How to move to

Finland

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Finland has a reputation as a modern, highly progressive country. Taxes might be high, but the standard of living, healthcare, and social benefits are commensurate. If you are thinking of working in Finland, then there are many advantages. We will take a look below at some of your best options.

Although Finland is not itself an EU member state, it has reciprocal arrangements with other European nations which are in the EU, so citizens of EU states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, do not need a residence permit in order to live and work in Finland.

If you are not a member of an EU nation, you will need to apply for a residence permit, otherwise if you work, you could be fined. There are specific residence permits for different work sectors, so you will need to make sure that you are applying for the right kind of permit. The Finnish Immigration Service runs an Application Finder website for you to be able to evaluate the correct sector.

You can also apply for a general residence permit for an employed person, in cases in which there is not a specific permit for your employment sector. This can become complicated: some permits will allow you only to work in a specified field, whilst others may restrict you to working for a particular employer. If your residence permit was granted on the basis of a particular job, your residence will come to an end when the job terminates.

Unlike some nations, your employer will not be able to apply for a residence permit for you: you must do this yourself. You can submit your application online or in person, but you will need to visit the Finnish Immigration Service at some point in order to have your fingerprints taken.

It will be to your advantage if you speak Finnish or Swedish, even though Finland, like its Scandinavian neighbours, has a high standard of English. Many Finnish companies, however, operate in Finnish.

Civil engineers are in demand, and so are nursing staff. Specialist medical practitioners will also be at an advantage: for instance audiologists and speech therapists. The social services sector currently has staff shortages, and there is a demand for cleaners, restaurant workers, and home care assistants. There is also a need for supervisors in the construction industry.

IT workers are oversupplied in Finland so if you have a background in the tech industry, this is not such a good choice of destination for you as some other nations. The country is also oversupplied with secretarial workers at the moment.

If you have a university degree and a TEFL qualification you can teach English and there is a demand, but education is a competitive environment in Finland and the job market might prove quite tough. However, it is reasonably well paid. Note that there is a preference for TEFL teachers from within the EU, who do not need to apply for a work permit, and this may prove to be the case in other sectors as well.

Typical working hours consist of 40 hours per week, 8 hours a day for 5 days (Monday to Friday). Employers are usually reasonably flexible about working times. However, legislation is changing in Finland to try and make working hours even more flexible, including changes to the työaikapankki (working hours bank), which some companies run: this works out your average working hours over an agreed length of time in weeks.

Overtime (either as leave or pay) will be arranged if you work more than the number of hours above.

An employee is entitled to two and a half weekdays of leave each full holiday credit month if the employment relationship has lasted for at least one year. The country also has 14 public holidays per year.

You will be entitled to 4 months of paid maternity leave and in addition, fathers may claim 2 months of paid paternity leave: Finland is generous in this regard.

Finland does not have a minimum wage applied overall, but each sector has legally binding minimum wages to which employers must adhere. These apply to expat workers as well as to Finnish employees. Average salaries are above €3300 per month.

Your spouse will be able to work in Finland as long as they are either a EU national, or, if from another part of the world, has the relevant residence permit. Your spouse will not automatically be able to work simply because they are your dependent.


Job Vacancies

Speculative applications are common, but you may want to go through one of the online recruitment agencies applicable to Finland. Alternatively, you can approach a company directly.

Job fairs outside Finland might be limited, but there are options online, including Finnish Labour Administration’s site (TE-Palvelut). This is in English although some of your search options may only be available in Finnish/Swedish.

You also have the option of the European Job Mobility Portal (EURES), which lists vacancies across the EU and other European states. In addition, specialized recruitment agencies (for example, for nursing) may also be helpful.


Applying For A Job

It is advisable but not essential to have a CV/resume in Finnish, particularly if you are applying to a branch of an international company in Finland.

Finnish employment law is regulated by a Non-Discrimination Act, which covers age as well as ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation among other factors. You should not therefore encounter questions at interview that breach this legislation.


Qualifications And Training

You should not need to have copies of any diplomas or certificates translated into Finnish, but it is always a good idea as a general principle to have your qualifications apostilled.


Apply For A Visa/Permit


Depending on the country you come from and your length of stay, you may or may not need a visa to travel to Finland. Confirm this before you set out. If you plan to be in Finland for a long period, you may need a residence permit.

