is the “birthplace” of the Suomi Synod (Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) and the “birthplace” of the Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Church (first independent Laestadian congregation in the world). Suomi College was formed in part as training ground for Finnish speaking pastors, and its affiliated Finnish Book Concern, was the publishing house for Finnish language materials, in particular, catechisms, hymnals and Bibles.

After WWI Finnish immigration was greatly limited due to quotas, but Finns still settle throughout Michigan. Today most new immigrants are either connected to one of Michigan’s many universities, or they have married an American.

The five north westernmost counties of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are the only counties in the United States in which Finns are the largest ethnic group, with approximately 35 percent of the residents claiming Finnish heritage in the most recent national census.

Estimated number of Finns / Finnish-Americans living in the area: 50,000 in the Upper Peninsula Michigan – 68,203 in all of Michigan.

Local Finnish / Finnish-American companies in the area:

• Valmet Automotive (Detroit)

• Ponsse North America Inc.(Gaylord, Gladstone)

Local Finnish/ Finnish-American organizations/clubs/associations/societies in the area:

• League of Finnish American Societies (Finlandia Foundation chapter)

• Little Finland (Ironwood, MI & Hurley, WI)

• Raja Ryhmä (Iron Mountain, MI)

• Finnish Council in America (Finlandia Univ.)

• Ladies of Kaleva - Ainon Tupa (Mass City, MI)

• Kivajat Children’s Folk Dance group (Hancock, MI)

• Ilon Kaiku Kantele Ensemble (Hancock, MI)

• Pasi Cats band (Hancock, MI)

• Thimbleberry Band (Calumet, MI)

Where to learn Finnish in your state?:

• Finlandia University (Hancock, MI)

• Finnish American Heritage Center (community) (Hancock, MI)

• Tanja Stanaway’s Finnish class (Negaunee, MI)

• Little Finland (Seija Järvenpää) (Ironwood, MI)

Local Finnish Chamber of Commerce:

Local Finnish themed activities/festivals/celebrations:

Immigrants and Refugees in Minnesota: Connecting Past and Present

Detail view of a wood-relief carving titled "Immigrants" by Peter Wedin, 1930.

The history of Minnesota, its statehood, and immigration are closely intertwined. In fact, it is impossible to discuss Minnesota history without detailing immigration in the past and present. The Ojibwe and Dakota people who have made this land their home for centuries were joined and then driven out or confined by European settler-colonists and immigrants in the nineteenth century. Minnesota became a home for Swedes, Irish, Germans, and Italians in the late nineteenth century, for Poles and Mexicans in the early twentieth century, and for Hmong, Khmer, Lao, Vietnamese, Mexican, Salvadoran, Karen, and Somali people in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Minnesota’s immigrant history reveals that state and federal legislation has impacted the movement of people to the state. When nativist sentiment rose, restrictive legislation often followed. The challenges of today’s political environment have again brought to light the xenophobia of the past. Restrictions and exclusions that Southern European, Chinese, and Jewish immigrants once faced are now aimed at Muslims and other war refugees seeking to make the United States and Minnesota their home.


When thinking about immigration to Minnesota, it is crucial to acknowledge the peoples that existed before the arrival of European immigrants and settler-colonists. The land inside the boundary of present-day Minnesota has long been inhabited by the Dakota and Ojibwe people. Some oral traditions state that the Dakota have lived in Mni Sota Makoce, their homeland, since their creation. Ojibwe people migrated there from the Northern Great Lakes region in the 1700s, prompting the Dakota to move deeper into the prairies and river valleys of the south and west.

Through a series of treaties, land cessions, and conflicts that culminated in the 1850s and 1860s, the US government exiled most of the Dakota and restricted the Ojibwe to reservations. European immigrants from the East Coast moved west, but their expansion came at a price for the original inhabitants of the land. The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux (1851) favored European immigrants who wanted to move deeper into Native lands. It resulted in, among other things, the cession of much of what is now southern and western Minnesota.

The late nineteenth century was an era of continued expansion justified by Manifest Destiny—the idea that settler-colonists were entitled and fated to cross the continent. It became the driving force of US territory purchases, treaties, and occupations. Given this mantra, it is not surprising that the Homestead Act of 1862 (and similar legislation that followed) granted homesteaders the right to settle on land newly owned by the federal government. By the end of the nineteenth century, it had granted land to more than 480,000 settler-colonists. Most of them were European immigrants unable to own land in their own countries who seized the enticing opportunity of moving to America. Many gravitated to the West and to new states and territories like Minnesota.


