Stateless persons do not have the right to open a bank account in Finland

by , under Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

Here is a pretty odd case that I encountered Monday when I went to Nordea bank in Mikkeli to open an account for a stateless person.  After a few questions, the bank employee said that the person needs a valid passport to open an account at that bank. But if on that passport it reads “his/her identity cannot be confirmed,” the person can never open an account at Nordea.

I asked the Nordea employee what could be done.

“Why don’t you go to OP bank,” she said. “I’ve read in Länsi-Savo [the local paper] that such persons can open accounts at that bank.”

Surprised by what I was hearing, I asked the bank employee if she was serious.

“Why do they [OP bank] have one set of rules and you have another?” I asked. “Don’t you think it is pretty incredible that you are sending a potential client to the competition?”

When I asked JusticeDemon about what happened, he said that there is a clear administrative problem over what counts as proof of identity and over the  implementation of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (Accession by Finland on 10 October 1968).

One point of that Convention is Article 27 (Identity papers), which states, “The Contracting States shall issue identity papers to any stateless person in their territory who does not possess a valid travel document.”

According to the Ombudsman for Minorities, an identity card issued by the police should count as valid identification just like a passport.

Some believe that the decision by the banks to not allow a stateless person to open a bank account as arbitrary.

There is not much a person from a war-torn country can do if he or she is stateless. Who’s to blame? The refugee? The failed state? The bank(s)? Or authorities regulating the bank sector?

Whatever the case, it sure isn’t the fault of the stateless person.

  1. justicedemon


    My understanding from our brief correspondence today is that the bank was unwilling to recognise a police-issued residence permit card as an identity document for the purposes of opening a bank account.

    Residence permit cards have been issued under the Aliens Act since the start of this year. Although their design and features are prescribed in Community law, and they clearly include the normal verified elements of an identity document, the police have not recognised them as such (“Oleskelulupakortti ei ole virallinen henkilöllisyystodistus.”)

    That’s why I advised you to call the Ombudsman’s attention to the unambiguous Convention commitment and request advice on how a stateless person obtains identity papers that must be recognised by banks and other private businesses.

    The response that you received from the Ombudsman can only mean that your friend should request an identity card.

    • Migrant Tales

      –The response that you received from the Ombudsman can only mean that your friend should request an identity card.

      That’s what the Ombudsman said, JusticeDemon.

  2. Native Finnish Woman

    Slightly off topic: I’ve read on the internet that even normal Finnish citizens have at rare occasions been denied an account in a bank, for something strange like not having regular income (while obviously even children get to have accounts!). They simply went to another bank, and voila, were welcome customers.

    As for immigrants, they may notice that they cannot log into places like Kela with their internet bank codes. This happens if they do not have an ID card issued by the Finnish police. The two systems are somehow connected, and you need both to be able to identify yourself with internet bank codes. (I assume that after you get an ID, you need to take it to your bank so they can “fix your settings”, too.)

  3. Andy

    I think he is doing pretty well as stateless citizen. Tom Hanks didn’t even get out of ”The Terminal.”

    Try with non-listed banks they might be less rigid.

  4. Mary Mekko

    Interesting problem there. If the Finnish government or EU regulations force stateless immigrants on Finland’s people, then don’t issue the “refugees” any documents, how can they even get a job or collect welfare? Who was supporting this stateless person you represented, if he or she cannot even claim the right to live in Finland or prove his/her identity? Is it someone brought in as a guest, on a tourist visa, staying with you or some other solvent citizen? But how did they get in – i.e. how did they get the tourist visa or other visa when they entered?

    Something doesn’t add up here. You’re omitting part of the story, I’d say, and you also don’t wish to state their point of origin. But then, you like to hide your origins, too. Plenty of guys like you are roaming around here, a familiar type.

    Mikkeli, Vuorikatu 13…check who’s living there now.

  5. Akaaro

    I think this problem is not only the bank sector but it also affects us in many ways, while we are seeking jobs we encounter obstacles just like that one to have bank account. Some employers become skeptical when we show our passport for their request, because of the unknown identity. Actually it is an extremely unpleasant being a refugee in Finland.

  6. Akaaro

    Native Finnish Woman
    As for immigrants, This happens if they do not have an ID card issued by the Finnish police (quoted)

    There is an identity card issued by the police recently but still banks do not accept and many other offices. However, all the immigrants are unable to get the new ID CARD because police offer ony if your previous passport expires, but what about if your permit residence is issued a year before, you must wait for three years to get that ID CARD. Isn’t horrible situation?

  7. Rocker

    ‘“Why do they [OP bank] have one set of rules and you have another?” I asked. “Don’t you think it is pretty incredible that you are sending a potential client to the competition?”

    Giving another alternative for risky business is the soul approach one can take. Aren’t companies allowed to select their clients no longer?

  8. Native Finnish Woman

    @Akaaro: I don’t know how it is for all immigrants, but at least employed EU immigrants who’ve already registered at maistraatti (and gotten a HeTu) can get an ID at the police. It’s just that it may be surprising that they actually have to get that ID to be able to identify themselves with Finnish bank codes in services like Kela. This is not widely known or written anywhere so I just thought I’d write it here 🙂 (it’s also very off topic, sorry).

    • Migrant Tales

      Hi helsinkihelsingfors, welcome to our blog, Migrant Tales.

      –did he get a bank account eventually?

      We are working on that at present. He needs a stateless person passport before he can open a bank account at OP. We haven’t gone to Sampo nor Säästöpankki.

      I will keep our bloggers abreast if anything new pops up.

  9. justicedemon


    Quite frankly the obvious approach is simply to get a police-issued identity card. There is no point in getting a passport unless foreign travel is specifically intended. This kind of passport is a clumsy and unfamiliar document for most practical purposes in Finland.