Nationals from the European Union can enter and work in Finland for as long as they want, but will need a residence permit if they plan to stay longer than three months. The Schengen Agreements states that people travelling from one Schengen country to another do not need to show their ID documents to enter. People from the US, Australia and Canada can stay in Finland for up to 90 days without a visa. However, they are not allowed to take on paid work during this time. They will have to provide a return ticket and bank statements proving they are financially stable. Citizens of other countries should check with their embassies for visa requirements.

Short stay visas last for three months and are suitable for people from countries that do not have specific visa requirements. Those in Finland on short stay visas are not allowed to work during this period. The visa can be applied for in the Finnish consulate in your home country.

The documents you require for a successful visa application include: a passport, bank statements that show enough funds for your stay, passport photo, a completed visa form, travel insurance policy, return ticket and travel itinerary. You may also be required to write down the purpose of your trip and duration of your stay. If you are visiting Finland to stay with someone, you need to add details about how you and the person you are visiting know each other. There are cases where you will be invited for an interview to discuss the purpose of your visit. If any of the conditions are not met, your visa will be revoked, and you will have to leave the country immediately.

The type of resident permit you need will also depend on the country you come from, how long you are staying and your plans. Nordic residents can enter, reside and work in Finland without needing a permit. Citizens should register their right to reside if their stay is more than three months. This can be done at the nearest police station. All citizens from other countries should apply for a permit from the Finnish embassy in their home country. The consulate will give you the relevant forms and information. The final decision about whether to grant you residency or not lies with the immigration service of Finland.

You are entitled to Finnish residency for the following reasons: humanitarian purposes, family ties, remigration, being of Finnish descent, or undertaking employment or studies. To apply, a separate form must be completed for every individual coming to the country. This includes children, even if they are on their parent’s passport. The immigration service website has the applications forms, which carry a fee. A valid passport is required during the application, but children who do not have travel documents will have a residence permit sticker on the travel documents of their guardians.

Your residence permit sticker has your photo and can be issued in either Swedish or Finnish. You are required to specify the language you want the sticker to be in. Once you have your permit, you are entitled to live and travel in Finland for as long as the permit is valid. You may also use the permit to enter other Schengen countries if you are not subject to entry restrictions. The residence permit is for a fixed amount of time, which may be a year, or the duration of your employment or studies. If you have resided in the country for four consecutive years, you can apply for a permanent residence permit.

Students coming into the country to join a Finnish learning institution must apply for a residence permit unless their study time is less than three months. EU students coming to Finland for studies do not need a residence permit. However, they are required to register their right to reside in the country at a police station if they are going to be stay for more than three months. A student’s right to live in Finland is automatically granted as long as their aim is to study in a Finnish institution and they have enough funds for the learning period. Bank statements will show proof of funding, which is not required for Nordic students. EU citizens are allowed to work while studying, and do not need a permit for that.

Students who come from non-EU countries will need a residence permit if their study period exceeds three months. Those who need to sit for an entrance exam before acceptance into a Finnish university may need a visa as well. The visa will cover you for the short stay as you take your exam; after that, you will need to go back to your home country and apply for a residence permit. A permit will be automatically granted if you study the country’s languages at degree level or if you are an exchange student from an international university doing an academic year in Finland institution. If your main reason for staying is to study in a Finnish school or if you are a student participating in an exchange program, you may also be granted the permit.

Students are expected to show proof of enough income, which is about €6,000 yearly. This can be reduced if the institution offers accommodation, tuition and meals. Students can take up employment during their stay to take care of their financial needs. The type of work permit one can apply for is limited to training relevant to the area of study, and employment hours cannot exceed 25 hours per week. However, in Christmas and summer holidays, students can work full-time. Valid health insurance is also required for a student to be granted a residence permit.


Get Health Insurance


Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.

When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.

Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.

Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.

Important questions to ask the insurance provider:

1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?

2. Does the plan offer "Moratorium" or is it "Full underwriting" and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?

3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.

4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?

5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.

6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.

7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.

8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?

9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.

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Rent Or Buy Property



Renting Property

In Finland, most people prefer to live in properties they have bought. This means that rental accommodation is not common in the country and makes it difficult to find any such housing in Finland, even in Helsinki and other major Finnish cities, let alone in the quiet, remote parts of the country.

Most vacant houses in Finland belong to private owners or agents, so it is rare to come across a house for rent in Finland; instead, you will be more likely to find an apartment. There is some subsidized housing available to rent in Finland. However, it is rarely available to expats and has a long waiting list.

