10 legal changes that may affect you if you live in Finland in 2020
With the new year, a set of legal and administrative changes will enter into force in Finland. Unemployment benefits, residence permit fees and management, study aid and foreigners' real state purchases are some of the matters that will change.
The new year 2020 is at the doorstep. With the celebration and fireworks a series of legal changes will come into effect that will affect people living in Finland.
Some of these changes will be noticed by all the inhabitants of the country, others will only affect foreigners living in Finland or those who are thinking of immigrating.
Next, we provide you with a list so that none of them catch you off guard.
Fees charged by the police go down...
From the beginning of next year, it will become cheaper to apply for a passport and an identity card.
The Ministry of the Interior said prices "will be reduced thanks to enhanced processes and increased volumes." The cheapest way to apply for a passport or identity card is to do it online. A passport will cost 51 euros (previously 53 euros) if the application is submitted at a police station and 45 euros when applied online (previously 49 euros).
The price of an identity card will also decrease: the price will be 54 euros (previously 58 euros) when applying at a police station and 48 euros (previously 54 euros) when applying online. If you apply for an identity card and a passport at the same time, the card costs 46 euros (at the station) or 40 euros (online).
... but fees charged by Migri go up
The aforementioned rule that enhanced processes and increased volumes reduce fees does not apply to residence permit foreign applicants. Fees for processing residence permit applications will increase as of 1 January 2020.
The most significant increases concern the fees for processing applications for residence permits submitted by employees and entrepreneurs. The processing fee for paper applications will be 640 euros (previously 600 euros) and the processing fee for online applications 490 euros (previously 400 euros).
The fees for processing applications for Finnish citizenship will rise by 40 euros. In future, the processing fee for a citizenship application made in paper form will be 520 euros. For citizenship applications submitted online, the price will be 420 euros.
Determination of citizenship status will cost 100 euros (previously 50 euros).
In this case, the Ministry of the Interior says the prices "will be increased to better reflect the costs incurred in processing applications."
According to the department headed by Maria Ohisalo, "the processing fees will contribute to ensuring adequate resources for the Finnish Immigration Service and to reaching the deadlines set for the processing."
Migri will charge for unused appointments
Migri will also start charging a fee of 50 euros for unused appointments. In other words, if a customer makes an appointment with the Finnish Immigration Service and fails to arrive at the office, this will cost her/him 50 euros.
In order to justify this decision, the Ministry of the Interior explained that by the end of August 2019 a total of 3,142 customers had failed to attend the appointments they had booked without cancelling beforehand.
Goodbye to the Activation model
The activation model that allows Social Security (Kela) to cut the benefits of the unemployed job seekers who do not find work will be abolished as of 1 January 2020.
Launched by the previous Government headed by Juha Sipilä, the activation model enables Kela to cut unemployment subsidies by 4.65% if the job seekers are unable to find a work, earn money as entrepreneurs or provide proof of training during the previous three months.
The current Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Aino-Kaisa Pekonen, recently labeled this mechanism as "unfair." So did other opposition politicians and major Finnish unions, who defined it as a "humiliating penalty" which only served to cut the benefits of the unemployed people.
Change in the authority managing labour migration
From the beginning of 2020, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment will be the authority responsible for policies and legislation related to the immigration of workers, students and researchers, and the development of permit processes.
Similarly, responsibility for legislative projects related to the immigration of workers, students and researchers will be transferred from the Ministry of the Interior to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.
The two ministries will continue to cooperate in the preparation of legislation.
According to the Finnish Government, the objective is to link labour and student migration more closely to employment, industrial, innovation, education and immigration policies.
Permission needed to buy real estate
People from outside the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA) will need a special permit if they want to buy real estate in Finland.
This is a legal change that will affect, above all, the population of Russian origin. The rule will be applied throughout the country, except in the Åland Archipelago, which already has its own rules when it comes to land acquisition.
The department promoting this legal change is the Ministry of Defence (and not that of Finance or Economic Affairs) and the issue has not been handled as an economic matter, but as one of national security.
In the initial phase, buyers will need a form to submit their applications. Later, an electronic service system will be launched.
Applications will be subject to payment of an upfront processing fee, which will be charged irrespective of the outcome of the application and will not be refunded if the permission is refused.
Phone services in Russian, Somali and Arabic
As of January 2020, the Social Security (Kela) will close its phone services in for customers in Russian, Somali and Arabic.
This decision has been defined as "regrettable" by those responsible for the service, who are aware of the lack of capacity of many customers to understand the issues related to Social Security in a language other than theirs.
According to Kela, the service in Russian, Somali and Arabic helped an average of 2,080 customers per month during a period from 1 December 2018 to 30 November 2019.
The number of queries was so high that the phone service has only been able to answer 26% of all incoming calls.
Reception centers will be closed
The lower arrival of asylum seekers continues to lead to the closure of infrastructures.
According to the Finnish Immigration Service, the operations of the reception centers in the city of Rauma and in Paihola (a few kilometers north from the city of Joensuu, in the region of North Karelia) will end by 30 June 2020.
Increases in Kela's aid to students in 2020
Starting in January, the Finnish Social Security (Kela) will improve the monthly paid supplement to students who have children and also the housing supplement for those studying abroad.
The provider supplement to the study grant (which now is paid to approximately 15,000 students who are also guardians of a child under 18) will increase to 100 euros per month (before it was 75 euros per month).
Starting from January 2020, all students who study abroad and live in rental accommodation can receive a housing supplement of 210 euros per month.
Amendments to fundraising fees
The new Fundraising Act will enter into force on 1 March 2020. Under the new Act, only the National Police Board can issue fundraising permits.
The permit holder has to notify the National Police Board every year of the organisation of fundraising, the funds raised and the use of the funds.
As of 1 March 2020, the price of the annual notification will be 100 euros. As of March, police departments will process the notifications (55 euros each) concerning small-scale fundraising.