For the first European immigrants, Minnesota was a place where the dream of owning land could become a reality. The possibilities it offered for employment in the timber and mining industries, along with farming opportunities, enticed people to leave their birth countries. For many, the unknown landscapes of the Minnesota river valleys, prairies, and forests offered better conditions than their homelands, where overcrowding, land competition, and famine were chronic problems.

By the 1850s, settler-colonists with British roots had already ventured west to Minnesota Territory to create a “New England of the West.” Immigrants from Sweden, Norway, and Germany followed them throughout the 1860s and 1870s. They often made their way to areas where others from their home countries already lived, producing ethnic enclaves. Many Germans, for example, came to farming areas in the southern and central parts of the state.

Spurred on by the Homestead Act and the thousands of new arrivals, Minnesota established a Board of Immigration in 1867 to promote immigration to the state and to assist travelers on their way to the Upper Midwest. It published pamphlets, brochures, and maps to advertise public lands available for homesteading. Norwegians, in particular, responded enthusiastically and immigrated in such numbers that roughly 50,000 lived in Minnesota by 1870 and 120,000 by 1880. They gravitated to fertile rural areas in the south, to the Twin Cities, and, eventually, to parts of the Red River Valley and Buffalo River Valley.

The new immigrants quickly changed the makeup of Minnesota. By 1896, official voting instructions were offered in nine different languages: Czech, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, and Swedish. In the 1890s, 40 percent of the state’s population was foreign-born, compared to 11 percent of the US population overall. And by 1900, more than 60 percent of the state’s foreign-born population came from Germany, Norway, and Sweden. Jewish people from multiple countries came to Minnesota, too—first to St. Paul and Duluth and later to Eveleth, Virginia, Hibbing, and Chisholm.

Opportunities in a new land often came with feelings of isolation. A letter sent by Finnish immigrant Bert Aalto from Big Falls, Minnesota, to his friend Hilma Aerila in 1911 recounts his loneliness: “Time goes by fast these days. I have moved since I last wrote you. I am now working in a logging site. There aren’t many Finns here, except for the six of us.” To counter this feeling, people like Aalto joined ethnic organizations and churches that helped them maintain their language and cultural heritage. Their determination to preserve their culture was so strong that in 1912, Finns in Virginia, Minnesota, petitioned their local school board to substitute Finnish for German as a foreign language requirement. This kind of national pride hurt Germans in particular when the United States entered World War I and the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety branded it a sign of disloyalty. The MCPS and other groups harassed citizens of German descent during a wave of anti-immigrant nativism that lasted through 1919.

The early twentieth century saw changes in economic and living conditions in European countries that prompted more waves of immigrants to the US. Once established, like groups before them, these new immigrants served as springboards for the migration of their kin to Minnesota.


The history of Asian immigration to Minnesota dates back to the mid-1870s, when the first Chinese immigrants sought to escape the hostility and racial violence of the West Coast. In 2018, over forty different ethnic groups make up the state’s Asian American and Asian immigrant and refugee communities. Their journeys and experiences differ in how and why they chose Minnesota to be their home.

“Immigrant” and “refugee” are not equivalent terms. An immigrant is someone who chooses to leave her country and live permanently in a new one. A refugee, on the other hand, is a person compelled by dangers at home—like war and persecution—to relocate to a safer place. Although many refugees plan to return to their birth countries when conditions there improve, circumstances often lead them to stay in their new homes for long periods of time, if not indefinitely.

Between the 1880s and the 1970s, US laws restricted the immigration of earlier groups while allowing in more recent refugees. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (repealed in 1943) was explicitly created to restrict the entry of Chinese people into the United States. Laws such as the 1917 Immigration Act imposed literacy tests on immigrants, created new categories of inadmissible persons, and barred immigration from much of Asia. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (the Hart‒Cellar Act) further shifted the demographics of the United States by eliminating a longstanding country-of-origin quota and establishing paths for family reunification.

