My wonderful husband typed up a very informative step-by-step of what we did/what is required, if you are an American coming to Finland and are marrying a Finn. 🙂 Very specific. But it may help someone. So, without further ado, here is my cut and paste:
This is what you need to get married in Finland. You have to apply for the license at the very least two weeks or so in advance. A couple of months would be better, just in case, so you have time to prepare for any hiccups. It is a bit more complicated than for a Finn, since US doesn’t have a centralized population record that tracks the marriage status and such things of its citizenry, unlike Finland. These are the steps:
1) Make a sworn affidavit in front of a notary that you are not currently married. Having your divorce papers won’t hurt, either. This is best done at the US embassy in Helsinki, as they have experience with these things, but if you do not happen to be vacationing Helsinki prior to the wedding, it would not be worth the trouble to fly over. All of this is much easier to deal with in person, of course.
2) Get the apostille -stamp on the affidavit. This is done by sending the affidavit to the local secretary of state and costs some money (search internet for instructions of your local state government). The Embassy will do this as a matter of course, as they know what they are doing.
3) Get the apostille-stamped affidavit and a filled, signed & witnessed ‘marriage examination form’ fedexed to your SO in Finland, if you are not present in person.
4) Your SO will submit the paperwork to the local Registrar office. Be ready to argue about the validity of the apostille-stamp, unless you went through the US Embassy, or perhaps even then as the clerks might not be familiar with the marriage to foreigners. Be adamant, go up the chain of command to a public notary and have them check with the US Embassy if necessary to validate the apostille. (We had problems with the State of Louisiana apostille in Helsinki, but the Registrar notary managed to sort it out with the US Embassy.)
5) Your SO should be receiving the marriage license in mail in a week or so.
B) Marriage (civil) ceremony
2) The name change can be a big hassle, by the way. In our case, there was a return to US between the marriage ceremony and coming to Finland to live here, so there was time to get an updated US passport. If memory serves, the Registrar office was not willing to accept the new last name for the social security number purposes (more about SSN below), since the then-current passport had the old name, even though we got married in that very building!
This you do at your local registrar office. You can do it the same time as you get married, and we probably should have, and just do a name change later, hindsight 20/20. This application will put you into the official population registry in Finland and assigns you with a social security number (SSN). The SSN is extremely important, as without it, it is next to impossible to open a bank account or to prove that you are, indeed, living where you are living. Most contracts (phone, electricity) require it as well. It takes a couple of weeks for your SSN to arrive by mail. However, at least you can drop this application off without too much bother (again, have all your documents with you!). You don’t need to wait for your SSN for E & F, either, so I recommend you deal with them ASAP, too.
E) Residency permit in Finland
This can be a bit of a nightmare. You can do this in the US, but unless you happen to live in a bit city with a Finnish embassy or a consulate, it will be a pain to do it in the US. However, assuming you did make your appointment like a good boy/girl, this will be easy to do in Finland, as a US citizen doesn’t need a visa/residency permit to get into the country. Note, you don’t need your SSN for this one, so in principle you could book it right after the marriage ceremony, especially if you are not changing your name.
1) You can make the appointment at any police station that handles these things; we ended up going to Lappeenranta, 4h away by bus, since Helsinki was booked solid for over two months.
2) In addition to the appointment, you will of course need your documentation: the residency forms & passport photo (Finnish style), passports for both you and the spouse and the marriage license… birth certificate won’t hurt either, although the divorce papers were not needed, as the official said they assumed that the marriage license folk already dealt with that. Still, I’d bring everything just in case you run into a more fastidious official.
3) Once you get all the paperwork submitted at the appointment, you will be ‘in process’ for several months, possibly even up to a year. But worry not; for once the bureaucracy’s inertia is on your side… it is assumed that while the residency application is ‘in process’, you are, de facto, a resident of Finland. Go to KELA (F).
You do not need an appointment to visit KELA, but be advised that the lines can be long. You can do this in any KELA office, it doesn’t need to be your ‘own’ town.
1) Again, bring all your stuff, most importantly the ‘in process’ residency paper you got from the police and your passport. You will have to fill out a form, but since you are a spouse of a Finnish citizen, it is a breeze. You’ll just have to declare that you are moving in to be with your spouse, and fill out the relevant information (you can get the form from the internet and fill it at home with your spouse, which is what you should do).
2) Once your number is up, you will submit the forms. It shouldn’t take long and then the wheels start turning. Since you are already ‘in process’ for the residency permit, KELA will give you a temporary KELA -card (which entitles you to the national health care and other social benefits, like the unemployment benefits), although it can take a month before it arrives in the mail. But that is much better than waiting for a year!
2) Once you have had this appointment and been registered and given a job plan and all, it is time to head back to KELA, if you have your KELA-card already.