Do you need a license to run your business in Estonia?
Some areas of activity are subject to special requirements for which you will need to submit a notice of economic activity or apply for a business licence. If this applies to the business activities you intend to operate through your Estonian company, you will need to obtain the necessary licence or provide the requisite notice before you commence such activities.
A complete overview of licences and economic activities can be found in the Estonian State Portal on business licensing. You can also check which area of activity requires a licence or a notice of economic activity using the EMTAK Search. After you find your business activity, scroll down to expand the Details section and check for special requirements.
This article provides information on the licensing and notice requirements of business activities the e-Residency support team is most frequently asked about, including:
- Tourism undertakings, including tourism operators or retailers of travel packages
- Financial services, including virtual currency services like cryptocurrencies
- Educational activities, such as private schools for continuing education or hobbies
- Construction-related areas of activities, including building, design, owner supervision, site investigations, and expert assessments
There are many more licences and notices required for various other forms of business activities, but these are the most relevant ones for the e-Residency community.
Many of the business service providers listed in our Marketplace can help advise or apply for business licenses. Some specialize in specific industries and have deep knowledge of licensing in those industries, so be sure to compare your options.
If you are planning to operate a financial services business, such as a financial institution, a provider of virtual currency services (including cryptocurrencies) a provider of trust and company services, a pawnbroker service provider, or a buyer or wholesaler of precious metals, you will need to apply for the relevant activity licence. The Estonian Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) oversees the licensing process for these categories of business.
A long list of strict application requirements for these licences are set out in the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act. These include that:
- the applicant company as well as its management body, procurator, and owners have good business reputations and are free of penalties for offences against the state, money laundering or other criminal offences;
- a relevantly qualified contact person with obligations under the law is designated; and
- any subsidiary of the applicant intended to operate under the activity licence also complies with these legal requirements.
The state fee is €3,300 for an activity licence for a provider of virtual currency services or a financial institution and €345 for a pawnbroker, trust and company service provider, or buyer/wholesaler of precious metals. After paying the state fee for the relevant activity licence, you can submit your application either:
- by entering the register of economic activities through the state portal (authentication is needed);
- or using a notary.
The valid application form must be accompanied by supporting documentation about the applicant’s business reputation, education, employment history, payment accounts, etc. Applications by foreign nationals require additional evidence including criminal records and identity documents.
There are additional conditions to be met by providers of a virtual currency service (VCS), including specific rules about being physically located in Estonia, using an Estonian payment or e-money institution, having share capital of at least €13,000, and providing information with their application about which financial service or VCS is being provided. A virtual currency is a value that can be digitally transferred, stored or traded, and which traders accept among themselves as a medium of payment, even though it is not a legal tender of any country. These are also often called ‘cryptocurrencies’ or ‘crypto tokens’.
Please note that in addition to the above, if your main business activities fall within certain financial categories, you will also need to obtain an activity licence from the Estonian Financial Supervision Authority (FSA). These include licences for: payment and e-money institutions, insurance companies, investment firms, investment or pension funds, and fund managers, credit intermediaries, creditors, and credit institutions.
A travel undertaking is an undertaking which operates with packages and linked travel arrangements for economic or professional purposes either as a tour operator, a travel retailer, or an undertaking facilitating the conclusion of contracts on linked travel arrangements.
Before the start of their activities, the following travel undertakings must submit a notice of economic activities to the Register of Economic Activities:
- Tour operators
- Travel retailers who offer packages combined by travel undertakings established outside the European Economic Area or conclude package contracts on behalf of the latter
- Undertakings facilitating the conclusion of contracts on linked travel arrangements
There are also legal obligations under the Tourism Act for certain tour operators and other travel undertakings to provide a minimum security, such as warranty or insurance policy, in case they become unable to perform their obligations due to insolvency.
There is a series of information required to be provided with the notice of economic activities.
The notice of economic activities can be submitted:
- by entering the Register of Economic Activities via the State Portal (the service can be used after logging in with an ID-card, with mobile-ID, or via an internet bank);
- by sending the digitally signed application form to the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org; or
- with the help of a notary
If the notice of economic activities is submitted otherwise than via the State Portal, a state fee of 10 euros must be paid. The state fee must be paid before submitting the notice. For more information, visit the State Portal page.
The provision of certain education-related activities will require an educational or activity licence. In general, licences are required for schools offering general education, schools offering certain categories of continuing adult education (e.g. motor vehicle or locomotive driving schools, Estonian language schools, security personnel training), hobby schools, pre-schools, youth camps, and vocational educational institutions.
An application for a licence can be submitted electronically to the Ministry of Education and Research via edu.ee within the time limits required by law for the relevant education field. Attached to the activity licence application must be the documents and confirmations required in the specific legislation applicable to that education field.
Organisers of continuing adult education in categories other than those that require a licence can alternatively submit notices of economic activities. Submission of this notice is not compulsory but it does entitle the organiser of education to certain exclusive advantages coupled with obligations. Among other things, only training providers that are entered in the Estonian Education Information System can provide training to the public sector or participate in procurements. They are also thereafter obliged to adhere to all requirements proceeding from the Adult Education Act in all their activities.
The application can be submitted either: digitally signed to the Ministry of Education and Research via e-mail at email@example.com; or electronically via edu.ee. In addition to submitting the notice of economic activities, the organiser of education must publish on their website information and documents describing the study arrangements and content.
If you wish to become active in construction-related activity (including building / construction, design, owner supervision, site investigations, expert assessment of construction projects, expert assessment of construction works), you need to submit a notice of starting economic activities to the Estonian Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority. In order to operate in the construction field, you must possess certain vocational qualifications and hold certifications in accordance with applicable professional standards. Certain information must be included in the notice of economic activities in construction.
The notice can be submitted as follows:
- by entering the Register of Economic Activities through the State Portal (authentication is needed);
- a digitally signed application to the e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- by post to the Estonian Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority, address Endla 10A, 10142 Tallinn;
- through notary.
No state fee is applied in case of submission of a notice of economic activities through the State Portal. In case of submission of a notice of economic activities by any other method, a state fee of 10 euros is payable.
For more information, visit the State Portal licensing page.
All licences require the holder to update authorities of any changes. Licences can be revoked by authorities under certain circumstances.
Note, if you plan to operate in locations outside of Estonia, such as in your home country, you should also verify you have all necessary licenses to operate in those locations as well.