The first documented Chinese immigrants to Minnesota arrived in 1876 and established laundries and restaurants in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Liang May Seen, the first woman of Chinese descent to live permanently in the state, arrived in Minneapolis after moving from San Francisco in the 1890s. For many Chinese people, cold weather in Minnesota was preferable to the racial violence they had encountered on the West Coast. As the nineteenth century progressed, their numbers grew in areas outside the Twin Cities. In Iron Range towns like Ebbing and Eveleth, population booms led to increased demand for goods and services. To meet that demand, Chinese immigrants on the Iron Range diversified their businesses and operated hotels and restaurants that catered to European immigrants.

Although Chinese immigrants experienced a less hostile environment in Minnesota than on the West Coast, discrimination remained an issue. Incidents of anti-Chinese vandalism were common. Even in the mid-twentieth century, when Chinese people purchased property, they found themselves barred from buying homes in affluent suburban towns. Over time, the Chinese American and immigrant communities diversified to include both families who had lived in Minnesota for decades and immigrants who qualified to settle based on family reunification goals or HB-1 visas.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 authorized the removal of Japanese immigrants, their American children, and other family members who lived on the West Coast. As a result, thousands of people were placed in American concentration camps. In Minnesota, organizations like the YWCA and War Relocation Authority—the same group charged with relocating Japanese Americans and immigrants—established a resettlement committee in St. Paul to help bring Japanese to Minnesota. Even after the war, however, anti-Japanese sentiment and housing discrimination were prevalent. In response, the Japanese American Citizen League opened a chapter in Minnesota in 1946 to advocate for the rights of Japanese Americans.

During and after World War II, thousands of refugees fled persecution many had no homes to return to. This global crisis motivated the US to enact new legislation to allow the entrance of immigrants seeking refuge beyond the national quota set by the National Quota Act of 1924. The legislation's main target populations were those from Eastern European countries occupied by the Soviet Union. The subsequent Displaced Persons Act of 1948 provided assistance and resources to immigrants and refugees fleeing fascist persecution.

Assistance programs and social services infrastructures created after World War II were utilized again in the 1970s, when the global community experienced another refugee crisis. The collapse of American-supported governments in Cambodia, Laos, and South Vietnam in 1975 led to a mass exodus of refugees fleeing from repressive regimes. This included Hmong and Lao people who had fought against communist forces in Laos on behalf of the US Central Intelligence Agency. The Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1975, signed by President Gerald Ford, conferred special status to Southeast Asian refugees, and they began arriving in Minnesota in the fall of 1975. Minnesota Governor Wendell R. Anderson established an Indochinese Resettlement Task Force (later renamed the Indochinese Refugee Resettlement Office) on December 1, 1975.

The US Congress and the public alike became concerned about the potential for millions of refugees to suddenly appear on American shores. This fear arose amid a severe economic crisis in the 1970s, which led some working-class Americans to believe that refugees were competing with them for scarce resources. Politicians felt that legislative action would bring the admission of refugees into congressional statutory control. In 1980, the Refugee Act created for the first time a US definition of refugee status and set up the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. Passage of the act capped off the evolution of American refugee policy from the largely ad hoc, disjointed system in place after World War II to a more consistent set of policies and practices. Voluntary agencies (VOLAGS) in charge of resettling Southeast Asian refugees helped with the recruitment of sponsors, many of whom were members of church congregations.

Another notable Asian population in Minnesota is made up of Korean adoptees. Korean adoption to Minnesota began in 1953, shortly after the end of the United States’s direct involvement in the war in the Korean peninsula. VOLAGs such as Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota played a prominent role in facilitating the adoption of Korean children to Minnesota. Since the 1950s, an estimated 13,000 to 15,000 children from Korea have been adopted by Minnesota families.

Today, despite escaping war and experiencing trauma, refugees from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam are thriving in Minnesota. Many actively participate in civic engagement others have been elected to public office. In 2002, lawyer and former refugee Mee Moua became the first Hmong person elected to the Minnesota legislature—and to any state legislature. More recent refugees from Asia, like the Karen people of Myanmar and the Bhutanese, have also thrived. In the 2010s, Asian Americans (including recent immigrants and refugees) are the fastest-growing ethnic group in Minnesota.


