Moving abroad is a big step and, for most of us, one that takes time. The sooner you begin your preparations, the more quickly you will be able to enjoy the many perks of living in Tampere!
Step 1: Be informed
To help you get started, there is a wealth of information in English for to be found on various official websites. „I found it helpful to check the websites of Poliisi (the Finnish police) and Migri (the Finnish Immigration Service) for information“, says Aftab from Pakistan who moved to Finland with his Polish spouse. He also recommends checking internet forums for tips from others who have already been through the process. (Note that from January 1, 2017 Migri will be in charge of all matters of residence for foreigners regardless of the country of origin.)
The website infopankki.fi is another valuable source which provides information in several languages besides English (e. g. Arabic, Farsi, French, French, Russian, Spanish, Turkish). It’s also a good idea to join the Tampere foreigners group on Facebook which is a great place for asking questions.
And last but not least, once you arrive in Tampere, visit the friendly people at Mainio, the Tampere Migration Info Service (Maahanmuuttajaneuvonta). They will tell you which steps to take first, can help you translate Finnish-language documents and even make calls to official places for you if necessary.
Step 2: Find housing
The very first thing you will need in Finland is an address. Without it, you cannot register as a resident or get your personal identity code (henkilötunnus), which, in turn, you need for just about anything else (e.g. opening a bank account, social security from KELA, etc.).
However, finding housing is a bit tricky if you do not have this identity code yet: Nowadays most housing providers do not accept applications from people without the Finnish ID code.
So: No ID without housing, but no housing without an ID? "This is common practice among housing providers in Finland“, says Takura Matswetu, a case manager at MAINIO. "This issue has been discussed for a long time.“ At the moment, however, the only thing for new immigrants to do is to work around it.
For instance, if you have already found work in Finland, you can ask your employer for help. Another option is finding a place to stay through friends or family members already living in Finland, or to find a private owner willing to rent to you via facebook, vuokraovi.com (use the advanced search option to look for private rentals) or tori.fi (use "asunto“, which means apartment, as a search term). When you contact a private landlord using English, introduce yourself nicely – this can get you a long way! When you find a place from a private landlord, the best option is to use a standard rental agreement (vuokrasopimus) such as this one or this one. This way you can be sure that the agreement is in accordance with the law and the rights of both parties are protected.
Paulina from Poland, who first came to Finland as an au-pair and then decided to stay indefinitely, has another hint for apartment seekers: "If you are moving in the beginning of summer, look for a renting place for the duration of the summer from students. For instance, students living in places run by the housing associations, such as HOAS and TOAS, are allowed to rent out their apartments during the summer.“
Step 3: Register
The process of registering as a resident in Finland involves two different institutions – Migri (where your right of residence is determined) and Maistraatti (the population registry authority) – and the steps you take and documents you need depend on your home country (EU, Nordic or non-EU), employment status (e.g. student, employee, unemployed person, entrepreneur), family status (single, married, with kids), and the length of your stay. Be sure to find out the exact requirements as early as possible (see Step 1). Note that all of the documents you provide must be in Finnish, Swedish or English language. You may need legalized translations and/or an Apostille in order for some official documents (such as marriage certificates) to be accepted. If you are a student or unemployed, you may also have to provide information on your financial situation.
Maistraatti provides you with your Finnish personal identity code; this takes from a week to a month. You will receive your Finnish documents in the mail. With Migri, depending on how complex your case is (country of origin, family members moving with you, etc.), registration can take from one or two weeks to several months.
Natalia, a student from Russia who moved to Finland with her husband and two kids, waited nine months for all her family members’ registration to go through with Migri. Still, she feels that the overall process of registering was a positive experience: "At Maistraatti, things went pretty quickly. They are very people-oriented and take your individual situation into account. At Migri, I felt the same way. All these services are very attentive to cases where kids are involved. Upon request, they can adjust to your schedule. As for the waiting time, this is another story; I think this was mostly due to the long queues.“
Step 4: Enjoy Tampere!
The process of settling in Finland and the many steps required for it can feel overwhelming – I know! – but take heart and keep your eyes on the prize: Tampere is worth it. Studies have shown that even among Finns, who generally enjoy an above-average quality of life, Tampere is considered top of the shelf. The "Tamperelaiset“ (Tampereans) who were born here are the most likely of all Finns to return to their home town later on.
There is a good variety of housing options available in Tampere and housing is generally of good quality. You definitely won’t have to worry about getting cold: Finnish houses are built to keep the cold out and the heat in. Most apartments come with kitchen appliances (like stoves and fridges) already built in. In many newer buildings, the internet connection is free of charge. And whether you prefer the urban sprawl (with a laid-back feel) of the city center or a green, family-friendly living environment, Tampere city areas have something to offer for everybody.