Finnish Social Security
- Jump Down to:
- Permanent Residence - What is it?
- Application for Social Security Coverage
- Eligibility changes April 2019
- Residence-based Social Security
- Employment-based Social Security
- Financial Aid for Students
Finland enjoys one of the world's most advanced and comprehensive welfare systems in the world, designed to guarantee dignity and decent living conditions for all Finns. The Finnish social security system reflects the traditional Nordic belief that the state can intervene benevolently on the citizens' behalf. Core to the system are social insurance (ex. pensions, sickness & unemployment benefits, workers' compensation), welfare (ex. family aid, child-care services, services for the disabled), and a comprehensive health system.
Finnish social security is divided into residence-based social security and employment-based, earnings-related social security. Residence-based social security is financed by tax and administered by Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland. Earnings-based social security is financed by contributions to private insurance companies and pension funds, and administered by the Finnish Centre for Pensions. Eligibility for most social security is based on permanent residence; the benefits can be claimed only by those who live in Finland.
Kela - Social Insurance Institution of Finland
Kela's comprehensive website provides details about all aspects of residence-based social security
Kela: www.kela.fi - Fi, En, Sw +
The Kela website is fully available in Finnish, English & Swedish. There is also a video version presented in sign language, and limited versions of the site in Sami, Russian, Estonian, German and French.
Kela can be telephoned by individual and institutional clients with social security related questions about moving to or from Finland:
Tel: 020 634 0200 for service in Finnish, English or Swedish
For other queries see Phone Services: www.kela.fi/web/en/phone-services
Throughout this site you will regularly encounter the term "permanent resident"; permanent residnts are entitled to social security benefits from Kela and it is often in reference to this that the term is used.
The following description of a permanent resident is provided by Kela:
You can be considered to be living in Finland immediately from the day you move here if you intend to live in Finland on a permanent basis and have a residence permit for one year or more (if such permit is required; different provisions apply to EU and Nordic citizens. See Work & Residence Permits).
Whether residence is considered to be on a permanent basis or not is determined by the purpose of your entry to Finland. If you move to Finland as a return migrant, refugee or asylum seeker, and have been granted a residence permit valid for at least a year, you are usually considered to be moving to Finland permanently.
The move is also considered to be permanent if you come to Finland for family reasons or you have either a permanent work contract, or one for at least two years. If you move to Finland for a short period of time you are not considered to be moving permanently, nor if you are a student who is in Finland for the sole purpose of studying; in these cases you would not be entitled to social security benefits.
Under special circumstances, even those with residence permits valid for less than a year can be considered to be living in Finland provided that there are no reasons that would preclude renewal of the permit. Such special circumstances include family reunification and limited passport validity (due, for example, to conditions in the bearer's home country).
Persons seeking asylum in Finland are not considered to be living in Finland while their case is pending. If, however, they have been issued a residence permit valid for at least a year, they are considered to be living in Finland from the date the permit was issued. Quota refugees are considered to be living in Finland starting immediately from when they actually move to Finland.
Eligibility for Social Security from 1 April 2019
A new law brings changes to qualification for Kela benefits for persons arriving in Finland for work, students arriving in Finland, and persons leaving Finland for another country, starting 1 April 2019. In brief:
Employees arriving in Finland no longer need to work four months to gain coverage under the Finnish social security system. After 1 April 2019, incoming foreign workers immediately qualify for Kela benefits if they earn at least €696.60 per month, regardless of duration of employment or the number of hours worked per week.
Students arriving in Finland will have a limited right to certain residence-based benefits, such as national health insurance benefits. This requires that they are considered to have moved to Finland permanently.
Temporary residence outside Finland: The time limit for residence abroad while maintaining entitlement to Kela benefits is reduced from one year to six months. Employees and groups such as researchers and development aid workers posted outside the EU will remain eligible for benefits for up to five years. Students attending full-time programmes abroad will remain eligible for benefits for the duration of their studies.
Persons moving to Finland on a permanent basis must register at a population register office. In connection with the registration, you will be issued a Finnish personal identity code (henkilötunnus). After registration you can apply for a Kela card.
From 1 April 2019 it is no longer necessary to apply for a decision on social security coverage. That decision will be made at the same time you apply for a Kela Card, or when Kela is determining your entitlement to a new Kela benefit or the continuation of an existing Kela benefit.
