Immigration and Residency in Estonia
European Union citizens
EU citizens in possession of a valid travel document or identity card have the right to stay in Estonia for a period of up to 3 months. If the person wishes to stay in Estonia longer, the temporary residence permit shall be applied.
Temporary residence is granted for a period of 5 years.
An EU citizen who has resided in Estonia permanently for 5 successive years on the basis of temporary residence shall obtain the right of permanent residence.
It should be noted that EU citizen has a right to bring their family members to Estonia, for whom the same residence regulation as for the EU citizen shall apply.
Temporary residence permit
In order to obtain the right of temporary residence an EU citizen must contact the local government authority nearest to his/her place of residence.
Upon the application for an identity card the following documents must be submitted to the Police and Border Guard Board:
- a standard application form
- an identity document of the applicant;
- a colored photo sized 40x50 mm;
- a document certifying the payment of the state fee of 25 EUR.
Identity cards are issued within a period of one month from the date of submission of the application.
The right of temporary residence shall be extended automatically for a period of five years if the registered place of residence of the EU citizen is continually in Estonia and if the right of temporary residence of the EU citizen has not expired or been terminated. If the period of validity of an EU citizen's identity card has expired he/she has to apply for a new identity card.
Non European Union citizens
A temporary residence permit may be issued to aliens:
- married to a person with permanent residence in Estonia;
- for settling down with a close relative permanently residing in Estonia;
- for working;
- for studies at an Estonian educational institution;
- for business;
- in a case of substantial public interest;
Discussed below in more detail are two types of residence permits: for employment and for business.
Residence permit for employment
An alien is required to have a residence permit for employment or a work permit for activity in Estonia on the basis of an employment contract or other contract, and for other activities for the benefit of other persons where obtaining gain or any other proprietary benefit can be presumed, regardless of the type or form of the contract on which such activity is based, and the location of the seat or residence of the other party.
A non-EU citizen may apply for a residence permit for employment if there has been open competition in the recruitment of staff for the role and the citizen has qualifications, education, health, work experience, special skills and the knowledge required for the job. The Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund has to give its consent before non-EU citizen can be employed. The consent is valid for 2 months from the moment of its issue. A residence permit is issued only if the wages of an alien ensure his/her subsistence in Estonia. An employer must pay an alien a salary which is at least equal to the product of the recent average yearly wages in Estonia published by the Statistical Office of Estonia and the coefficient 1.24.
The consent of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund and open competition is not necessary when applying to work as an expert, advisor, consultant (professional qualification required) or for the purpose to perform managerial or supervisory functions of a legal person registered in Estonia that is governed by private law. When applying as the latter, some conditions apply:
- the company must have been registered in Estonia for at least 5 months;
- the company must have conducted actual business activities in Estonia during the last 5 months;
- the granting of residence permit must significantly contribute to achieve the purpose of granting of residence permit for employment.
An employer must still pay the alien a salary which is at least equal to the product of the recent average wages in Estonia and the coefficient 1,24.
Residence permit for business
A non-EU citizen who owns shares in a company or acts as a sole proprietor and who has a continuous income, may apply for residence permit for business in Estonia. The company or the sole proprietor must be registered in the Estonian Commercial Register and the settlement of the alien in Estonia must be important for the business. The company or the sole proprietor is required to have a business plan which states the character and range of the business, financial forecasts for the next two financial years, number of staff, necessary qualifications and know-how of the staff, and one of the following must apply:
- Non-EU citizen has invested in Estonia a capital sum of 65 000 EUR under his/her control in the case of a company;
- Non-EU citizen has invested in Estonia a capital sum of 16 000 EUR under his/her control in the case of a sole proprietor.
The equity capital of a company, subordinated liability and registered fixed assets value may be considered as investment.
It is necessary to show legal income for the last 6 months that is equal to the eighteen Estonian average wages. In the II quarter of 2014 the average wages in Estonia was 1023 EUR, i.e. it is necessary to show legal income in the amount of at least 18414 EUR for the previous 6 months.
