Immigrant, do you need help with the official papers

Espoo City Library initiated providing assistance for immigrants with regard to the Finnish bureaucracy as of fall 2016. The assistance is in particular targeted for those who have obtained a residence permit and the service is available at Entresse, Sello and Tapiola libraries.

Assistance is given in Finnish, Swedish as well as in English, Arabic, Persian and Kurdish languages. There is always an Arabic speaking individual present during the service´s operating hours.

We inquired Ubai Aalshanshal, Matti Kuusela and Anu Kytömäki, what working at the assistance service feels like.

– There is a need for the asssistance service. If your knowledge in Finnish language is very limited, you are not able to fill in the forms on your own. Only the form with regard to a residence permit granted on basis of family ties is available in English. Many of our customers have limited  English skills.

– During one day up to 4 or 5 customers use the assistance service. Amongst them are people who have resided in Finland for a longer time as the language used by the officials is very complicated. In other places there is not enough time for the customers and the issues at hand are very complex. We may spend up to 1 or 2 hours with a single customer and  there is no time limit. We want to assist with the issue at hand up to the point of complexion. We provided assistance in issues where no other official provides assistance, for example in deciphering what the texts in Finnish invoices stand for and how to pay the bill.

What things are the customers posing questions on recently?

–At this point, the most requests we get deal with residence permits based on family ties and assistance with finding a job or a place to stay.

Have the cultural differences surfaced whilst providing assistance and how?

– Our customers have not minded at all if they have had to wait for their turn for up to a couple of hours. The Finns would not tolerate that as they would get upset. Things related to time, dates and times of day, are very important in Finland. You should adhere to them if you want to run your errands. And neglecting your affairs is not an option here - that may cause big damages. 

– It is very admirable how savvy the assistance customers are with their smart phones. The images of the passports and assistance forms have been saved on the phone. Not all Finns can do that nor do they consider that to be an option.

On which issues can you not assist?

– We are unable to help if the assistance would require legal advice from a lawyer. Those include applying for the citizenship and drafting our complaints on negative residence permit decisions. For data protection reasons, we cannot read health information available at OmaKanta-service at the library as that needs to be done at the health services. We will always forward the customer to the correct instance that can help him/her..

How does working at the assistance guidance feel like?

–  It has been amazing that we have been able to assist further almost all of the customers who have come in for assistance. You constantly learn something new yourself. Another very positive thing is that whilst providing this service we have been able to provide information on other library services as well. For many the library has become a familiar place that is easy access.

Ubai Aalshanshal, Matti Kuusela and Anu Kytömäki were interviewed by Marjut Saloniemi from Espoo City Libraries communication.

More information in

Service times and other details

E-mail address for the service:

Language cafés for practicing Finnish. A language café is also a place to get information on how the Finnish society works!

Ne Rå -service at Itäkeskus Library

Multilingual Library

Russian Library (in Russian)
Russian Library (in English)