Moving to Finland: A Guide for Expats and Digital Nomads
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- With its relatively low costs and high quality of life, Finland has emerged as a popular choice for expats.
- Applying for one of the many Finnish visas and finding jobs calls for thorough research and careful planning.
- Deel’s step-by-step guide shows you how to effortlessly navigate the Finnish visa process and settle into your new home.
Finland is a north European country that has consistently ranked as the happiest country in the world. Famous for its sauna culture, midnight sun, and high-quality life, this Nordic country is an attractive destination for many people looking to build a new life in a unique corner of Europe, and the number of foreign residents in Finland has steadily increased over the years.
Finland welcomes foreigners, offering various paths to permanent residency and even to Finnish citizenship. As a member of the EU and the Schengen Zone, Finland provides a straightforward process for EU citizens, while also having programs for non-EU individuals, such as the Finnish Startup Permit.
Moving to Finland is an exciting venture but comes with its set of challenges. Proper preparation is essential. This guide will guide you through the necessary steps to start your Finnish adventure successfully.
Step 1: Prepare your documents
To move to Finland, you need to determine your eligibility to stay in the country and apply for the appropriate visa. Consider the following:
If you’re from an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland, there’s no visa requirement. You have the right to work, study, and reside in Finland with minimal bureaucracy.
Non-EU citizens need a residence permit if they plan to stay for more than 90 days.
Types of visas
The Finnish government offers several visas and permits depending on your purpose of stay:
- Tourist visa: Allows a stay of up to 90 days in a 180-day period
- Job seeker visa: Finland doesn't offer a specific job seeker visa, but you can enter as a tourist while searching for jobs
- Work permit: Required for non-EU citizens for employment. Typically, you must have a job offer from a Finnish employer. Directly or through an EOR
- Startup permit: Aimed at individuals with entrepreneurship projects, looking to establish a startup in Finland. You need a viable business plan and sufficient resources
- Self-employed permit: For those intending to work as freelancers or run their businesses in Finland
- Residency permits: Various categories, including permits for work, family ties, or study.
- EU Blue Card: Available for highly skilled non-EU workers earning at least 1.5 times the national average salary in their field
Family members of those holding a residence permit can usually apply for a residence permit based on family reunification.
Finland’s permanent residence permit
A permanent residence permit in Finland is granted without a specific expiration date, allowing individuals to reside in the country indefinitely. To be eligible for this permit, one must have lived continuously in Finland for four years with an A permit (temporary residence permit), and other criteria for issuing such a permit must still be met.
This permit cannot be obtained for study purposes or job-seeking endeavors; however, those with extended permits for these reasons may apply for a permanent residence permit on other grounds, such as family or work.
The four-year period begins:
- Upon entry into Finland with a continuous residence permit
- At the initiation of the first continuous residence permit application submitted within the country
- Upon entry into Finland with a continuous residence permit granted on the basis of refugee status or subsidiary protection
If the required four years haven't been completed, individuals can apply for a new fixed-term residence permit. Certain absences, such as ordinary holidays, work assignments abroad by a Finnish employer, or travel outside Finland, do not disrupt continuous residence.
Applications for a permanent residence permit may only be submitted within Finland, and submitting an application abroad will result in the processing of the application as a first residence permit, incurring associated fees. It is imperative to apply for a permanent residence permit while the current residence permit is still valid, and this application should be submitted no earlier than three months before completing the four-year residence period.
Legal residence in Finland is maintained during the processing of the application, even if the decision is negative. Individuals can appeal and stay in the country during the appeal process. The right to work is preserved while the application is being processed, given that the application is submitted before the previous permit expires. After obtaining a permanent residence permit, individuals have an unrestricted right to work.
Additionally, an EU residence permit (P-EU) can be pursued after living in Finland for an uninterrupted five-year period with either a continuous (A) or permanent (P) residence permit. EU citizens and their family members acquire the right to permanent residence in Finland after legally residing in the country for an uninterrupted five-year period.
In case of an expired, damaged, or lost residence permit card, individuals should apply for a new residence permit card rather than a new permanent residence permit.
Essential document checklist
Organizing your documents for the Finnish immigration process is crucial to avoid delays. Required documents may include:
✅ Passport: Must be valid for at least three months beyond your stay with a minimum of two blank pages.
✅ Passport-sized photos: The standard dimensions are 35mm by 45mm and the photo must be no less than six months old
✅ Visa application form: Complete and sign the relevant form for your visa type.
✅ Proof of outbound travel: This can be a return flight ticket or travel itinerary.
✅ Insurance documents: Show you have health insurance covering at least €30,000 ($31,500) for your duration of stay.
✅ Accommodation details: Address where you will live during your stay.
✅ Proof of employment: Applies to those seeking a work visa. Have your job offer letter or employment contract ready.
✅ Criminal record check: Required for some permits to prove you have no criminal background.
✅ Educational certificates: Especially relevant for work and study permits.
✅ Financial records: Evidence of sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay.
✅ Marriage and birth certificates: Necessary if relocating with family for residence permits based on family ties.
Importance of authenticating and translating documents
Finland requires the legalization of certain foreign documents. If your country is not a party to the Hague Convention, you might need to have documents legalized by the Finnish embassy or consulate in your country.
Translations of documents like birth and marriage certificates into Finnish, Swedish, or English may be required. Use a certified translator to ensure the accuracy of the translation.