Other requirements associated with every residence permit type
An alien who applies for the first time for the issue of a residence permit shall generally lodge this application with the diplomatic mission or consular post of the Republic of Estonia abroad. Documents shall be submitted personally by the applicant.
It is possible to submit the documents in Estonia when applying for the residence permit for business or for the resident permit for managerial or supervisory employment in a company governed by private law, on the following conditions:
- the company must have been registered in Estonia for at least 4 months;
- the company must have conducted actual business activities in Estonia in the last 4 months;
- the applicant is staying in Estonia on the basis of visa or visa-free, in relation to the activities of the company.
An alien is required to register his or her residence in Estonia in the population register within one month after entry into Estonia or commencement of stay in Estonia on the basis of a residence permit.
An alien has to have an insurance contract guaranteeing that any costs related to his or her medical treatment as a result of illness or injury during the period of validity of the residence permit applied for will be met to the extent equal to persons covered with health insurance.
The following documents have to be submitted in order to apply for the temporary residence permit: (i) Official Application form; (ii) valid passport; (iii) valid travel document, the validity of which shall be not less than 3 months until the validity of the temporary residence permit expires and its copy; (iv) documents, proving the grounds for the temporary residence permits; (v) document providing proof of legal income; (vi) applicant’s CV; (vii) document proving that the alien has living premises in Estonia belonging to him or through lease agreement; (viii) colored photo 40x50 mm; (ix) health insurance document (shall be presented after the decision is issued on granting the temporary residence permit); (vii) document, proving that the state fee of 65 EUR or 100 EUR (residence permit for employment) or 160 EUR (residence permit for business) is paid.
A residence permit may be temporary (validity period up to five years) or long-term. A temporary residence permit may be extended if the basis for the permit has not changed and application is justified.
An alien residing in Estonia on the basis of a temporary residence permit who is intending to stay outside Estonia for more than 183 days per year, must register their time away from Estonia with the Police and Border Guard Board.
Schengen visas and their types
The Schengen visa allows the holder to a total stay of up to 3 months within a period of 6 months for tourism or business purposes. Receiving the multiple entry Schengen visa, is possible to leave and return any number of times within the 6 month period, but the combined stay within the region must not total more than 3 months (90 days). Schengen visa may be applied for by a citizen of a country whose citizens are subject to the visa requirement. A Schengen visa must be applied for in person, not by mail.
Having received a Schengen visa, the person may enter one country and travel freely anywhere within the Schengen territory. Internal border controls have been abolished and there are no or few stops and checks. Internal air, road and train travel are handled as domestic trips. The Schengen Agreement still allows customs control as long as there is no passport check, and checks are made randomly, or where there is real cause for suspicion.
It takes between 2 and 10 working days to obtain a Schengen visa for short-term stays. Processing time may be up to several months for long term visas.
An airport transit visa (A) allows a person to transit through the international zone of a Schengen airport without entering the Schengen territory.
A transit visa (B) allows a person to transit for no more than 5 days through Schengen countries by car or coach or travelling through different airports on the person’s way to another non-Schengen country.
A short stay visa (C) allows a person to visit the Schengen countries for tourism, family or business visits, for a maximum of 3 months in a given 6 month period.
A circulation visa (C) is a short stay visa valid at least a year: It is mainly issued for business visits that include an invitation letter from a Schengen country, to aircrew members, and to people having a special interest in the Schengen territory.
A long stay visa (D) allows a person to stay for more than 3 months, e.g., to study, work, retire etc.
State fees for processing the Schengen visa application:
Visas are issued at diplomatic missions or consular offices of the Republic of Estonia abroad.
In order to get a visa an alien must submit:
- a valid travel document;
- an established form of application for Schengen Visa;
- one photo of 35x45 mm, corresponding to the age of the alien;
- the receipt of the paid consular fee;
- a valid document certifying his/her health insurance;
- supporting documents indicating the purpose of the trip;
- documents proving the possession of sufficient means of subsistence (71 EUR for each day in Estonia);
- documents in relation to accommodation;
- information which enables assessment of the intention to leave the Schengen area before the expiry of the visa.