Guide to being Finnish

Live and Visit Finland – Documents Required

Posted by | 8th September 2012 | Living in Finland, Moving to Finland, Why Finland, Why not Finland

I. Visas, Residency, Immigration & Documentation


For short visits to Finland, many nationals do not require visas. All EU/EEA nationals, and the nationals of Switzerland, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and most South American countries do not require visas to enter Finland for stays of up to three months.

Nationals of EU/EEA countries and Switzerland are allowed to live and work in Finland for up to three months without a residence permit.

Those foreign nationals who require a visa to enter Finland should apply for this at the Finnish embassy or consulate in their home country, before travelling to Finland.

Residence permits

In order to live and work in Finland for a period exceeding three months it is necessary for all foreign nationals to obtain a residence permit. Initially, this should be obtained from the Finnish embassy or consulate in their home country. For foreign nationals who are already in Finland, residence permits can be obtained from the local police station.

Nationals of the other Nordic countries are not required to obtain a residence permit. Foreign spouses of Finnish or other Nordic nationals are normally granted a residence permit, regardless of their own nationality.

When applying for a residence permit, the documentation required includes details of employment or a job offer in Finland, evidence of sufficient funds to support the applicant and their family while living in Finland and a medical certificate.

Application forms and full details of documentation required are available on the Directorate of Immigration website. Residence permits are normally granted for one year for temporary work appointments and five years for permanent employment contracts.

Employment permits

The citizens of EU and EEA member states, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland are not required to obtain employment permit in order to take up work in Finland, although the citizens of those countries that joined the EU in May 2004 are still required to register with an employment office. The nationals of other Nordic countries are not required to obtain an employment permit.

In order to work in Finland the nationals of other countries, or their prospective Finnish employers, must apply for a worker’s residence permit either from the Finnish embassy in their home country, or from the employment office or local police department in Finland. Application forms and details of documentation required are available on the website of the Finnish Ministry of Labour.

Permanent residence

In order to be considered for permanent residence in Finland, it is necessary to have lived in Finland for a continuous period of three years.


Foreign nationals can apply for Finnish citizenship after living in Finland for a continuous period of six years.

II. Speaking the Language

Most Finns speak very good English, since English is taught as a foreign language in schools. However, it is quite important to have a least a good working knowledge of Finnish in order to work in Finland. However, Finnish is reportedly quite a difficult language to learn. The Finnish Language School Association has details of schools and classes on its website.

Swedish is taught as a compulsory second language in Finnish schools and is the predominant language in smaller communities on the southwest coast. Many Finns are bilingual, speaking both Finnish and Swedish.

Currency and cost of living

Finland’s currency is the Euro (EUR), made up of 100 cents. Banknotes come in denominations of 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 euros, and coins in denominations of 1 and 2 euros, and 50, 20, 10, and 5 cents. Although 1 and 2 cent coins are legal tender, they are not generally in use in Finland where all prices are rounded to the nearest 5 cents. In May 2007, 1 Euro was equal to US$1.36 and GBP £0.68.

The cost of living is high in Finland, which was recently reported to be the 10th most expensive country in the world in which to live (, while another recent survey found Finland to be the most expensive place in Europe for popular grocery products ( Alcohol is also particularly expensive to buy in Finland.

Typical prices in Finland include:

Litre of petrol EUR 1.30
Litre of milk EUR 0.75
6 eggs EUR 1.00
Pint of beer EUR 5.00
Litre bottled water EUR 3.00
Restaurant meal for 1 between EUR 5 and EUR 25

VAT at 22% is included in the price of most goods and services.
Most restaurants, cafes and hotels include a service charge in the bill, but it is customary to leave a small tip, and also to give a small tip to taxi drivers and porters.

III. Healthcare and medical treatment

Finland has excellent public healthcare, which is financed mainly from taxes, supplemented by a health insurance system.

Central hospital Finland

Everyone living in Finland for at least four months is required to contribute to the national insurance system and is entitled to free medical care in health care centres and hospitals. The health insurance also covers part of the cost of medicines, travel expenses relating to medical treatment, dental care and a proportion of the cost of private health care.

EU/EEA nationals who are visiting Finland for a shorter period of time are entitled to free emergency medical treatment on provision of a European medical care card.

Primary health care in Finland is delivered via municipal health centres, which are staffed by a range of medical specialists including physicians, nurses and dentists. It is usually necessary to make an appointment in advance. There are separate maternity care centres. Physician referrals are generally required for hospital treatment.

Patients are usually required to pay for medical care initially, and are reimbursed by the government Social Insurance Institution Kansaneläkelaitos (KELA), on a schedule of fixed charges up to a maximum cost covered. All residents need to obtain a KELA card confirming their eligibility for health benefits. A copy of the application form is available on the KELA website, along with claim forms for reimbursement of medical expenses. These should be submitted to the local KELA office.

There are a small number of private hospitals in Finland, and treatment in these is usually very expensive. Many people in Finland pay for private dental care.

IV. Renting property in Finland

It can be difficult to find private rental accommodation in Helsinki and Finland’s other cities, and rents are often high.

Around half of all rental accommodation in Finland is state-subsidized housing, for which there are long waiting lists. This is rarely available to newly-arrived expatriates. The majority of other rental properties are owned by private landlords, often within buildings owned by housing companies. Within the cities nearly all rental accommodation consists of apartments, there are very few houses available.

Many properties are rented unfurnished, and may not even include carpets, curtains or light fittings. However, they often come with fitted kitchens including an oven and refrigerator.

Private rental properties are advertised in newspapers, on internet property search sites, and by housing agents. Agents normally charge a commission of around one month’s rent plus tax.

Finland’s property rental market was deregulated in the 1990s, and there is now considerable flexibility on rental agreements and prices, although rents must be reasonable. Once a rental agreement has been signed, the rent cannot be increased for the duration of the agreement.

It is normal procedure when renting a property to be asked to pay a security deposit of two months rent, plus a month’s rent in advance. Tenants are usually asked to give a month’s notice of leaving the property, while the landlord usually agrees to give three months notice, or six months notice after a tenancy agreement has been in effect for more than a year.

V. Utility bills in Finland (Electricity, Gas, Water)

Electricity: 230V 50HzHz, European plug with two circular metal pins.

Most Finnish homes are heated by electricity – gas cookers and heating are now becoming quite rare. In the cities and towns, most homes have district heating systems, in which electricity and heat production are combined.

The Finnish electricity market has been deregulated and there is a wide choice of suppliers. The largest electricity companies include Helsingin Energy, E.ON, Vattenfall and Fortnum.

Water supply charges are often included in the monthly rents for Finnish rental properties.

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