When you move to Finland, there are a number of practical things that you will have to solve in order to carry out the complicated process of integrating yourself into your new host country.
If you are European or have lived in a European country before, some of these basic things may already be familiar to you. But still each country has its peculiarities and the way to meet certain basic needs, for example dealing with public administration, may be different.
To help foreigners sort out their priorities when moving to Finland, the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) has published the leaflet ‘Welcome to Finland’. This document summarises the first steps that every immigrant should take at the beginning of the process.
Will you need a residence permit?
The first thing that you should know if you are planning to stay in Finland is if you need to have a residence permit. And this will depend above all on what is your citizenship or your country of origin. In its leaflet ‘Welcome to Finland’, Migri establishes the following differences for each case:
Citizens of the Nordic countries:
As a citizen of a Nordic country (Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland), you have the right of residence and employment in Finland without the need of a residence permit.
File an announcement of moving within a week from the date of moving and register personally with your local register office (Maistraatti).
Citizens of the EU, EEA or Switzerland
If you are a citizen of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you do not need a residence permit.
But if you are going to stay in Finland for longer than three months, then you must register the right of residence with the Finnish Immigration Service within three months from the date of moving. After that, you must also register personally at your local register office.
Citizens of third countries
If you are a citizen from a third country (other than Nordic, EU, EEA or Switzerland) and you intend to come to Finland for more than three months, you must have a residence permit. Apply for a residence permit at a Finnish diplomatic mission before leaving your country, or at the Finnish Immigration Service if you are already in Finland.
The basic prerequisite is that you must apply for your first residence permit before coming to Finland. You can submit the application online through the Enter Finland service.
As a returnee, you may be issued with a residence permit if you have Finnish ancestry or close connections to Finland.
Checklist of what you must do first
These are the basic things that you must deal with once you have a clear idea of whether you need a residence permit or not.
Find yourself a place to live. You cannot be registered as living in Finland unless you have an address. You can look for rented and owner-occupied flats in newspapers and on the internet.
Flats can be rented from, for example, private individuals, companies or municipalities. Migri remarks that when you have found a residence, you should also get a home insurance.
Personal identity code and place of domicile
When you have moved to Finland, visit your local register office. The local register office will give you a personal identity code if you have not applied for one when applying for a residence permit.
The local register office will establish whether you are eligible to register a place of domicile. When you have a place of domicile, you can use the services provided by your municipality of residence (for example the health care services).
Finding a job
If you do not have a job, register as a job seeker with a TE Office (Employment and Economic Development Office). The TE Office will help you to find employment.
Also be active yourself and seek jobs, for example, on the internet and in newspapers. You can also contact employers directly.
Internet and telephone
Get yourself a personal mobile telephone. You will get a Finnish telephone number when you buy a telephone subscription in Finland.
You can buy a prepaid subscription from an R-kioski convenience store, the internet or a teleoperator outlet. In Finland, you can also access many services online.
Open a bank account. In Finland, your wages or salary as well as Social Insurance Institution (Kela) benefits and allowances are paid into a bank account. You need a passport or identity card to open a bank account.
Finnish or Swedish language
If you cannot speak a local language, apply for a course in Finnish or Swedish. You may have to queue for a place on a course. You can also study Finnish and Swedish on the internet.
If you are a registered customer at a TE Office, they may enrol you on a course in Finnish or Swedish.
Social security and health care
Check with Kela if you are entitled to Finnish social security. The main rule is that persons living in Finland on a permanent basis have the right to social security.
Migri stresses that usually, you are entitled to Finnish social security and the National Health Insurance scheme of the Social Insurance Institution (Kela) as of the moment you move to Finland.
You may also have the right to social security when you are working in Finland. In such a case, your employment must last at least 4 months (18 hours per week) and you must be paid wages or salary in accordance with the collective labour agreement.
Kela will send you a decision on whether you are entitled to social security or not by post. If the decision is favourable, you will be sent your own Kela card (Kela kortti), or health insurance card.
Ask also Kela to check whether or not you are entitled to medical treatment under the health insurance in Finland and abroad.
Obtain a tax card from the tax office. Bring an identity document with you when applying for a tax card. You can apply for a tax card when you know your wages or other income. In the future, you can order the tax card on the internet or by telephone.
What if you get sick?
Migri says that in case you get sick you can use public health care services if you have a place of domicile in Finland. In addition, many workplaces provide occupational health care services for their employees.
If you are without a place of domicile, Kela may examine whether or not you are entitled to public health care services. If you are not entitled to them, you can make an appointment at a private clinic.
If you are permanently domiciled in Finland, in most cases you will be covered by the National Health Insurance scheme of the Social Insurance Institution (Kela), and can obtain reimbursement for medicines and costs arising from the use of private health care services.
You can also obtain reimbursement for medical treatment given in a foreign country. In addition, you can apply for a European Health Insurance Card from Kela.
If you have mental health problems, you can ask for help at your local health centre. If you need urgent assistance, you can contact the nearest emergency clinic of a health centre or hospital.
In case of emergency
In Finland, the emergency number is 112. Call the number only in the case of a real emergency, when someone's life, health, property or the environment is at risk. If necessary, the emergency centre can seek assistance from an interpreter service.