Finnish passports. Photo: Santeri Viinamäki


The Finnish Digital and Population Data Services Agency has implemented a new automated decision-making process for first name changes, significantly streamlining the procedure. As of December 14, 2023, this process is available for adults changing their first names to commonly used ones via the Name Change Service. This innovation marks the agency's second deployment of automated administrative decisions, following a similar approach for surname changes where individuals revert to their previously used surnames.

Introduced in accordance with the regulations that came into effect on May 1st, this automated method eliminates the need for manual processing by an officer. Instead, the decision is made through automated data processing, expediting the client's request and improving the agency's processing efficiency. This system is part of broader efforts to enhance the efficiency of the Digital and Population Data Services Agency's processes and is expected to be adopted in other services in the future.

The automated method is applicable when a case doesn't require case-specific discretion or when discretionary aspects have been pre-assessed by a handler. For example, a person could change their name from Julia to Johanna, or from Juha-Matti to Matti, online and receive the decision electronically, potentially on the same day, particularly if they use messages.

This system significantly eases the client experience, as explained by Laura Mattila, Group Manager of the Names Issues Group at the agency. "Automating the decision-making process greatly facilitates many of our clients' interactions. It indirectly streamlines the processing of applications that require manual review, as our name experts can now focus on applications that require human judgment."

Applying for a name change is user-friendly: the applicant logs into the service using secure identification, such as bank IDs, and is guided through the application process, including payment. The system is designed to automatically divert applications to human review if automated decision-making is not possible, as described by Tommi Heinonen, a special expert and product owner at the agency.

The Finnish Digital and Population Data Services Agency handles around 16,000 name change applications annually, with one-third being first name changes. With the new automated process, an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 first name change applications will be processed automatically each year. Additionally, an automated system for reverting to a former surname, introduced in November 2023, automates another 3,000 to 3,500 surname change applications annually. The popularity of name changes has been increasing in Finland in recent years.