Latinx people have made Minnesota their home since the early 1900s. Like immigrants before them, they came in search of economic opportunities. In Minnesota, Latinx men, women, and children worked hard in the sugar-beet fields of the western part of the state. In the 1920s they began to settle in neighborhoods in St. Paul and Minneapolis—notably Swede Hollow on the east side of St. Paul, once occupied by European immigrants. Latinx communities then, as now, centered around the west side of St. Paul and the city of West St. Paul.

Since their arrival, Latinx people have experienced and still are experiencing discrimination. During the labor shortage caused by the deployment of thousands of working-age people overseas to fight in World War II, the government-sponsored Bracero Program recruited Mexican immigrants to work in factories and meat-packing plants. When not wanted for their labor, members of the community became targets for forced deportation in 1931, at least 15 percent of the Mexican residents of St. Paul’s West side were forcibly removed from their homes and repatriated to Mexico.

Like other immigrants before them, Latinx people established organizations and institutions throughout Minnesota to support one another. The Spanish Speaking Affairs Council (later renamed the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs), began in 1978. Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES) followed, incorporating in 1981 to deliver bilingual and bicultural social services to Latinxs throughout the Twin Cities. The Latino Economic Development Center (LED) officially formed in 2003, but its efforts can be tracked back to 1994 and the formation of a South Minneapolis Catholic Church: Sagrado Corazon de Jesus.

The deportation of Mexican and other Latinx immigrants continues in the twenty-first century. In the 2010s, conservative and nationalist politicians have targeted “Dreamers” (Latinxs who came to the United States as children with their undocumented parents) and pushed them to the forefront of immigration-reform debates. Refugees who fled ongoing conflict in El Salvador and came to the US after being assigned Temporary Protected Status (TPS) face the threat of losing their TPS and being forcibly deported.

The struggle to be recognized as American and overcome being labeled as perpetual foreigners remains constant for Latinx Minnesotans, most of whom are US-born. In 2018, there are over 276,000 Latinx people of diverse backgrounds living in the state, with the majority being of Mexican descent.


Most Somalis in the US are refugees or children of refugees who escaped a civil war in their homeland in the early 1990s. For many, living in refugee camps for decades has contributed to on-going trauma, which they continue to process in their new home.

Minnesota is home to the largest Somali diaspora community in the world. Its center is the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, known widely as “Little Mogadishu.” American Community Survey data states that there are nearly 47,000 Minnesotans with Somali ancestry. Social services and refugee resettlement agencies that were created to assist Southeast Asian refugees since 1975 have played a crucial role in resettling Somali refugees in Minnesota.

Like Finns in the nineteenth century, many Somalis in Minnesota have struggled to learn English while maintaining their native language and culture. Despite these challenges, they formed community-based and professional organizations to assist one another in housing, education, and civic engagement. A group of Somali refugees took action in 1994 to create the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, a non-profit group based in Minneapolis designed to provide social services to Somali Minnesotans. Somali Minnesotans have engaged fully in civic life and held public offices in several levels of government. Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee who came with her family to Minneapolis in 1995, was elected in 2018 to serve Minnesota in the US House of Representatives.

Following the events of September 11, 2001, Somalis and Muslims in Minnesota and other states have been discriminated against, targeted by hate groups, and surveilled by the FBI because of their Islamic faith. The executive orders signed by President Donald Trump in February of 2017 banned new immigration from Somalia, among other countries.


The history of immigration in Minnesota shows the state’s strong ties in attracting immigrants and refugees from around the world. These movements have remade both Minnesota and what it means to be “Minnesotan.” The immigrant makeup of Minnesota has diversified over time. Between the 1980s and the 2010s, Minnesota—alongside the rest of the United States—has experienced an exponential increase in immigration. New US Census figures show that Minnesota’s minority population has increased faster than its population as a whole. In the 2010s, most of Minnesota's immigrants come from Somalia, Mexico, China, India, Laos, and Myanmar. The number of African immigrants in the state grew by 620 percent in the 1990s, and the number of immigrants from Latin America increased by 577 percent. Between 2000 and 2010, Latinx people accounted for 60.7 percent of the population growth in the Midwest and 27.8 percent of the population growth in Minnesota. Refugees from Southeast Asia continue to transform small towns like Worthington and Jackson. Karen and Somali workers have reinvigorated local workforces and enriched their culture.

