There are many things to consider when moving to Helsinki from abroad. Our First Steps Checklist aims to make the process smoother. A visit to International House Helsinki once you arrive will allow you to complete many steps on the list at once. Read on to learn more.
See this information from InfoFinland on covid- related changes in immigration services and missions abroad.
First Steps Checklist
1. Are you an EU citizen?
EU citizens have the same rights as Finnish citizens to work, study and start a business in Finland. Therefore, they do not need a residence permit. If you plan to stay in Finland for more than three months, however, you must register your right of residence with the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri.fi).
The application must be submitted within three months of the day of your arrival, at the latest. To complete the registration, you must book an appointment and visit a Finnish Immigration Service service point in person. The immigration authorities will ask you at this time to prove that you can earn your own livelihood and that you meet the requirements for registration.
Citizens of Nordic countries need to submit a notification of move and present a valid passport or photo ID in person at the population register within a month of moving to Finland.
If you are a non-EU citizen and you are planning to stay in Finland for more than 90 days, you should apply for a residence permit before you enter the country. This is true even if you have a job or study place in Finland. Read the text below for more information.
Citizens of non-EU countries who visit Finland for fewer than 90 days (as a tourist, visiting family, or on business) need a visa, unless they are citizens of a visa-exempt country. Check the foreign ministry website (Um.fi) for more information on visa requirements.
Citizens of non-EU countries who plan to come to Finland for more than 90 days must first apply for a residence permit from the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri.fi). It is not possible to apply for a residence permit on another person’s behalf.
The type of residence permit you need to apply for depends on your reason for coming to Finland. Residence permit applications are different if you plan to 1) work in Finland, 2) be with a family member in Finland, 3) study in Finland, 4) return migrate to Finland, or 5) come to Finland on other grounds.
You can apply for a residence permit online at EnterFinland.fi, but within three months of submitting the application, you will need to visit a Finnish mission (embassy or consulate) in person to confirm your identity and present original copies of your application appendices. Check if your documents must be translated or legalised before your scheduled visit.
Applicants must wait for their residence permit decisions in the same country they submitted the application.
Citizens of non-EU countries who plan to come to Finland to work must first secure a job in Finland and apply for a residence permit for employed persons before they enter the country. The employer in question must also complete a form and append it to the residence permit application.
Newcomers who have successfully registered or received a residence permit from the Finnish Immigration Service must next register their municipality of residence in Helsinki at the population information system (Dvv.fi ). Once this registration is approved, you will be considered a Helsinki resident and be entitled to use the city’s services.
After you have registered a municipality of residence in Finland, you will be assigned a Finnish personal identity code, also known as a personal ID number (henkilötunnus). You can also apply for a personal identity code at the Tax Administration (Vero.fi).
You will need a tax card from the Tax Administration (Vero.fi), if you plan on working in Finland. Construction workers also need a tax number.
If you do not speak Finnish or Swedish, you have the right to use an interpreter when interacting with some public authorities. Interpreter services must be arranged in advance and often come at no cost. Find more information at InfoFinland and by contacting the authority in question.
Book an in-person visit at your bank of choice to open an account. Ask beforehand about the documents you will need to show them. Remember to request access codes for online banking.
You will need to acquire a form of strong identification, i.e., online banking codes, a mobile ID or a police-issued ID card, to use various e-services in Finland. Learn more at Suomi.fi.
Almost all rental agreements will require you to buy home insurance. Some banks in Finland offer bundled banking and insurance services at a discount, so ask around for different offers. See our section on Housing in Helsinki to learn more about finding a place to live.
You must have a personal identity code and Finnish address to buy a mobile service and/or broadband subscription in Finland. If you do not have a credit history in Finland, you will be asked to make an advance payment. If you do not yet have an ID code or address, you can purchase a pre-paid subscription. Check if your housing agreement includes broadband before you buy a subscription from an operator. Let your operator know if you want to use a mobile ID.
If you are eligible for national health insurance in Finland, you will be issued a Kela card. You can also apply for it yourself from the state benefits agency Kela. You will need to show this card to receive state-supported healthcare and subsidies. Each Kela benefit must be applied for separately, and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.
Public transport in Helsinki is convenient, reliable and good for the environment. The handy HSL app allows you to buy tickets and access the Journey Planner on your mobile phone. See the Public transport section of this website for more information.
Driving licenses issued in EU/EEA countries are valid in Finland indefinitely, but it is a good idea to exchange your license for a Finnish one if you plan to live here permanently. Owners of driving licenses issued by other countries will need to pass a Finnish driving exam if they do not exchange their license by the deadline. See more at Ajokortti-info.fi.
Once you have registered a municipality of residence in Finland, you are eligible to use public health services. Public healthcare and social services in Helsinki are more affordable than private options. Read more about the comprehensive services available in Helsinki in the Healthcare and social services section of this website.
While it is true that almost everyone in Helsinki speaks English, we suggest you start learning one or both of the national languages right away, as it will bring many advantages. Check Finnishcourses.fi for suitable courses near you.
Once you have settled in, remember to take some time to get to know Helsinki’s different neighbourhoods. MyHelsinki is a great source of ideas for fun things to see and do!
International House Helsinki is a one-stop shop for new arrivals to the country. Many of the items mentioned in the First Steps Checklist can be taken care of with a single visit.
Things to consider before your move
- If you arrive from outside the EU, you must declare the personal property you bring into the country to the Finnish customs authorities. This includes domestic goods, furniture, bicycles, motor vehicles and trailers intended for private use.
- If you wish to bring a pet when moving to Helsinki from abroad, the Finnish Food Safety Authority provides detailed instructions on the import of animals.