Step 2: Manage your finances
Finland is celebrated for its high quality of life, excellent public services, and natural beauty, but it also has a cost of living that reflects its high standard of living, particularly in major cities like Helsinki, Espoo, Oulu, and Tampere. Here's how to prepare and manage your finances effectively:
Cost of living in Finland
Expectations for living costs in Finland include:
- Renting: A one-bedroom apartment in city centers can cost around €800-€1,200 ($850-$1,300). Prices decrease slightly outside city centers.
- Buying property: The property market in Finland offers a stable investment, though prices can be high, especially in Helsinki. Additional expenses include transfer tax and possible real estate agent fees.
- Food and drink: Grocery prices are on the higher side compared to some EU countries, but quality is excellent. A meal for two at a mid-range restaurant typically costs about €60-€80 ($65-$85).
- Transport: Public transportation is efficient and well-organized, with monthly passes costing around €50-€70 ($55-$75) depending on the city. Owning a car involves taxes, insurance, and relatively high fuel costs.
- Utilities: Monthly utility costs for a standard apartment are approximately €100-€150 ($110-$160), covering electricity, heating, water, and waste services.
Finland has a progressive tax system with rates starting from around 6% and rising to over 50% for higher income brackets. In addition to income tax, residents pay municipal taxes, social security contributions, and possibly church tax.
Expats should note the distinction between limited and unlimited tax liability, based on residence status, and explore double taxation treaties Finland may have with their home country to avoid double taxation on the same income.
Banking and currency exchange
Opening a bank account typically requires a Finnish personal identity code, proof of address, and sometimes employment details. Finland, being part of the Eurozone, uses the Euro (€), making currency exchange straightforward for those moving from another EU country.
For others, currency can be exchanged at banks and authorized exchange offices.
Step 3: Arrange housing and accommodation
Finding a comfortable place to live is crucial for settling successfully in Finland and integrating with the Finnish people and their way of life.
Renting vs. buying
The housing market in Finland is competitive but fair. Rentals are in high demand, especially in larger cities, so start your search early. Rentals usually require a deposit of one to three months' rent.
Buying a property might make sense for those planning a longer stay. The process is transparent, but it's advisable to consult a local real estate agent or legal advisor.
Finding suitable housing
In Finland, you can find a range of housing options, from modern urban apartments to more spacious options in suburban and rural areas. Websites like Oikotie and Vuokraovi are popular for finding rental properties, while Etuovi is great for those looking to purchase.
When choosing a location, consider factors such as proximity to work and educational institutions, access to public services, and local amenities.
Upon selecting a property, ensure the lease or purchase agreement clearly outlines:
- The property details and any included furnishings or appliances
- The rental or purchase price, payment terms, and any security deposit requirements
- The lease term for rentals or closing details for purchases
- Maintenance and repair responsibilities
- Rules regarding pets, smoking, or alterations to the property
Navigating these financial and housing aspects carefully will help guarantee a smooth transition to life in Finland, allowing you to enjoy the high quality of life and the beautiful natural surroundings the country is known for.
Step 4: Job market and working arrangements
The Finnish job market is known for its focus on technology, education, healthcare, and engineering. Remote work is gaining popularity, and platforms like LinkedIn, Monster, Jobly, and TE-palvelut are useful for job hunting.
Finnish work culture values punctuality, work-life balance, and a collaborative environment with flexible schedules.
Step 5: Accessing healthcare and education
Finland boasts a world-class public healthcare system, and residents are covered by a National Health Insurance. Private healthcare services are also available, and it's advisable to have additional private health insurance. Expats can access healthcare services by registering at a local health center.
Finland offers a very solid education system, high-quality public schooling is readily available, and there are also private and international school options. For higher education, Finland is home to several prestigious universities and institutions, and while many programs are in the Finnish language, there is usually a good range of programs in English too.
Step 6: Ensuring your safety
Finland is known for its low crime rates and safe environment. However, it's essential to be cautious in urban areas during late evenings and to be prepared for extreme weather conditions, especially in winter.
Emergency contacts and protocols
- Police (Poliisi): 112
The Finnish Police (Poliisi) respond to a variety of emergencies, including crimes, accidents, and public disturbances. Dial 112 for immediate police assistance, and provide clear information about the situation.
- Medical assistance: 112
For medical emergencies requiring urgent attention, call 112. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) will dispatch medical professionals and ambulances to your location for immediate assistance.
- Fire and Rescue Services:
Emergency Number: 112
In case of fires, accidents, or situations requiring rescue services, contact the fire department by dialing 112. The Pelastuslaitos handles various emergencies, including firefighting, rescue operations, and hazardous material incidents.
Step 7: Embracing culture
Understanding Finland’s distinct customs and traditions will help you adapt to expat life there.
- Social norms: Finns value personal space and silence and are known for their honesty and reliability.
- Dress code: Casual attire is widely accepted, but formal wear may be required for certain events.
- Cafe culture: Finland has a thriving cafe culture, and coffee is an integral part of daily life.
- Folklore: Finnish folklore and mythology play a significant role in the country's culture.
Discover a warm welcome in Finland
From the vibrant city of Helsinki to the arctic Lapland, Finland offers expats a high standard of living, excellent work-life balance, and a strong sense of community. With careful planning and the right resources, relocating to Finland can be a rewarding experience. For comprehensive support in navigating the visa application process and insurance plans, consider leveraging Deel’s expertise and services.