I have finally made the move to Finland! After flying here, flying back again, flying here again, posting boxes, lifting boxes, carrying boxes and unpacking boxes I'm finally settled in my new apartment in Espoo, just west of Helsinki. The process of finding out how, where and when to register my existence here has not been easy, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to write about my experiences moving to Finland as a self employed person (from within the EU).
When you're a member of the EU, you can come to Finland for up to 3 months at a time without a visa. This obviously won't apply once Britain, in it's infinite wisdom, leaves the EU. After that Brits will need a residence permit to move here. For me though, the first step was to just move here. I didn't feel particularly comfortable about this as you have to actually still apply to stay once you're here, which isn't guaranteed. After moving, you have 3 months to register your residence, and apply for a Finnish ID.
The VAT threshold in Britain is £83,000 a year (2017). In Finland it's €10,000 so I had to register for VAT immediately and therefore find an accountant who spoke English. Not the easiest thing in the world. Of the 8 or so letters I sent, only 3 of them replied to me. 2 of those replies wanted to charge €100 up front just to meet me, but the last one (Rantalainen) were happy to meet and discuss what I needed. For setting me up as a registered Private Trader, their charges were:
In England, I filled in all the required information for the accountant to register the business with form Y3, provided a payment of €110 and sent the form, proof of payment and a scan of my passport to the Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH).
The registration office then sent a letter to my accountant saying they couldn't register the business because I don't have a Finnish Personal ID yet and I needed to visit the local register office (maistraatti). Online research said I needed to visit the police station for this - ignore that as it's out of date. Off I went to the local register office, took a number, waited, then spoke to a relatively stubborn and condescending woman who asked why I was moving to Finland (work or family). When I said I was self employed, she said I needed a Business ID, which the tax office wouldn't issue until I had a Finnish Personal ID.
I couldn't register a business without a Finnish Personal ID, and I couldn't get a Finnish Personal ID without a registered business. I phoned my accountant, who spoke to the tax office, who said I should go to the local tax office with a copy of my passport to apply for a temporary ID which I could use to register the business.
When I arrived at the tax office it reminded me rather strongly of a scene in the Vogon office in the modern version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
Screenshot from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy film, 2005
I took another number, waited some more, then someone gave me another Y3 form to fill in for business registration, a form for explaining my business and a form for adding myself to the population registry. My accountant told me not to fill in a duplicate Y3 as it would just complicate matters. After some more waiting, I finally saw a qualified tax office, and it took her another half an hour to locate my existing form in the system. Then she simply handed me a real Finnish Personal ID and registered the business at the same time without any need for a temporary ID. On the same day I went and opened a bank account using that ID. The Finnish ID I was given is valid for a year, but I can renew it indefinitely by going back to the local register office and telling them I'm staying permanently.
If you do any googling about moving to Finland, you'll stumble across EnterFinland. This is a website by the Finnish Immigation service where you need to create an application online for registering your residence in Finland. The earliest appointment I could get was in 5 weeks.
Hopefully that's all there is to it now as I have a valid Business ID and a Finnish personal ID. However, I still have an appointment with Migri when I will register my residence and tell them I already have an ID and I'm already in the population register. Having an ID should make that process a bit easier, but there seems to be a lot of overlap between the two services.
Moving to Finland definitely wasn't straightforward and I'm lucky I had a contact who could organise a meeting with tax office to do both registrations at the same time. If you're considering something similar, I'd be happy to share my experiences in more detail.Get in touch