As of 2018, Minnesota has the largest Hmong population in a US metropolitan area and the largest Somali population outside of Somalia. Its immigrant and refugee communities represent a remarkable diversity, reflected in the fact that more than 230 languages are spoken in the homes of Minnesota’s students. According to US Census data, Minnesota has the highest number of refugees per capita nationwide (13 percent and 2 percent, respectively).

The demographics of Minnesota have been evolving since its designation as a state, and much earlier. What has remained constant is the state’s vital role in settling and supporting immigrants and refugees from across the globe.

Finnish citizenship

A child of a Finnish citizen receives Finnish citizenship through his or her parents (the parentage principle). This means that the Finnish citizenship of a child's mother or father will automatically be passed on to the child. The parentage principle is always applied in accordance with the provisions of the Nationality Act that were in force at the time the child was born. The current Nationality Act entered into force on 1 June 2003. The latest amendments were made on 1 April 2019 as the Maternity Act entered into force.

The Finnish citizenship of a child’s parent will automatically pass on to a child who is born on 1 June 2003 or later, if:

  • the child’s mother is a Finnish citizen
  • the child’s father is a Finnish citizen and married to the child’s mother
  • the child is born in Finland and the father is a Finnish citizen whose paternity has been established on 1 June 2003 or later
  • the child is born in Finland and the child’s non-birth mother is a Finnish citizen whose maternity has been established on 1 April 2019 or later.

The Finnish Immigration Service may grant Finnish citizenship on declaration or on application. For an applicant, the declaration procedure is a faster and more inexpensive way to become a citizen. Finnish citizenship may be obtained by declaration by:

  • a child born abroad and out of wedlock to a Finnish man or a Finnish non-birth mother
  • an adopted child between 12 and 17 years of age
  • a former Finnish citizen
  • a Nordic citizen
  • a young person between 18 and 22 years of age who has lived in Finland long enough

If you do not belong to any of these groups, you may get citizenship by application (this process is called ‘naturalisation’). In order to get a positive decision on your application, you must fulfil the requirements for naturalisation:

  • established identity
  • sufficient language skills
  • sufficient period of residence
  • integrity
  • means of support
  • fulfilled payment obligations

Finland accepts multiple citizenship. In other words, a Finnish citizen may also be a citizen of some other country. Even if a Finnish citizen has more than one citizenship, the Finnish authorities will consider him or her to be a Finnish citizen both in Finland and abroad. However, the authorities of other countries may not necessarily consider him or her to be a Finnish citizen because not every country accepts multiple citizenship in the same way.

Finland Immigration Statistics 1960-2021

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Finland Immigration Statistics 1960-2021

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Use Enter Finland for Counsels and Representatives to act on behalf of your client. You can send additional information to the Finnish Immigration Service, request documents, reply to requests for additional information and follow the status of your client&rsquos application.

Residence permit on the basis of Finnish origin

Residence permit on other grounds

Extended permit on the basis of international protection

Travel documents
Schengen visa

For further information, see the website of the Finnish Immigration Service or the website of the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Finnish Immigration - History

The information provided here is to assist researchers in locating and
understanding the information they might find from the various sources.

Aspasia Books publishes books and materials concerning Finnish and
Finnish-North American Studies, including classic literature, language learning
materials and other works of interest. It is located in Beaverton, Ontario, Canada.
Aspasia is a primary distributor of materials translated from the Finnish for a North
American audience. .

Fennophile: A Magazine for and by Those who Love Finland was edited and
published by Lillian Lehto from 1986 to 1994. It ispanned nine volumes in 46
issues and included articles on places of interest, current events, regional
highlights, specific offices, holidays, and points of interest, customs and manners,
book reviews, and reader comments Fennophile was sent to the Finnish-American
Historical archives at Finnish-American Heritage Center at Finlandia University in
Hancock, Michigan, so copies may be viewed there. You can find its link on the
Finlandia home page. . Also see Lillian Lehto in the bibliography.

Finnish Americana was a journal specializing in the study of Finnish North
America published by Michael G. Karni. No longer being published, issues can still
be purchased from rare books sellers and located in the archives, including the
Finnish American Historical Archive at Finlandia University and the Immigration
History Research Center on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Both
Provide exclusive information and should both be utilized in a comprehensive
research study.

