Working abroad as an entrepreneur

As an entrepreneur, you need to insure yourself also outside Finland’s borders. As a rule, a self-employed person must arrange social insurance in accordance with the legislation in place in the country where the work is carried out. However, in some situations you go abroad to work as an entrepreneur while remaining covered by the social security system of your country of residence. This page provides you with more detailed information on insuring entrepreneurial activities abroad.

An entrepreneur going abroad from Finland

When you leave Finland to work as an entrepreneur abroad, you must, as a rule, arrange your pension and social security in the country where you work. However, you can carry out temporary entrepreneurial activities abroad while keeping your insurance under the Self-Employed Persons’ Pensions Act (YEL) in force in Finland. This depends on whether the country you work in is an EU/EEA country or Switzerland or whether the country in question has a social security agreement with Finland.

Great Britain departing from the EU affects how work abroad is insured. The new Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the Great Britain and EU came into force on 1 January 2021. Read more on Finnish Centre for Pensions' website (etk.fi).

If you work as a self-employed person in Finland and go to work temporarily in another EU/EEA country or Switzerland, apply for a social security certificate, i.e. an A1 certificate from Kela. The A1 certificate will tell you and the authorities of your working country which country provides your pension and social security. Apply for the certificate if you are a so-called posted entrepreneur or if you work as an entrepreneur in several EU countries.

The EU countries are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

The UK left the EU at the end of January 2020. February marked the start of a transition period which will last until the end of 2020. During the transition period, the same rules apply as if the UK were still a member of the EU.

The EEA countries are Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

The following conditions must be met in order to receive an A1 certificate:

  1. you go abroad to work as a self-employed person for a specified amount of time not exceeding two years or, based on an exemption, five years
  2. you return to Finland and continue your activities in Finland
  3. your entrepreneurial activities abroad are similar to those in Finland
  4. your YEL insurance is in force for at least four months before going abroad
  5. the other conditions required for YEL insurance are met

Apply for the A1 certificate from the Finnish Centre for Pensions. Read more about applying for an A1 certificate.

If the Finnish Centre for Pensions grants you an A1 certificate, you can keep your YEL insurance in force while working abroad. If the above-mentioned conditions are not met, the Finnish Centre for Pensions will refuse your A1 certificate application, and you must arrange your pension cover in the country in which you work. In that case, you cannot keep your YEL insurance in force in Finland.

Working as an entrepreneur in several EU or EEA countries

When you work as an entrepreneur in several EU or EEA countries, apply for an A1 certificate from the Finnish Centre for Pensions.
If the Finnish Centre for Pensions grants you the certificate, you will be covered by the Finnish pension and social security system. In that case, keep your YEL insurance in force. Otherwise the Finnish Centre for Pensions will inform you which country’s social security you are covered by. In that case, contact the authorities of the country in question in order to arrange your pension and social security in that country.

You must arrange your pension and social security in your country of residence if you pursue a substantial part of your activities there. The factors taken into account when determining the amount of activity that constitutes a substantial part (more than 25%) of an entrepreneur’s activities include, among other things, net sales, working hours, the number of services performed and/or income.

If you do not pursue a substantial part of your activities in your country of residence, you must arrange your pension and social security in the country in which the company’s principal place of business is located. The factors taken into account when determining your company’s principal place of business include, among other things, the location of your fixed, regular place of work. Additional factors include the nature and duration of the activities and the number of services provided.

Example 1: You work as a self-employed person in Finland and you have taken out YEL insurance for yourself. You go to Spain for a year to pursue the same kind of entrepreneurial activity as in Finland. You receive an A1 certificate for a posted entrepreneur from the Finnish Centre for Pensions, which allows you to be covered by Finland’s social security also during your year in Spain.

Example 2: You work as a self-employed person in Finland, Sweden and Norway. Your official country of residence is Finland, and you perform an equal amount of work in each country. Since you pursue more than a substantial part (25%) of your entrepreneurial activities in your country of residence, Finland, you will take out YEL insurance in Finland.

More information on working as an entrepreneur in an EU/EEA country or Switzerland is available on the Finnish Centre for Pensions’ website (etk.fi).

If you work as an entrepreneur in Finland and you go work as an entrepreneur in a country with which Finland has a social security agreement, you can remain covered by the Finnish social security system for the amount of time specified in the agreement. Finland has concluded bilateral social security agreements with the following countries: Australia, Canada, Chile, China, India, Israel, Korea, Quebec and the United States.

The detailed contents of the agreements vary by country, and all agreements do not contain provisions concerning self-employed persons. If you are going to pursue your entrepreneurial activities in a social security agreement country, check the rules concerning self-employed persons set forth in the social security agreement. Before leaving, apply for a social security certificate from the Finnish Centre for Pensions.

Contact Ilmarinen or the Finnish Centre for Pensions to establish your situation. . Also contact Kela to find out about your residence-based social security and your entitlement to Kela’s benefits abroad. More information on these is available on Kela’s website.

If you work as an entrepreneur in Finland and you go work as an entrepreneur in a country with which Finland has no social security agreement, you remain covered by the Finnish pension and social security system and you can keep your YEL insurance in force. This is possible when

  • you work abroad for no more than a year
  • you return to Finland within a year to continue your entrepreneurial activities in Finland
  • your YEL insurance is in force at the time of your departure
  • you have worked as a self-employed person under YEL in Finland for at least four consecutive months.

Even if you remain covered by pension and social security in Finland, you may have to arrange pension cover also in the country in which you work, if this is required by that country’s legislation. Check this beforehand to avoid any surprises.

If you move to a non-agreement country on a permanent basis, your pension and social security in Finland will end. In that case, also terminate your YEL insurance.

You can find more information on working in a non-agreement country on the Finnish Centre for Pensions’ website (etk.fi).

More information on social security is available on Kela’s website (kela.fi).

Entrepreneur coming to Finland from abroad

When you live and work in Finland, you take care of your pension and social security by taking out YEL insurance. Your citizenship has no impact. You can take out YEL insurance also if you live in an EU/EEA country or Switzerland, instead of Finland.

However, you do not need to take out YEL insurance if you have an A1 certificate for a posted entrepreneur granted by another EU/EEA country or Switzerland or an A1 certificate attesting that you work as an entrepreneur in several countries. In that case, arrange your pension and social security in the country indicated by the certificate.

Otherwise, take out YEL insurance in Finland. Take it out with Ilmarinen.

Take out YEL insurance with Ilmarinen >

Example 1. You live in Russia but you work as an entrepreneur in Finland. You cannot insure your entrepreneurial activity in Finland because you do not live in Finland. Arrange your pension cover in Russia.

Example 2. You live in Estonia, but you pursue entrepreneurial activities only in Finland. According to EU legislation, the entrepreneurial activities take precedence over the residence requirement. You are covered by the Finnish social security system as far as your self-employed activity is concerned. Therefore, take out YEL insurance in Finland.

Pension from work carried out abroad

You will accrue pension in accordance with the practices in place in the country where you have insured yourself when working abroad. Working abroad may affect the amount of the Finnish earnings-related pension.

Read more about pension accrued from work carried out abroad >
Read more about how to apply for pension from abroad >

Do you need more information?

If you have any questions about insuring entrepreneurial activities abroad, turn to our specialists and send them a secure message via the self-employed person’s online service