The majority of Finnish rentals are unfurnished with no carpets, curtains, and light fittings. However, most will be fitted with a kitchen that has an oven and a refrigerator. While they are generally well-insulated to protect against the cold, Finnish apartments are costly to heat up and are small in size, so will not be ideal for a family.

Where Do I Find Rental Accommodation In Finland?

Given how hard it is to find properties to rent in the country, it is advisable for anyone who is going to work there to ask their employers if they can help. Many companies have built or buy their own apartments specifically for international employees who come to work in Finland. If you can’t find housing through your employers, try the newspapers or the internet. Although they are not very comprehensive, Finnish papers often have listings of rental accommodation in their Sunday edition.

You may have more luck paying an estate agent to help find you a place, as many have a good database of places to rent.

Local municipalities tend to keep directories of vacant houses, so do check with them also.

You may be able to find a house through interactions with friends, colleagues and neighbours. Even if they cannot help, they might know somebody who can. Most deals begin by word of mouth rather than responding to a posted advert.

Student Accommodation

It is easier for students to find accommodation in the country thanks to the Opiskelija-asunto website, which is available in English, Finnish, Swedish, Chinese and Russian. This site provides plenty of information regarding accommodation options for students.

How Much To Pay?

Finland’s rental prices are flexible and reasonable due to the liberalisation of the Finland’s rental market in the 1990s. However, since the demand for housing outweighs the supply, rent has risen. You can also expect to pay more for a furnished apartment.

A maximum of three months rent is paid by the tenant as a security deposit. In the case of any unpaid rent or damage to property, the property owner can use this money for rent or repairs. The deposit will be refunded once the tenant has fulfilled their side of tenancy and is moving out of the property.

Helsinki and other major cities in Finland tend to be popular with expats despite the expensive nature of housing in those cities.

The current market rate in the area will dictate your rent, although the actual amount is subject to negotiation between you and the property owner. Finnish courts can intervene in case of any irregularities.

A tenancy agreement will state how much rent the tenant must pay. Any adjustment clauses that may be made will also be outlined.

Contracts And Rights

Tenants and property owners are both obliged to sign a written tenancy agreement specifying the following:

• How much rent the tenant must pay

• The condition of the property

• The duration of the tenancy (either fixed or non-fixed term)

• The date and method of payment

• Any adjustment clauses

• The security deposit

• The duration of the tenancy

All tenancy agreements in Finland are for an unlimited or fixed period of time. Fixed term agreements bind both parties for an agreed period of time, which is stated in writing. This agreement may only be terminated under special circumstances. An unlimited tenancy can be terminated by either party. Property owners must give tenants three to six months’ notice, while tenants can issue the notice within 30 days.

Tenants’ Responsibilities

Tenants are responsible for paying rent throughout the duration of their stay. Unless agreed otherwise with the property owner, rent must be paid no later than the second working day of each month. The tenant is liable for any damage to the property, whether through negligence or deliberate harm. If there is any damage, the tenant should immediately notify the property owner.

Termination Of The Tenancy Agreement

Tenants have the right to challenge the property owner’s decision to terminate the rental agreement and may be able to claim up to three months’ rent.

In rare cases, the Finnish courts may cancel or postpone the termination of an agreement if the tenant has difficulty finding an alternative place to move to, following the termination of a tenancy agreement.

Failure to pay rent as stated on the tenancy agreement warrants the landlord to terminate the contract. Failure to pay for four consecutive months may be deemed by the court to be a serious offence, enough for the landlord to terminate tenancy.


Buying Property

In Finland, most people prefer to live in properties they have bought. This means that rental accommodation is not common in the country and makes it difficult to find any such housing in Finland, even in Helsinki and other major Finnish cities, let alone in the quiet, remote parts of the country.

Most vacant houses in Finland belong to private owners or agents, so it is rare to come across a house for rent in Finland; instead, you will be more likely to find an apartment. There is some subsidized housing available to rent in Finland. However, it is rarely available to expats and has a long waiting list.

The majority of Finnish rentals are unfurnished with no carpets, curtains, and light fittings. However, most will be fitted with a kitchen that has an oven and a refrigerator. While they are generally well-insulated to protect against the cold, Finnish apartments are costly to heat up and are small in size, so will not be ideal for a family.

Where Do I Find Rental Accommodation In Finland?

