Health and social services for immigrants

As a rule, the immigrant population in Finland has the same rights to health and social services as the rest of the population. The service provider and service facility may vary, however, depending on the person’s residence status.

The factors influencing immigrants’ access to services are mostly the same as those of other population groups, but an immigrant background may make access to services even more difficult. For people from different backgrounds, the Finnish service network may appear confusing, and seeking help from such services may seem difficult.

Barriers to accessing services may include

  • lack of a common language
  • lack of familiarity with the service system
  • different perceptions of illnesses and their treatment
  • client fees
  • difficulties in using digital services
  • services’ lack of cultural sensitivity.

When services are planned or organised, it must be ensured that everyone living in Finland has the opportunity to receive the treatment and services they need regardless of their background. This is a precondition for the realisation of equality.

The following pages provide information about

  • health services for immigrants and use of these services
  • social welfare services for immigrants.

Health services and their use

A persons’ right to use health services depends on their residence status. The body responsible for organising the services also depends on the person’s right of residence.

People with a Finnish residence permit and a permanent municipality of residence are entitled to the same health services as all Finns.

For asylum seekers, health matters are handled via their reception centre.
Health care services for asylum seekers (in Finnish)

Undocumented adults are entitled to receive urgent medical care and also non-urgent services that health care personnel deem necessary based on the person’s health condition and the duration of their residence.

Undocumented children are entitled to health care services on the same grounds as minors who have a municipality of residence in Finland.

Immigrants use fewer health services than the rest of the population

Among the immigrant population, the experienced need for medical services is almost as high as that of the population in general. Despite this, immigrants make less use of health services.

Compared to the general population, they more often find health services insufficient – although there is variation here between different immigrant groups.

They experience difficulties with booking appointments, contacting places of treatment and accessing health examinations.

The services used also vary between different population groups: compared to the general population, a larger proportion of immigrants have visited a health centre, but employed immigrants use occupational health care less often than the average employee.

The timely and appropriate use of health services by immigrants can be promoted by, for example,

  • disseminating information via multiple channels and in multiple languages on health service locations, the content of different treatments, and general ways of operating
  • ensuring the availability and actual provision of interpretation services.

On the other hand, the challenges faced by the immigrant population in accessing health services largely reflect the challenges faced by the rest of the population.

Health services needs increased during the COVID-19 pandemic

During the pandemic the majority of immigrants said they needed health services and services for families with children. However, the availability of services was uncertain, as nearly half of those who needed mental health services and a third of those who needed dental care felt that the services they received were inadequate.

Social services

Social services ensure the realisation of every person's right to essential care and means of .
The right to social services varies according to a person’s residence status. The body responsibility for organising the services also varies according to the person’s right of residence.

People with a Finnish residence permit and a permanent municipality of residence are entitled to the same health services as all Finns.

Social security and social services for asylum seekers are mostly handled by reception centres using central government funding.

Municipalities are obliged to provide undocumented persons with appropriate social services that provide a means of subsistence and essential care in urgent cases.