This article deals with the state of things during the Covid pandemic. Probably after restrictions are eased, “wait in line for several hours for a walk-in appointment” can replace “make an appointment” in many steps to speed things up.
While our experience joining Finnish society was rough in parts, a lot of it would have been smoother knowing more about the process and what is needed when. This article intends to help EU citizens navigate through the process of becoming a permanent resident of this weird country called Finland.
So, the very basic set of stuff you need to function in Finland are:
A Finnish ID/social security number (henkilötunnus)
A tax card from Vero, the Finnish tax authority
A Kela card to access healthcare and other social services
A bank account, since the online banking login is used for basically every government or private party online service you will ever need
This comes with two hidden sub-requirements: In order to get a fully-fledged bank account, you need a permanent Municipality of Residence registered. And in order to get this, you need to have your Right of Residency as an EU citizen registered with Migri, the Finnish immigration office.
You may also want to apply for a Finnish ID card you can carry in your wallet, but this is not strictly necessary. The documents you will have to provide vary depending on which authority you are talking to. While triple-checking the lists provided on the relevant websites is highly recommended, you should carry the very basics of:
Rental contract as proof of residency
Employment contract as proof of income
With you no matter where you go. They may just come in handy, and are not explicitly listed as required in the how-to below.
As a general rule, while Finland is one of the least corrupt countries in the world, there are still human beings manning all the counters and all the phone lines you will deal with. So even if everyone’s equal before the law, not everyone will receive the same quality of treatment. So, whatever you do, be on time, be dressed nicely, be at your best behavior. Don’t complain, but ask nicely, if something does not go your way. This might just make the difference between the clerk letting you off with a warning, or making you return four weeks later with a slightly amended document.
The convenient route
This path optimizes towards as little time as possible spend on dealing with immigration matters and needing as little in-person appointments as possible. But this comes at the expense of overall speed.
We take advantage of the fact that since your Finnish online banking credentials are tied to your Finnish ID number, once you have a bank account, you can use your online banking password to log into most if not all government services online.
Here’s the easy way:
1. Make an appointment with Migri to register your right of residency in Finland as an EU citizen. Since wait times for appointments are weeks, if not months, do so as soon as you know when you will arrive in Finland. The prerequisites to do so are:
Filling out an application form online, uploading proof of income and residency
Bringing original documents for everything you uploaded to the Migri appointment
If you do not have all documents needed at this point in time, the application can be amended at any point before the appointment.
The Migri appointment itself only is there to show the physical originals of all documents uploaded. But only after this step your application will be processed.
2. Once Migri approved of your application (which can be immediately after the appointment, but also may take some time), make an appointment with DVV, the Finnish digital population registry, to:
Get your Finnish ID number (henkilötunnus)
Register your Municipality of Residence
Prerequisites for this are:
Filling out application forms for yourself and your family members and printing them
Bring your kids birth certificates and your marriage certificate plus translations to Finnish done by authorized translators, if you have kids or are married
3. Get a bank account with the Finnish bank of your choice
At least during Covid, at most banks opening an account requires to make an appointment
The Kela way of handling stuff is a bit old-school: There are no web-based forms, instead you have to download the form you need (in this case, the Kela Card application), fill it out with the PDF reader of your choice, safe it, and send it to Kela as an attachment using their secure on-site messaging system.
The downside to this route is that waiting times for a Migri appointment can reach several months, and for the DVV appointment you are looking at several weeks again. And since you can only make the DVV appointment once you have the Migri decision, these waiting times can’t run in parallel.
So while this approach includes a lot of “sitting around and doing nothing”, it also takes a lot of time. And without a tax card, a Finnish employer will not be able to pay your salary. So you might just need to take...
The quick route
This will get you set up with all the documents you need in under a month. But it takes a lot of extra legwork, since without having online banking credentials, you will have to do a lot of stuff in person you otherwise could do online.
1. Make a Migri appointment before your arrival in Finland.
2. Go to a Vero branch office to get your Finnish ID number and a tax card. This can be done without an appointment.
During the pandemic, the Helsinki Vero office only serves construction workers, so you may have to go to Tampere or Hämeenlinna
You need to fill out two forms beforehand and bring them with you
In order to fill these forms, you will need your employer’s business ID number
3. Go to your nearest Kela branch office and fill out a paper application for a Kela card there
4. Apply for your right of residency in Finland through Migri’s e-service.
In addition to uploading proof of residency and income, also upload the Finnish population database excerpt you got at Vero.
5. With your Finnish ID number, you can get a bank account with a limited feature set at S-Pankki. As a “supermarket bank”, S-Pankki services are available at any Sokos or Prisma store without an appointment.
At this point you have all the basics covered to work and live in Finland for three months.
6. Now, wait until your Migri appointment, where they will hopefully look at the originals of the documents you provided in your online application and register your right of residency as an EU citizen. This appointment also triggers a grace period that extends your right to stay in Finland beyond 90 days until the Migri process is finished.
7. After Migri confirmed your right of residency, go to your nearest Posti branch and fill out a change of address form (or do it online using your banking credentials).
This will in theory set you up with a municipality of residence within five working days. If it does not, call DVV. According to their website, at this point you should fulfill all criteria to get a municipality of residence set up without an in-person appointment. In our experience, some DVV clerks still don’t want to do it over the phone, so calling several times might help.
8. Once you have your municipality of residence confirmed, which can be checked online (you should at this point be able to access DVV’s e-services using your S-Pankki credentials), either go back to S-Pankki’s branch office to upgrade your bank account to a full featured version, or use your S-Pankki credentials to open an account at a bank of your choice online.
9. If you are married or have children, make an appointment with DVV and provide authorized translations of your marriage certificate and/or your kids’ birth certificates in order to get your family situation correctly listed in the Finnish population database
As you see, four steps turned into nine, and three in-person appointments turned into six to seven. But at the same time, this whole process can be done in three weeks or less, which is a big advantage.
Good luck and tervetuloa Suomeen!