Social security benefit decisions will continue to be available upon request using Kela form Y 77e Notification - Moving to Finland available at
www.kela.fi/web/en/forms > Moving to or from Finland
You can apply for a Kela card at Kela’s e-service (available in Finnish and Swedish only). Log in using online banking codes or a mobile certificate.
If your application is accepted, a Kela card is sent to you automatically, at no cost. Your Kela card is your personal health insurance card. By presenting your card at the pharmacy or at many private medical clinics, you can get an on-the-spot reimbursement for your costs. For a fee you can also get an ID card with health insurance data. This card can be used as a travel document in many European countries and as authentication when logging into various government online services.- see the Kela site for details.
Once you have qualified for coverage under the social security system, you may apply in the same way as Finns for for Kela benefits such as:
- family allowance
- student financial aid
- maternity allowance
- sickness allowance
- cash benefits for parents
- reimbursement of medical expenses
- unemployment benefit / allowance (non-earnings related)
- See also: If you become unemployed
- labour market subsidy
- child care subsidies
- old-age retirement pension
- See Kela for information on all residence-based benefits, and Related Links for more...
Social security based on employment includes earnings-related unemployment allowance, retirement and old-age pensions, accident insurance and security against disability and illnesses. Private insurance companies and the Finnish Centre for Pensions deal with matters related to employment-based social security.
Earnings-related Unemployment Allowance
Unemployment funds operated by trade unions pay an unemployment allowance for their unemployed members. Entrepreneurs can also belong to an unemployment fund. The amount of the allowance is determined by your salary/income before unemployment and is usually higher than the unemployment allowance provided by Kela. You can receive an earnings-related allowance for about two years. The requirements are that you have been a member of the unemployment fund for a specified period before the termination of employment, and that you have paid your membership fees. Because of this, you should immediately find out which unemployment fund you can join after finding a job.
- Trade Unions: Which Finnish trade union to join?
- AYT - Ammatinharjoittajien ja Yrittäjien Työttömyyskassa: The Unemployment Fund for Entrepreneurs and the Self-Employed En, Fi Sw
- SYT-kassa - Suomen Yrittäjäin Työttömyyskassa: Finnish Entrepreneurs' Unemployment Fund Fi, Sw
The Finnish Centre for Pensions, Eläketurvakeskuks, is the central body for Finnish statutory earnings-related pension provision in Finland. Their website provides comprehensive information on numerous pension insurance matters.
Eläketurvakeskuks: Finnish Centre for Pensions www.etk.fi > In English - En, Fi, Sw
See also: Työeläke.fi www.tyoelake.fi > In English: Determining the Pension, Pension Benefits, Insurance, Application and Payment, The Statutory Earnings-Related Pension Scheme, Pension Calculator - En, Fi, Sw
Pension insurance is obligatory. TyEL insurance is taken out by entrepreneurs for their employees while YEL insurance is taken out by the self-employed persons for themselves.
Employers take out insurance for all employees, known as TyEL, and pay the insurance contributions to an authorised pension provider (insurance company or pension fund). The contributions are taken directly from the employees salary, in addition to taxes. The length of the employment contract has no significance.
*This obligation to take out insurance also concerns private households when they act as employers!
Salaried employees are covered by the occupational pension system. Entrepreneurs and farmers are covered by their own employee pension systems. Both systems include old-age pension, disability pension, individual early-retirement pension and unemployment pension. Your profession and type of employment define which pension law is applied.
Self-employed people must take out pension insurance. Entrepreneurs' earnings-related pension insurance is known as YEL. The obligation starts when self-employment has continued for four months. The self-employed persons insurance contributions are based on confirmed income from self-employment. More information
If you qualify for coverage under the social security system, you can apply for student benefits in the same way as Finns. See
If you are not a permanent resident and have come to Finland for the express purpose of studying, the general rule is that you cannot get financial aid from Finland. However, exceptions apply. See Financial Aid for Foreign Students
- Kela produces publications covering the entire range of social security benefits available.
English PDFs: www.kela.fi/web/en/brochures
- Kela Forms, including an application for a Kela card, are available in English at the Kela site. They can be downloaded or completed online.
- Suomi.fi: Multilingual e-services and downloadable forms from Finnish government agencies and local authorities
- Expat Finland's Healthcare page provides additional information on social and health services
- The website of the Ministry of Social Affairs & Health provides great detail on Finland's welfare policy and includes sections on Promotion of welfare, Social and health services, Income security, Insurance, Occupational safety, and Gender equality