Given how hard it is to find properties to rent in the country, it is advisable for anyone who is going to work there to ask their employers if they can help. Many companies have built or buy their own apartments specifically for international employees who come to work in Finland. If you can’t find housing through your employers, try the newspapers or the internet. Although they are not very comprehensive, Finnish papers often have listings of rental accommodation in their Sunday edition.

You may have more luck paying an estate agent to help find you a place, as many have a good database of places to rent.

Local municipalities tend to keep directories of vacant houses, so do check with them also.

You may be able to find a house through interactions with friends, colleagues and neighbours. Even if they cannot help, they might know somebody who can. Most deals begin by word of mouth rather than responding to a posted advert.

Student Accommodation

It is easier for students to find accommodation in the country thanks to the Opiskelija-asunto website, which is available in English, Finnish, Swedish, Chinese and Russian. This site provides plenty of information regarding accommodation options for students.

How Much To Pay?

Finland’s rental prices are flexible and reasonable due to the liberalisation of the Finland’s rental market in the 1990s. However, since the demand for housing outweighs the supply, rent has risen. You can also expect to pay more for a furnished apartment.

A maximum of three months rent is paid by the tenant as a security deposit. In the case of any unpaid rent or damage to property, the property owner can use this money for rent or repairs. The deposit will be refunded once the tenant has fulfilled their side of tenancy and is moving out of the property.

Helsinki and other major cities in Finland tend to be popular with expats despite the expensive nature of housing in those cities.

The current market rate in the area will dictate your rent, although the actual amount is subject to negotiation between you and the property owner. Finnish courts can intervene in case of any irregularities.

A tenancy agreement will state how much rent the tenant must pay. Any adjustment clauses that may be made will also be outlined.

Contracts And Rights

Tenants and property owners are both obliged to sign a written tenancy agreement specifying the following:

• How much rent the tenant must pay

• The condition of the property

• The duration of the tenancy (either fixed or non-fixed term)

• The date and method of payment

• Any adjustment clauses

• The security deposit

• The duration of the tenancy

All tenancy agreements in Finland are for an unlimited or fixed period of time. Fixed term agreements bind both parties for an agreed period of time, which is stated in writing. This agreement may only be terminated under special circumstances. An unlimited tenancy can be terminated by either party. Property owners must give tenants three to six months’ notice, while tenants can issue the notice within 30 days.

Tenants’ Responsibilities

Tenants are responsible for paying rent throughout the duration of their stay. Unless agreed otherwise with the property owner, rent must be paid no later than the second working day of each month. The tenant is liable for any damage to the property, whether through negligence or deliberate harm. If there is any damage, the tenant should immediately notify the property owner.

Termination Of The Tenancy Agreement

Tenants have the right to challenge the property owner’s decision to terminate the rental agreement and may be able to claim up to three months’ rent.

In rare cases, the Finnish courts may cancel or postpone the termination of an agreement if the tenant has difficulty finding an alternative place to move to, following the termination of a tenancy agreement.

Failure to pay rent as stated on the tenancy agreement warrants the landlord to terminate the contract. Failure to pay for four consecutive months may be deemed by the court to be a serious offence, enough for the landlord to terminate tenancy.


Move Your Belongings


Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.

Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.

If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.

The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).

Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.

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Register For Healthcare


QUICK LINK: Finland health insurance

Finland finances its healthcare system out of taxes and like many European countries, faces a dual problem of an ageing population who are most likely to need medical treatment, and a smaller percentage of tax-payers as a consequence. This inevitably impacts on the healthcare system, which has become overstretched and underfunded.

Finland’s municipalities run the healthcare system and clients are put into one of two groups:

• group 1 patients can choose their GP within the area in which they live
• group 2 patients can go to whichever doctor or specialist they please

The funding for this system comes from taxes collected by the municipal authorities, but they can ask for both user fees and state subsidies if the tax revenue is not sufficient to fund healthcare, so you might find yourself having to pay a relatively small sum for your care. For a doctor’s visit, for example, you could be charged around €20, but these fees are capped by the municipality and can only be charged three times per year.

Everyone is covered under the NHI, which is run by the Social Insurance Institution (SII). Your national insurance payments will cover a range of things such as health insurance, unemployment benefit and maternity leave.

When you sign up under the national scheme (sairausvakuutus) with the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela), you will be issued with a Kela card (Kela-kortti). You will need to take this with you when you visit your GP or go to a pharmacy to pick up a prescription.