The Finnish American Historical Archive is located on the campus of Finlandia
University in Hancock, Michigan. It holds a large store of materials devoted to the
documentation of Finnish immigrants in America and works with individuals to
locate both archival and geneological materials of interest. It possesses one of the
most comprehensive holdings of information and archival materials regarding
Finnish American immigration. It can be accessed from the Finlandia University
website. From the Finlandia home page, just use the drop-down menu to jump to
the archives home page. .

The Finnish American Reporter is published on the campus of Finlandia
University in Hancock, Michigan. It is a monthly journal that publishes information of
interest to Finnish North Americans, including what is happening in the
Finnish-American communities across the United States and Canada. Often, it
publishes book reviews of interest to scholars and anyone interested in the subject
of Finnish-American Literature and Culture. .

Ice Cold Crime, LLC, is a publishing house founded in 2009 in the
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota area. Its mission is to originate, translate, publish
and promote Finnish fiction in the United States and other English speaking
countries. You can find it here: /

The Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota
houses one of the most comprehensive holdings of information and archival
materials regarding Finnish American Immigration as well as other groups. There
research can be done with out of print and hard to find manuscripts and
publications. .

The Institute of Migration, Siirtolaisuusinstituutti - Finland, is located at
Linnankatu 61, 20100 Turku, Finland. According to its website, the "Institute of
Migration aims to promote and carry out migration and ethnic research and to
encourage the compilation, storage and documentation of material relating to
international and internal migration in Finland. It serves also as a resource site for
genealogists." It is a useful source of information regarding Finnish migration to
North American and other destinations and contains a searchable database of
information regarding migration.

The Journal of Finnish Studies is an academic publication that specializes in
inquiry in the areas of Finnish and Finnish North American Studies in a broad
sense. It publishes articles in literature, film, architecture, ideology, experiences,
and other issues related to Finnish and Finnish North American culture. Its website
and current editorial staff are located at Sam Houston State University in Hunstville,
TX: http://www.shsu. edu/

New Orphic Review and New Orphic Publishers are both operated by Ernest
Hekkanen, where he serves as Editor-in-Chief and Margrith Schraner serves as
Copy & Associate Editor. NOR publishes high quality fiction, poetry, reviews, and
essays. The editorial policies of the New Orphic Publishers can be located on
Hekkanen's website: .
Hekkanen's publishing outlets do not focus exclusively on ethnic Finnish works.
Nevertheless, his own work published in these venues must be considered
ethnically Finnish.

Formerly located in New York and Minneapolis, New Rivers Press is associated
with Minnesota State University Moorhead and publishes a limited number of
quality titles each year. Of interest to the Finnish North American Literary Scholar
is the Many Minnesota Project which features anthologies of creative, critical, and
translated works by the particular ethnic groups of Minnesota.

New World Finn is a quarterly journal exploring Finnish culture. It addresses
Canadian and American Finnish topics and publishes creative and critical work as
well as book reviews of interest to its readership. Its online version, a supplement
to the printed version, is located at .

North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc., handles many Finnish North American
authors, including Lauri Anderson, Richard Impola, and Aili Jarvenpa. While it does
not publish exclusively Finnish-themed texts, it is one of the largest publishers of
such works. Their website is located at

Penfield Books publishes ethnically themed works, including works by Finnish
North Americans and others. Operating from Iowa, its services and offices can be
located through their website: Penfield has
published works by Bernard Hillila and Beth L. Virtanen.

Sampo Books was a publishing house operated by the late Michael G. Karni who
also served as its editor. Sampo provided a publishing outlet for creative and
critical works from the mid- to late-twentieth century, until the early death of its
editor and chief executive offiicer, Michael G. Karni. Works by Sampo Books can
still be found at used and rare book sellers and are also found readily in the
Finnish American Historical Archive on the Campus of Finlandia University and at
the Immigration History Research Center on the campus of the University of

How about getting a job in Finland?

The country will face a labour shortage in the future – have you ever considered working in Finland? Our article includes a link list covering everything from job ads to taxes.

In Finland a clear need exists to recruit people from abroad in the coming years, especially in the healthcare and service sectors.

