Foreigners and immigrants – know your rights and find professional legal help in Finland
Today’s world is increasingly international and there are as many reasons to move abroad as there are people. Some come to Finland for work, some move here to start a family, whereas others come to seek refuge. However, coming in contact with an unfamiliar legal system in a foreign language can create surprising challenges and questions, such as:
- What should I do if I think that I am a victim of a crime?
- What should I do in case I am under criminal investigation?
- What are my rights as an employee?
- How can I appeal a decision I feel is incorrect?
- How will our property be divided, and the custody of our children decided, if our marriage ends in divorce?
- How can I get legal assistance and what will it and a possible court case cost?
In this brief introduction, we will tell you about your rights to legal representation and how our office can help you deal with these and many other questions. You can also find a lot of information in English on the webpages of the Ministry of Justice.
How to find professional legal help - legal aid and insurances
First of all, everyone has the right to choose the lawyer they want. There are a lot of law offices especially in the Helsinki region and in big cities. Public legal aid offices are usually located in cities where there is a district court. It is common that fear of the legal costs prevents people from contacting a lawyer. In many cases the fear is groundless.
Many insurances (for example a basic home insurance) cover the legal costs in most court cases. Your lawyer can check the coverage of your insurance for you. If you don´t have an insurance that covers your legal expenses and you cannot afford a lawyer, you may get some or all your legal expenses covered by the State. Entitlement for the legal aid depends on your earnings, expenses, assets and liabilities. Approximately 75 % of households in Finland are entitled to legal aid paid either wholly or partially by the State.
Cases covered by legal aid can by divided into two categories:
- cases which are dealt with by a court in Finland (such as criminal cases and civil disputes) and
- cases which are handled outside of court (such as drafting a will or dividing property in divorce).
In the first category, legal aid can be given to anyone, no matter what their nationality or place of residence is. This is true both if a case is already in court and if you are planning to take a case to court. In practice this means that you have the right to choose any qualified lawyer you want, even from the private sector, whose fees will be paid wholly or partially by the State. The lawyer will evaluate your right to legal aid and apply for it on your behalf.
To get legal aid in cases that belong to the second category, you must be a permanent resident of Finland or another country which is a member of the European Union or the European Economic Area. This type of legal aid is provided by your local public legal aid office. If you choose to use a lawyer from the private sector for this type of case, you have to pay the legal costs yourself.
If you are under investigation or accused of a more serious crime, the court can appoint a private lawyer of your choice to act as your defender.
The defender's fees will be paid in full by the Finnish state. The same principle applies if you are a victim of a sexual crime or some other serious crime.
What about interpretation?
Insurances or legal aid covered by the State also covers the fees of the interpretation if Finnish or Swedish is not your native language. We can book the interpreter for you if you need one. We serve our customers in Finnish, Swedish and English and have good connections to interpreters of Arabic, Dari, France, Sorani and Spanish. Interpreters are also available for dozens of other languages.
Law office Wehka-aho
The Law office Wehka-aho is a modern provider of legal services mainly for private persons and small businesses. Our offices are located in Espoo (next to Iso Omena and subway station Matinkylä) and Kirkkonummi (Toritie 1). Meetings can be arranged also in the centre of Helsinki. Our specialisations include family law, alien law, criminal law and contract law. We are used to serving customers from many cultures and languages with respect and sensitivity.
It is good to know that in our office we will evaluate the costs for you for free before you have to decide whether you give us an assignment or not. The first contact is always free of charge and does not bind you in anyway. During this initial phase, a lawyer will evaluate your case, check your possibility for legal aid and tell what we can do to solve your problem. Don’t hesitate to contact us via contact form, by email email@example.com or by phone 050 4629 022 (office).
Emmi, Lauri and Laura