Why do immigrants have to wait two years to get a mobile phone line in Finland?

by , under Enrique

We have read in the past how difficult it is for some immigrants in Finland to open a bank account never mind get access to online banking. All of Finland’s phone operators require immigrants to be residents for two years and a deposit of 300-500 euros in order to get a mobile phone line. 

A Saunalahti customer service employee said that the two-year requirement was made by all phone companies operating in the country.

How do they know how long a person has lived in Finland?

“We find out the person’s creditworthiness,” the Saunalahti employee said. “That’s how we know how long he’s lived in the country.”

An immigrant who has resided in Finland for a year and a half said that getting credit for buying a cell phone was out of the question if you don’t meet the two-year minimum residence requirement.

“Having a mobile phone line is complicated and costly if you pay the deposit,” the immigrant said. “If you are a refugee who gets a few hundred euros in assistance monthly from the state, 300 euros is a lot of money.”

@SR_Penny tweeted shortly after the story was published: “Nightmare! I went to get a pre-paid SIM at the weekend, & was told 5 years for a mobile contract or EUR300-500 up front deposit!”

@SR_Penny said that one operator, Elisa, told him that it would take as long as five years until he can get a contract.  He said that the 300-500 euro deposit would only be refunded when the contract ended, normally after 24 months.

One way that immigrants get around this problem is by asking their friends and relatives to open a mobile phone line for them.

Getting a mobile phone line isn’t the only headache immigrants face. Opening a bank account can be equally trying and varies from bank to bank and city branch office to city branch office. In some cases it’s possible to open a bank account but not have access to online banking.

Some banks even require immigrants to be Finnish citizenship in order to have access to online banking, while others require a valid Finnish driver’s license.

While stateless persons may have a difficult time opening a bank account in Finland, some have gotten around this obstacle by using a driver’s license.



  1. SR_Penny

    I arrived on Friday & went to Leppavaara on Saturday to get my mobile sorted – absolute nightmare.

    I have an unlocked iPhone 5 (bought contract/SIM free from Apple). As I’m new here & yet to have a bank account etc I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a contract, so went along simply wanting a pre-paid (or Pay As You Go – PAYG – as we say in the UK) nano-SIM.

    I tried every carrier store in the shopping centre – all of them just said “No, sorry” & that was it. I then went to an Apple re-seller store there & asked them about it. It was the helpful guys in there that informed me that nano-SIMs are not available in the pre-paid kind. I was told this is because Finnish carriers want people on the high-spec mobiles to be tied to a contract & not to be able to go buy their own handset & then use a pre-paid SIM & not spend much with them – although not sure how accurate this is, but makes sense.

    Eventually I went back to Elisa & just asked for a pre-paid micro-SIM (which I ended up sanding down to fit). It was then that I was told that as a foreigner it could be up to 5 years until I can get a contract, or, if I really wanted/needed one, I could get one but with a ‘deposit’ of EUR 300-500 (depending on the handset/contract type) – this is also in addition to the monthly fee. The deposit would only be refunded when the contract terms had expired (normally after 24 months).

    After only a few days here so far, the stories of bureaucracy that I had previously heard are really starting to ring true.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      Hi Stephen, is it ok to send you an email? Enrique

    • Joonas

      I have to give a small warning: if you cut your SIM-card, it might fit your mobile device and even work, but getting it out might be more difficult. I have heard several cases where the SIM-card has got stuck inside the phone.

  2. Joe

    I wonder would this practice be contrary to the EU Council Directive 2000/43/EC implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin?


    I had a similar experience when I tried to get a life insurance policy here and was told that, even though I’m an EU citizen, I would have to live in Finland for between 2 and 5 years before any insurance company would consider me.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      Hi Joe, welcome to Migrant Tales. You are the second person today who says this. We should bring it up to the Ombudsman for Minorities as well as the problem of trying to get a mobile phone line in this country.

      Was this requirement only for life insurance?

    • Farang

      They are private companies and they can choose how they are doing business. We have laws against discrimination in Finland, but being a foreigner is not one of those reasons that is forbidden.

      This means that foreigner can be treated differently and it is not against discrimination laws.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      –They are private companies and they can choose how they are doing business. We have laws against discrimination in Finland, but being a foreigner is not one of those reasons that is forbidden.

      The issue is the following Farang: If you discriminate on the grounds of ethnicity that’s illegal. Just because a person is a foreigner with a residence permit doesn’t allow a company to discriminate. That was the way things were before in Finland but today it’s illegal.

      Take for example the mobile phone two-year requirement and 300 euro deposite. Are they asking this from immigrants because they are immigrants or is it because they don’t have a credit record? That’s the issue here.

    • Farang

      To be clear:

      To discriminate someone because he is from Iraq is illegal.

      To discriminate someone because he is foreigner is legal.

      Do you understand?

      Same applies if restaurant refuses to service a person because he is black, it is illegal, but if they refuse to service a person because he is too drunk, it is legal.

    • Joe

      Hi Enrique and thank you!

      Just over a year ago Nordea quoted me a five year residency condition before I could take out a life insurance with them … since then I’ve checked with other companies and the lowest limit seems to be two years residency. Luckily I can maintain an old policy from abroad, which still covers me here, but I’m sure many aren’t so lucky.

      I’d be really surprised if this, and now the phone policy, comply with both Finnish and EU law and hope the Ombudsmen can quickly put a stop to this nonsense!

  3. Joe

    Hi Enrique, I sent you an email with more information but as per Nordea’s site here are their policy conditions…

    “4 Kuka voi saada Nordea Henkilöturvan?
    Voit hakea Nordea Henkilöturvaa, jos
    – olet 18–59-vuotias,
    – olet asunut Suomessa, Ruotsissa, Tanskassa tai Norjassa
    viimeiset 5 vuotta ja
    – hallitset täysin suomen tai ruotsin kielen. Sopimussuhteen
    kieli on aina suomi tai ruotsi…”