Changes in the benefit rights of persons arriving in Finland for work or leaving Finland

The Finnish Parliament has passed a law which will bring changes to the rights of persons arriving in Finland for work or leaving Finland for another country to qualify for Kela benefits starting 1 April 2019.

The new law, titled the Act on Residence-Based Social Security in Cross-Border Situations, will have an impact on several benefits. Residence-based social security is a term that covers national health insurance, child benefits, general housing allowances and pensions paid by Kela, along with some other benefits. The new law will not apply to social assistance or student financial aid.

Employees and students arriving in Finland

The new law abolishes the so-called four-month rule which has applied to employees arriving in Finland. Under the four-month rule, employees must work in Finland for at least four months in order to gain coverage under the Finnish social security system. After 1 April 2019, incoming foreign workers will qualify for Kela benefits if they earn at least EUR 696.60 per month (as of 2019), regardless of the duration of their employment or the number of hours they work per week. This corresponds to the amount of the basic unemployment allowance per month. Kela will be able to look up the relevant salary details in the incomes register, to which employers submit salary information on a monthly basis.

Further, persons who have worked in Finland for at least six months can retain their right to benefits for up to three months after they stop working or work fewer hours.

The new law also has consequences for the status of students arriving in Finland. Students will have a limited to right to certain residence-based benefits and will for instance become eligible for national health insurance benefits. This requires that they are considered to move to Finland permanently. Students who come to Finland for a short period of time, for example one academic year, will not be eligible for benefits.  

Right to Kela benefits when leaving Finland

Under the new law, the time limit on temporary residence outside Finland is reduced from one year to six months. This means that persons residing abroad temporarily are entitled to Kela benefits only if the expected duration of their residence abroad is six months or less. In certain cases, the right to benefits may be retained for a longer period of time.

The new law also applies to certain specific groups of individuals who can retain their right to residence-based benefits even if they stay abroad longer than six months. Employees posted outside the EU will remain eligible for benefits for up to five years. This five-year limit also applies to such groups as researchers and development aid workers. Students attending a full-time educational programme abroad will remain eligible for benefits for the duration of their studies.

During a transitional period, benefit decisions issued to persons belonging to these groups and residing abroad since before 1 April will remain in effect. Persons belonging to these particular groups have previously been able to retain social security coverage for as long as ten years while living abroad. 

Even a short period of residence outside Finland can have consequences for eligibility for Kela benefits. Benefit recipients leaving Finland should tell Kela in advance about the length and purpose of their stay abroad to allow Kela to investigate how the move will affect their benefits.

Decisions on social security coverage will no longer be issued

Under the new law, Kela will no longer automatically issue a decision on social security coverage to persons who are arriving in or leaving Finland. For persons living or working in Finland or residing abroad, the right to benefits is determined when deciding on the continued payment of an existing benefit or the award of a new benefit. However, benefit decisions will continue to be available upon request.

Even if moving abroad has no immediate effect on a person’s right to Kela benefits, Kela will provide general information on the benefit consequences of moving abroad when notified directly by the person or alerted by a change-of-address notice filed with the population register system. Anyone moving abroad can use Kela’s e-service to check the information on file concerning their residence in Finland or abroad, which is used by Kela to review their entitlement to residence-based social benefits.

The new law is intended to increase Kela’s operational efficiency and give persons moving from or returning to Finland better access to up-to-date information about their situation.

Persons returning to Finland who were not entitled to Kela benefits while abroad can re-qualify for residence-based benefits if they move to Finland permanently and notify Kela.