Integration begins quickly when guidance and advisory services are available and they meet the needs of immigrants coming from different situations and different language groups.
Under the Integration Act, municipalities, Employment and Economic Development Offices (TE Offices) and other authorities shall provide immigrants with appropriate guidance and advice concerning measures and services promoting integration and working life.
The Integration Act aims to reinforce the general duty to provide advice in issues that concern immigrants. An authority shall provide to its customers the necessary advice, within its competence, for taking care of administrative matters; as well as respond to questions and queries on its service. Advice shall be provided free of charge.
If the matter is not within the authority’s competence, the authority must make an effort to guide the customer to the competent authority, in practice to a service point or service channel of the competent authority. Other authorities referred to in the Integration Act include the Finnish Immigration Service, the Social Insurance Institution (Kela), the occupational safety authorities and the Finnish Tax Administration.
To guide and advise immigrants and to inform them of the services, flexible and evolving work forms and efficient cooperation between the authorities are also required.
The availability of basic services and identifying the service needs of immigrants vary depending on the municipality of residence and the competence of those working in basic services. The services may also be targeted mainly at specific immigrant groups, such as refugees and returnees. Different local and regional models have been created for the organisation of guidance and advisory services. The guidance and advice given in basic services are supplemented by the low-threshold advisory services offered by different actors. Low-threshold guidance and advice have been developed in the past few years and efforts have been made to improve its availability.