Photos: Santtu Turunen/Plugi

Finland has woken up to the fact that when the post-war baby-boom age groups retire, it will face a labour shortage that its own younger generation will be unable to fill.

If all the jobs that will be vacated in healthcare services over the next few decades had to be filled by Finns only, then one in four of Finland’s young people would have to train to be nurses. Since that situation is obviously not feasible, there is a clear need to recruit people from abroad in the coming years, especially in the service and healthcare sectors.

The idea of taking either a short-term or a permanent job in Finland, or actually settling here, is not as extraordinary as it was a mere 20 years ago. The attractions of working in Finland include good working conditions and high employment security. Even the intriguing Finnish language poses no barrier to newcomers willing to make an effort, although admittedly it may slow them down a bit at first.

Labour mobility

Despite the effect of economic ups and downs on the labour market, employers in Finland will need more skilled hands in the long run. Photo: Pentti Sormunen/Plugi

Finland has been, and still is to some extent, a culturally, ethnically and linguistically homogeneous country. However, this is gradually changing, with the growth of the European Union facilitating greater labour mobility. In 2018, a total of 31,106 people moved to Finland, while 19,141 emigrated.

Politically, Finland has also made a clear transition from a policy on aliens to on immigrants, and themes such as work-related immigration and social integration are part of the alignments of today’s government program. Despite the current economic crisis and its effects on the labour market, Finnish employers will need more skilled hands in the long run.

Healthcare professionals

Finnish employers have participated in job fairs across Europe. Healthcare is one sector where demand is greater than supply. Photo: Plugi

Mobility is currently encouraged, especially within Europe. [Editor’s note: The coronavirus has caused the enactment of temporary restrictions on movement. Please monitor the situation to see when that will change.] When European citizens wish to move abroad to work, they are assisted by EURES, the European Employment Services network. More than 800 advisers in public employment services in the EU Member States are involved in EURES. In Finland representatives can be found at Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment in major towns. These experts help companies looking for workers from outside Finland and people in Finland seeking jobs abroad to find the necessary contacts and channels.

In recent years, hospitals all over Finland have actively encouraged Finnish expatriates in Sweden to return home. Furthermore, it has become common for numerous countries to arrange recruitment fairs. Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary are some of the countries where Finnish employers have attended fairs.

“Those who come to talk to potential Finnish employers at fair stands include young people in particular, who may have studied in Finland through programmes such as the Erasmus exchange programme. They have pleasant memories of Finland and often speak some Finnish, too,” says ministerial adviser Tiina Oinonen of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, who has been involved in EURES for a number of years.

Open your mind to Finnish

Though immigrants are supported in many ways, coming to work in Finland does of course require a certain spirit of enterprise and an open mind. The most important issue, and the biggest, is language. There are very few jobs where it is possible to work without knowing any Finnish at all, and for reasons of occupational safety alone it is vital to be able to communicate.

In healthcare and any other field, knowing Finnish is an advantage. This may call for intensive learning, but experience shows that it’s doable. Photo: Tarja Hoikkala/Vastavalo

Local authorities – and indeed many employers too – provide immigrants and their families with language training, either free or at very low cost. There are individual differences in how fast people learn a new language, of course, but Oinonen reckons that with six months of intensive effort one should learn enough to get by at the average workplace. The level of Finnish skills necessary depends greatly on the nature of the work.

Finland places great value on vocational training, and statutory qualification requirements exist in many fields and positions. Anyone who has studied and gained a qualification outside Finland would therefore do well to check in advance that their qualifications are officially recognised in Finland.

Immigrants are entitled by law to integration services, with local authorities and employment and economic development offices carrying the prime responsibility for organising them.

Finland has much to offer

So what does Finland have to offer workers from abroad? Why is it worth coming to Finland?

“Finland can offer good, high-quality working conditions, employees have a secure status, children and adolescents enjoy good educational opportunities, public services run smoothly and we have many successful, internationally respected companies,” Oinonen states.

And then of course there is our wonderful northern countryside with its multitude of recreational and sporting opportunities, a lively cultural life, a wide range of inexpensive study choices, clean and comfortable housing, and a society that really functions well in every way. Welcome to Finland!

Watch the video: Μια μέρα σε ένα Λύκειο της Φινλανδίας - A day at a Finnish High-School