How to Move to Finland


How to Survive a Move to Finland: Establishing Yourself One Small Step at a Time

Moving to a foreign country is always a challenge, especially when you have no connections to that country. Maybe you're lucky enough to be moving there for work. Maybe you're moving there for family reasons. In these cases you at least have some help to get established by your job or your family. But if you're like me and felt like moving, because, why not, then figuring out all the paperwork is a bit of a challenge. And if you're moving to Finland, be prepared to jump through quite a few hoops!

How to Get a Social Security Number

1. Get an apartment
2. Attend countless meetings and fill out paperwork at multiple agencies
3. Keep patience while going back and forth every day to agencies

How to Get an Apartment

1. Get a Social Security Number
2. Get renter's insurance
3. Abandon all pride and beg

How to Get Internet, Phone, Bank, Insurance

1. Get a Social Security Number
2. Get an Apartment
3. Pay extra fees because not a Finnish citizen

As you can see here, there is a bit of predicament: you need an apartment to get social security and you need social security to get just about anything, including an apartment. It's one of those never-ending wheels like the one where you need work experience to get a job but you need a job to get work experience. Getting established in Finland is a process of crying, getting frustrated, begging, running around, and eventually, success. Yes it is possible to succeed. So here are the steps in order that they worked best for me.

1. Find an Apartment

Of course having a Social Security Number would be helpful for this process, but it is possible to get an apartment without one. I have previously written a post about how to get an apartment in Finland, so if you would like some tips on how to find an apartment, check it out.

Once you find someone willing to rent to a foreigner, and they have you sign the papers, it is time to get the ball rolling as fast as possible. For me, the apartment wasn't available until two weeks after I was offered the apartment, so this was a good time to get everything together. If you move in right away, then it's even more pressure to get everything set up because you will not get your mail until it is completed. Yeah, no mail!

2. Get Insurance

In order to get the keys to your apartment, you need to provide proof of insurance. Not many banks or companies are willing to give insurance to people without a Finnish ID number, also known as the Social Security Number, and since obtaining one of those can take a month, getting insurance is a challenge. Luckily, one bank called OP was willing to give me insurance. All I needed to do was pay an entire year's worth upfront. And you can renew that contract every year. Once you get the insurance contract, you present it to your landlord to get the keys.

3. Declare Yourself at Immigration

In order to get that famous Social Security Number, you need to declare yourself at immigration. There are various locations, and they say you need to make an appointment. But you can also go during the open hours. Just be careful because EU citizens are only processed during a certain time of the day. From there they will give you the number you need, for a fee. Once you paid the residence permit fee, they say it takes a few days to process. Luckily I got my number that same day. 

4. Declare Yourself at the Maistraatti

In order to get that number activated, you need to register with the Maistraatti. If you take too long to do this, you will not be registered in the population register, meaning that your mail will not be delivered, you cannot get a metro card, and you can't really do anything that involves your address or Finnish ID. All you have to do is go and fill out some paperwork, if you're a student you need to bring proof and if you're working you need proof. Then it takes up to a month to register you, depending on how many cases they have. Finally, you'll start getting mail and you'll know that you are finally in the system. 

5. Get Metro Card, Bank Account, Internet, and Phone

Once you are officially registered in the Finnish Population Registry, you can do just about anything. In Helsinki you can get a discounted metro card since a monthly pass costs twice as much for foreigners. You can establish a bank account as well once you get that number, though many banks do not want to open accounts for EU citizens since they already have banks in their home countries. The most complicated part is getting internet and as phone. In order to get internet, you have to put down a 200 Euro deposit if you have been living in Finland for less than two years. For a phone plan you need to put down a 100 Euro deposit, although you don't need to for a prepaid phone. You will get the deposits back after one year, but if you switch companies you will need to pay that deposit again. 

As you can see, getting established in Finland is complicated, but if you follow these steps, it is actually not that bad if you come prepared. Once you fork over enough money, everything will start working. And to be honest, it only took me about a month to get everything together compared to the six months it took me in France ... and I'm a French citizen!

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