Kela also covers sickness benefit, so if you are unable to work due to illness or an accident, you can claim cover for 300 working days. The amount paid will depend on your income.

You can use your EHIC card in Finland if you are from an EU member state, but remember that this is not supposed to be a substitute for health insurance: it is only for emergencies.

In some areas of the country, a telemedical service is available in English.

Everyone is eligible for healthcare if they have a ‘municipality of residence’ (kotikunta). If you are not sure whether you qualify for this, you can check with a local register office (maistraatti). If you are not covered by Kela, you may still be treated, although the healthcare system may recover the costs from you later on.

Kela regards residency as permanent on the basis of:

• return migration to Finland
• employment in Finland lasting at least two years
• marriage or a close family relationship with a person already residing in Finland

Your employer should register you for healthcare if you are working in Finland. If you are self-employed or not working, you will need to check with your local municipal authority.


Open A Bank Account


Since 2002, Finland’s currency has been the euro. One and two-cent coins are rare in Finland, meaning it is common to find the amount rounded off to the nearest five cents. Goods and services are easily paid for using credit and debit cards.

Towards the end of the 20th century, Finland was voted one of the most expensive countries to live in, although the cost of living in the country has dropped in recent years. However, compared to some parts of Europe, the cost of living of in Finland is still high. Accommodation is reasonably priced, whereas goods such as tobacco and alcohol are expensive. The value added tax in the country is 22 percent and is included for all products and services.

The banking system in Finland is advanced, meaning opening a bank account is quite easy. The country’s three leading banks are OKO Bank Group, Nordea Bank Group and Sampo, which make up about 80 percent of the banking services. The country also has commercial banks, mutual funds, finance entities and life insurance companies on offer. Banks operate from 9:15am to 4:15pm, although this depends on the bank and its location.

As you prepare to open your Finnish bank account, ensure you have all the right documents, which include proof of residence, residence permit, passport, Finnish personal identification number, KELA card and passport photos. Once you have all this paperwork, the process is straightforward, and you can get your ATM card on the same day. It is important to ask for services such as bank statements in the language of your preference. Access to online banking will allow you to pay for services and goods conveniently.

Bank charges vary from institution to institution. However, they are reasonable, and some banks have fewer fees than others. Services that you may or may not have to pay for include monthly reports, withdrawals, bill payment using cards, balance enquiries, deposits and money transfers. Finnish people are heavily reliant on online banking, since it is a secure and convenient way to carry out transactions and pay bills.

Loans, pensions, investments, monitoring of credit cards and insurance are some of the services you can expect from online banking. It is fairly easy to access your online account; the bank will provide you with the codes, web contacts and customer number you will need to access the platform. If you have a WAP phone, you can also access internet banking from it if you would prefer. Speak to your bank first. The majority of banks in Finland offer internet-banking services in English, Swedish and Finnish. Ensure you check whether your bank has any charges for accessing internet banking.

Before you arrive in Finland, make sure you have a plan for how to access your money. You can use credit cards, traveler’s cheques and debit cards in the country before you obtain a Finnish bank account. Since credit and debit cards are popular ways for paying for products and services, you should confirm whether using your card in the country is an affordable way to pay. Common cards accepted in Finland are MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Diners, although you may need to show identification.

It is hard for migrants to obtain a credit card in Finland if they do not have a steady job or a local bank account. Regulations vary from bank to bank, so if the charges on your home country’s credit card are not high, you could continue to use that. Those who need a credit card from Finnish banks may have to pay a large security deposit. This is usually three times the credit limit amount for which you are applying. The bank will hold on the deposit for three years and if you pay your bills on time, you will be refunded the amount. People who have been living and working in Finland for a longer time have no problem accessing a credit card from local banks.

Most petrol stations accept cash payment right now, but they are working to upgrade their systems. Some stations might refuse to let you pay using a card so if you are driving in Finland, you may need to have some cash handy in case you need to fuel. ATM machines are widely available in Finland if you do need a quick cash withdrawal. Ask your bank to confirm the charges you may incur for withdrawals. Normally, withdrawals from your bank’s ATM should be free, but if you take money out from the ATM of another bank, you may need to pay a small fee.

