Finnish Immigration 101

A listener to the podcast sent me an email recently asking for advice and information. What is the cost of living, they asked, for a couple who wants to move to Finland? Their stated intention was to move here, get an apartment, look for a job, and learn the Finnish language while they hunted for work.

Katie and I have had to answer these questions many times, so we decided to make it the topic of the latest episode of the podcast. Now we can just point people in that direction. This is the email I sent back, which I’m posting for the same reason — now I can save time by recycling these answers.

 

Dear —,

Before you do anything, check immigration requirements. Their website, migri.fi,  contains all of the information you will need in English, Swedish, and Finnish. They have always been polite and helpful to us.

You will need a residence permit in order to live in Finland, whether you are from inside or outside of the European Union. You need to get that permit prior to coming to Finland. If you are coming here to work, you need to already have a job offer before you will be granted a permit. To get a job, you usually either have to be fluent in Finnish (degree of fluency depends upon the job, but there is a test), have a degree from a Finnish university, or possess some skill that cannot be found within the existing work force. It is also difficult to get an apartment unless you already have a work contract, or a large savings account that guarantees that you will be able to pay your rent.

The amount that you need to live on doesn’t matter as much as what immigration requires you to have. They base this off of the estimated cost of living. Current requirement is a minimum of 1000€ per month for an adult and an additional 700€ for a second adult in the same household, for a total of 1700€ per month for a couple. That is income after tax, so the actual amount will depending upon which country you are paying taxes in and what the tax rate there is. You need to either show that you have this amount in savings for the number of months you plan to be here (or 12 months, because at first you will probably be required to renew your residence permit annually — again, check with them), or provide proof of stable monthly income that meets or exceeds the required amount.

If you are a married couple, you will need an Apostille Certificate or stamp along with your marriage certificate. Ask the issuing authority (county clerk or other government body that issued the marriage license) for that. If you are unmarried but in a committed domestic partnership, that’s not generally a problem, but you may be asked for proof of cohabitation and verification of the length of the relationship. Again, ask immigration what they require.

We live in student housing because Katie is in university, which keeps our rent low and that helps our budget a lot. I am self-employed, and between my earnings and what we keep in savings we meet the financial requirements when we extend our residence. We live very frugally, but our finances are tight.
I don’t want to discourage you, but moving to Finland is not something that can be done casually. We planned for two years before we moved, and we’re only here because Katie got accepted into university. I am working hard every day to grow my business to a point where we’re at a “safe” income level independent of savings. Do your research, read everything on the immigration website, and contact them with any questions you might have, because they’re the ones who hold your fate in their hands.

Good luck,
Berin

3 thoughts on “Finnish Immigration 101”

  1. I would say the number one consideration for any immigrant to any country is how will you support yourself? I was lucky when I moved to Australia and my wife & in-laws could guarantee financial support until I found work. Now I have dual US & Australian Citizenship.
    Does Finland require renouncing your US citizenship for Finnish citizenship?

    1. I agree — it all comes down to money, in the end.

      Finland does not require renunciation of citizenship. It costs $2,350 to renounce US citizenship, and on top of that there is an “expatriation tax” the amount of which is determined at the time and must be paid in order to complete the process. You must appear in person at an embassy to do so, and complete two lengthy interviews held several months apart before they will approve it. About six months after the process is complete they issue a certificate. Renouncing US citizenship automatically puts you on an FBI watch list and you may be barred from entering the US. The Department of Treasury publishes your name.

  2. Just read this after listening to the podcast, and based on my experience moving abroad, both the post and the podcast are well thought out and cover the major sticking points of moving to Finland rather comprehensively – and is very much in line with the blog post (the 2nd in international move series) that I have scheduled for tomorrow (but thankfully non-identical!). I will include a link to this post if you are ok with that, since my blab is more generic and what you wrote/talked about is very Finland-specific.

    Renouncing one’s US citizenship sounds like a pain in a bodypart.

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