Guest pen: “home visit” service is perfect for Helsinki Seagulls players 

Every year, about 50 foreign players compete in Korisliiga, the top-tier basketball league in Finland. Korisliiga’s “home grown” rule permits teams to field a maximum of four foreign players in their lineup for each Korisliiga match. A team may have more foreign players in total, but only four may be in the lineup or on court during any given match. The overwhelming majority of foreign players come from the United States.

Four Americans will be playing for the Helsinki Seagulls this season, and they’ll spend about 8–9 months in Finland. For this to work, they also have to be prepared for life off the court. That’s why the Seagulls have a process that, in spite of its complexity, is easy on the players themselves. The idea is to get the paperwork done quickly and painlessly, so that players can focus on playing.

The integration process usually starts the same week as a player arrives in Finland. Players must first pass a medical examination that assesses their general health. If everything is okay, we can start cutting through the red tape.

We make an appointment at the Finnish Immigration Service, so that each player can apply for a resident permit to work in Finland. While we’re waiting for the appointment, we take a little “bureaucracy tour”.

Our first stop is the tax office, where players receive a social security number and tax card. We then visit the magistrate to make an official notification of moving to Helsinki. Once a player has been officially entered into the Finnish Population Information System and marked as a Helsinki resident, we get them a travel card from the Helsinki Regional Transport office.

Next up is opening a bank account, which is necessary for salary payments. This is where Nooa Savings Bank comes in. We’ve been working together for years, and Nooa provides a “home visit” service that has been ideal for Seagulls players. Our established routine is for a Nooa rep to meet our foreign players at the Töölö Sports Hall before the team’s practice sessions. The rep will bring all of the papers required to open a bank account, and will also provide the player with all the information they need to use their account. Many players will have questions about transferring money to their home countries, and Nooa helps them with this as well.

Practice routines are important for professional athletes, and so we try to disrupt them as little as possible.  That’s why it’s important to us that the bank comes to the players – and it’s exceptionally good service.

Once the residence permit process has been completed, we get each player a KELA card, that is, the right to receive Finnish social security.

And now our player is finally officially ready to play! There may be many elements to the process, but in the end, it doesn’t take too much time or effort. Finnish bureaucracy has taken major steps forward and the service received from State agencies is usually quick and friendly.

And when everything is ready, we can start following the players’ performance on the court.

Aku Perho
Financial and Administration Manager
Helsinki Seagulls