Move to Estonia

Although e-residents have access to many of the e-services available to citizens and residents of Estonia, your digital ID card does not serve as a residency permit and e-Residency does not grant you the right of residency in Estonia.

If you are interested in moving to Estonia or hiring employees, the Work in Estonia website has a great tool to help navigate the process.

To learn more, go to the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board website or find a relocation service provider in our Marketplace. A relocation service provider can assist you with a personalized consultation regarding your move to Estonia.

If you are the founder of a startup and interested in moving your team physically to Estonia, you can find information about obtaining a startup visa through Startup Estonia.

EU citizen

A citizen of the EU, EEA or Swiss Confederation has a right to stay in Estonia on the basis of a valid travel document or an identity card for a period of up to three months.

If you wish to stay in Estonia for a longer period of time, you will need to register a place of residence in the population register of Estonia. Please find more information on the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board website.

Non-EU citizen

An Estonian temporary residence permit grants its holder the right to live, and in most cases, work in Estonia. If you are interested in moving to Estonia, please visit the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board website to learn more about applying for a temporary residence permit.

If you are interested in relocating employees who are non-EU citizens, below is the information for two options: residence permit for employment and Startup visa. 

Residence permit for employment

If the employment relationship will last for a longer time than provided by the visa or visa freedom terms, then the employee should apply for a residence permit for employment to work in Estonia for a longer period than allowed by the visa or the visa-waiver program. As of the end of 2013, there is no separate work permit available, an individual is permitted to work on the basis of residence permit. A residence permit may be temporary or long-term.

The basis and conditions for applying for a residence permit depend on the employee’s special conditions and the area of business. In most cases, it is necessary to fulfil the salary criterion and get approval from the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund. Moreover, the residence permit is subjected to the immigration quota for aliens.

The approval from Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund is given, in case the vacant position cannot be filled by Estonian or EU citizen or alien already residing in Estonia and your potential employee has the qualifications, education, health, previous experience etc. to do the job. Usually, the salary must be at least recent average yearly wage in Estonia published by Statistics Estonia. Unless an exemption applies.

Exception for not asking approval from Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund and not fulfilling the salary criterion applies for:

  • clergyman, nun or monk invited by religious associations;
  • holders of a long-term residence permit of the EU Member State;
  • journalist accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
  • rights from the international agreement;
  • a teacher or member of academic staff in an educational institution of Estonia;
  • performing arts institution as a person engaged in creative activities;
  • professional activities as a sportsman, coach, referee or sports official;
  • a posted worker in the meaning of the Working conditions of workers posted in Estonia Act;
  • performing managerial or supervisory functions of a legal person registered in Estonia, which is governed by public law;
  • who have acquired higher education in Estonia in Bachelor's, Master's or Doctor's degree studies;
  • Employment with a start-up!

Without approval from the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, but fulfilling the salary criterion applies for:

  • expert, advisor or consultant (professional qualification is required);
  • to work in a sphere listed in an order of the Government of the Republic, in which there is a need to reduce labour shortages;
  • to perform managerial or supervisory functions of a legal person registered in Estonia.

More exemptions and specifics are established for scientific research, employment of a top specialist, employed as a temporary agency worker, working at a startup and working as an employee transferred within an undertaking.

More detailed information from the Police and Border Guard Board.

One common exemption applies to top specialists: Top specialist is an individual with appropriate professional training or experience. When applying for a residence permit, the qualification of the individual might be checked with different documents (education, previous work experience etc.).

Points to note regarding top specialist:

  • The salary paid must be at least equal to the latest annual average wages in Estonia published by Statistics Estonia, multiplied by the coefficient 2.
  • The permission of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund is not needed.
  • An employer has been registered in Estonia at least 12 months + has at least 65 000 euros of equity capital or sales revenue 200 000 euros per year or social tax paid by the company is equal to at least 5 times the social tax paid on Estonian total average gross wage.

Start-up visa

Let’s assume, that you have an Estonian start-up, which is

 Startuo_visa_1.JPG

In this case, it is possible to apply for both a visa and residency permit for a start-up business. This is a simplified opportunity to hire/come to work in Estonia for a start-up!

NB: The eligibility for being a start-up and using the simplified process is determined by a committee of experts. The experts will make the decision, upon submitting an application, whether your company can be considered a start-up or not.

The simplified process has the following benefits:

  • No obligation to pay the employee at least Estonian average salary/double of average salary;
  • Do not have to take into account the immigration quota;
  • No need to meet the requirement for permission of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund;
  • Additional requirement for paid-in capital for holding in a company does not apply.

Please bear in mind that this is a simplified process designed to attract start-up businesses to Estonia!

If your company does not qualify as a start-up company, each case is individually reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

So, let’s make an example assuming that you want to hire an employee from a non-EU country to come and work in Estonia for your Estonian start-up company. The following steps need to be taken.

1. Submit the application to the committee at the Ministry of the Interior, for deciding whether your business qualifies as a start-up or not. The application is usually processed within 10 days.

Assuming you get an affirmative response from the committee, you can now proceed to the next step.

2. Register short-term employment with the Police and Border Guard Board. The application is usually processed within 10 days. The application can be found here.

3. The employee goes in person to their nearest Estonian representation for applying for visa or residence permit to work in Estonia. List of embassies is at the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Application form for a visa can be pre-filled online, which makes the process smoother and convenient for everyone.

Steps after obtaining the legal right to stay in Estonia

Once you have ensured, that you or your employee has the legal right to stay and work in Estonia, proceed to follow the procedure for registering them in the employment registry

This article is part of a Business Guide

This article is a part of larger set of guidelines that e-Residency project team has requested for you and that has been compiled in cooperation with AS PwC. Download the full version of the Business Guide

Articles in the Knowledge Base and the Business Guide are intended solely to provide general guidance on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use. This information should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting, tax, legal or other competent advisers. 

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