Bringing money into Finland through travelers’ cheques is generally considered safe. Note down the serial number of each cheque so you are insured against theft or loss. Keep them tucked away safely and only remove them when you need them. Cheques can be exchanged at a bureau de change in the airport, city and railway stations. There are also larger shops that accept these cheques as a mode of payment, although preference is given to cheques that are in sterling pounds, euros and US dollars. When you cash your travelers’ cheques into a Finnish bank, confirm the charges, since these vary across banks.

Some of the factors that determine whether you can get a loan from a Finish bank are your income, the amount you would like to borrow, your employment status, salary, credit background and the sponsor who will act as your guarantor. The interest rate on repaying loans depends on the banks, so it is advisable to shop around before you settle on the bank you would like to take a loan with.

The financial system in Finland is easy, so as long as you have the required documents, you can open an account with the bank of your liking. Loans and credit card applications rules are flexible enough for migrants to access.


Transfer Money


There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.

International Bank Transfers

For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.

Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them "on demand" whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.

You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.

When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic - your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.

As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up - ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.

As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.

Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals

Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution - many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.

You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine - but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.

Currency Brokers

Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent - many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.

Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.

A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:

1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.

2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.

3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.

Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money - such as the proceeds of a property - a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.

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Learn The Language


The main language spoken in Finland is Finnish, which is also commonly spoken in Sweden. The language is not related to any other Scandinavian language and is considered hard to learn. Like Estonian and Hungarian, it originates from the Uralic languages. Finnish is spoken by about 90 percent of the population, while Swedish is the mother tongue for the remaining five percent. These Swedish speakers are found in the south west coast of Finland. English is the most common second language in the country, followed by German.

Finnish is a hard language, so approaching it in a methodical fashion makes it easier to grasp. This means you need to understand pronunciation as well as the formation and structuring of words. Once you understand these concepts, you can look at the grammar, and from there you can slowly build up your vocabulary. Unlike other European languages, Finnish has no genders.

As a student, you will need to understand the rules surrounding the long and short consonants as well as the short and long vowels. Other noticeable features of the language include its inflections. Cases and endings are added to words to complete grammatical functions, which this explains why some Finnish words are quite long.

You can enroll for Finnish language courses at any level, although learning will be easier if you practice outside the classroom as well. Educational institutions are some of the best places to learn. The prices are reasonable, and existing students can access subsidised or free language courses. As long as you stay in Finland, you will need to speak the language, so once you are settled, ensure you enroll for classes. Get in touch with your chosen institution, read up on the details about the course, and sign up on time. Most educational institutions start courses in August or September with a new semester starting in January.

The Finnish National Board of Education has information that can help international students make informed choices about the best way to learn. Unemployed people can learn the language for free via an employment agency. The labour administration has all the information about such courses on their webpage.

A popular, cheap way to learn Finnish is to study online. This gives you the freedom to learn at your own pace and convenience. There are websites that have an audio feature so you can work on your pronunciation as well.

Online lessons can give you a solid foundation upon which to base your skills. Learning materials are plentiful on the internet, but there is no trick to learning the language; just practice as often as possible! Read as many books, magazines and newspapers you can, and listen to Finnish radio stations. As you continue exposing yourself to environments where Finnish is commonly used, you will be able to learn.

Television is another good way to enhance your listening and understanding of the language. You will be able to hear the pronunciations and how the language is spoken. Remember that you will not understand everything, but the more you watch, the more you will pick up.

There is a proficiency test you can take after learning the language. National certificates of language proficiency test your writing, reading, speaking and listening skills, and show proof of your language abilities. The national education board came up with the system and collaborates with the University of Jyvaskyla to offer completion certificates. The certificate will help you get a job or a place at school or university.

There are various levels on which you can be tested, from beginner to expert. A six-step proficiency scale can help you select the level you want to join. The tests are for all adults regardless of their language skills. There is no age limit on who can do the tests. However, some assignments require students to call on their past experiences, which can be difficult for younger people. A completed language test is a prerequisite to work in a government office or to get a university degree.

Other Languages Spoken In Finland

As mentioned earlier, Swedish is the mother tongue of about five percent of the population. The language is closely related to Germanic languages such as Danish, Dutch, German and Norwegian. Swedish is a compulsory subject in school, although children who have another language as their native tongue are excused.

Finnish minority communities who speak Swedish include Vaasa, Helsinki, Porvoo and Espi. Helsinki is the capital of the Swedish-speaking community, and majority of its inhabitants spoke the language until the 19th Century. Finland-Swedish literature is rich with authors such as Zacharias Topelius, Johan Ludwig Runeberg and Tove Jansson. The national anthem was written by poet Runeberg in Swedish and was later translated into Finnish.

