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Finnish Social Security

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 customer service in English is available by phone Mon-Fri 09:00-15:00 regarding social security matters:
Families, students, unemployed and housing: 020 634 2550
Health and pensions: 020 634 2650
International situations: 020 634 0200
For other languages see Call Kela: kela.fi/call-kela

What is a Permanent Resident?

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.

Application for Social Security Coverage

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/forms > Moving to or from Finland

Kela Card
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.

Residence-based Social Security

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)
  • labour market subsidy
  • child care subsidies
  • old-age retirement pension
  • See Kela for information on all residence-based benefits, and Related Links for more...
  • See also: If you become unemployed

Employment-based Social Security in Finland

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.

See also:

Earnings-related Pensions
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 employee’s 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 person’s insurance contributions are based on confirmed income from self-employment. More information

Student Allowance / Financial Aid

If you qualify for coverage under the social security system, you can apply for student benefits in the same way as Finns. See
Kela: www.kela.fi/students

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

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