The new Act on Residence-Based Social Security in Cross-Border Situations, which will take effect on 1 April 2019, will have consequences for how long persons moving temporarily outside Finland can retain social security coverage in Finland and receive social benefits from Kela. The Act is also relevant to persons moving to Finland from another country.
The right to social security in Finland can be based either on residence or employment in Finland.
The changes made to the law affect the residence-based benefits, including the sickness allowance and reimbursements for prescription drug expenses, the child benefit, the general housing allowance, and the pensions available from Kela. They do not affect such benefits as social assistance or financial aid for students.
Shorter time limit on residence outside Finland
Until now, it has been possible to live temporarily abroad for up to one year and not have it affect one’s right to Kela benefits. This time limit will now be reduced to six months, with certain exceptions. The right to benefits is retained only if one intends to stay abroad for six months or less.
The exception is employment in another EU or EEA country. Even a short period of employment in these countries will disqualify one for residence-based benefits. As for persons staying in another EU or EEA country for reasons other than employment, for example pensioners spending part of the year in another EU or EEA country, Kela will determine their country of residence in consultation with the other country involved.
Even a short period of residence outside Finland can have consequences for eligibility for Kela benefits. Benefit recipients who move abroad must tell Kela in advance about the duration and purpose of their residence abroad, which will allow Kela to check whether the change of residence has any consequences for the payment of benefits.
Certain groups of persons will retain their right to benefits beyond six months even after the new Act has become effective. They include employees who are posted abroad, researchers and development aid workers, who can retain their right to benefits for up to five years, depending on their country of destination. Students attending a full-time educational programme abroad will remain eligible for benefits for the duration of their studies.
Changes affecting employees and students arriving in Finland
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). The right to benefits will no longer depend on the duration of the employment or the number of hours of work per week. Kela consults the national incomes register for salary information.
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 Act also has consequences for the status of students arriving in Finland. They can qualify for health insurance benefits and certain residence-based benefits. This requires that they move to Finland on a permanent basis. Students who come to Finland for a short period of time, for example one academic year, will not be eligible for benefits.
Decisions on social security coverage will no longer be issued
Kela will no longer issue a separate decision on social security coverage in Finland for persons arriving in Finland or moving abroad. Instead, Kela will check their right to benefits if they move to another country or when they first claim benefits after moving. However, persons moving abroad will be issued a decision if they so request.
Kela informs the affected individuals of the consequences of their change of residence as soon as it learns of it either from the population register system or is notified by the individuals themselves. For this purpose, Kela is adopting two new customer service letters aimed respectively at customers who currently receive and those who do not receive benefit payments.
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.