There is a range of related tongues used along Lapland known as the Sami languages. They have a distant relationship to Finnish, with about 1,800 speakers. Meanwhile, Karelian was spoken up to World War II in the northern area of the Lake Ladoga. When the war ended, migrants settled all over Finland and spread their language to the places they settled. Currently about 30,000 people speak and understand Karelian.

In previous decades, Russian replaced English in Finland, especially among the young generation. Russian is the third most spoken tongue in the country, despite not being an official language. Historical records show that Russian was the third language in Finland between 1900 and 1917.


Choose A School


Finland offers high quality education which is ranked the best in the world. Education is free to all full-time students and children. Student performance has earned the country top spots in sciences, numeracy and literacy.

Compulsory education begins from age seven and ends at age 16. Children usually attend the school that is closest to their home. Most 16-year-olds have the option to continue with high school or join vocational colleges, both of which open the way for advanced education, a popular choice in Finland.

Education is a fundamental right for all Finland’s citizens. That is why all Finnish citizens have the same rights when it comes to education whatever their gender, nationality, age, financial condition or native language. Students with learning disabilities and special needs also have equal rights and access to high quality education.

Private schools in Finland may be a little different from those in your home country. Founding such a school needs approval from the council of state. The selection method for pupils has to be the same as those for municipal schools, and private school students – who don’t pay fees – have similar opportunities to those they would get in a state school. Private schools in Finland are not common, with the existing ones being either religious or Steiner schools. Those private secondary schools are remnants of the earlier education system.

There are pre-schools in Finland which cater for children before they start their compulsory education. Preschools are not compulsory, but every municipality is expected to provide them for those in need. They are located in day care centers and comprehensive schools. Meals, education and health care services in pre-school is free. There are also instances where travel costs are paid. Finland offers other education services such as day care which attract an income-based fee.

Pre-primary education has a minimum of 700 hours yearly with a maximum of four hours daily. In most cases, the term times of these pre-schools match the normal school year. Team work exercises and activities at preschools are aimed towards helping children learn interaction and general knowledge skills. The development of every child is studied and assessed so that early signs of difficulties can be picked up on. Parents are given regular updates on the development of their children and have a say when it comes to their children’s pre-primary daily plan.

Primary education lasts for nine years. Its aim is to create equality while equipping children with knowledge and skills they can use later in life. The school year, which has 190 days, starts in the middle of August and lasts until June. Primary schools are divided into two sections: one for the younger children, and one for the older students. In most cases, you will find the two sections in different blocks but within the same compound.

In the lower primary, subjects are taught by one teacher, while children in the upper classes are taught by various teachers. When ninth grade ends, students that have not reached the pass mark must enroll for tenth grade before they can start applying for secondary education. Textbooks, learning materials, daily meals and healthcare are free at primary schools in Finland. If the commute to and from school is more than five kilometers, it is also free. The state provides additional tuition as well. Children go to nearby schools, and for the first two years attend voluntary morning and afternoon classes that are arranged by the local government.

After graduating from primary school, pupils have the option of joining secondary school or vocational schools. Almost half of the students who graduate from high school go to vocational schools, while the other half go to secondary school. Vocational school focuses on practical skills and equips students with workforce preparedness. These schools offer a range of topics, including environment and natural resources, culture, technology, social sciences and business, catering and domestic economics, healthcare and social work. They cover around 50 trades.

The interior ministry offers vocational courses to train firemen, law enforcement and prison guards. These institutions are owned by the local authorities and receive equal funding. They are non-profit organizations who have a yearly quota of pupils. Tuition fees, healthcare and lunch are provided for the students. Tools and practice materials are free, although students have to buy their own textbooks. Most vocational students go straight into work when they finish their courses, although they are qualified for further education upon completion. It is important to note that there are not enough secondary vocational diploma holders in various trades in Finland, which has increased demand for qualified workers in those industries.

Those who chose to continue with upper secondary education are taught general studies, which does not prepare students for any specific career. An exam dictates whether one will continue with further studies. This system is specifically designed in such a way that a small percentage of pupils fail and a small percentage gets the highest grade. The final exam is generalised and allows specialisation in either natural or social sciences. The syllabus lasts three years, but students can choose to finish their studies in two or four years instead. The matriculation event is considered a rite of passage for any Finnish person.



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