Estonia Visas, Work Permits and Migration
As with other countries, Estonia’s rules and regulations apply to individuals wanting employment, and companies onboarding staff from abroad, creating paperwork, and processes to be undertaken. Citizens from the European Union, European Economic Area and Switzerland can enter the country without visas. They can stay, look for employment and settle with their families. Many other nationals are also visa-exempt and can travel to Estonia for up to 90 days in any 180 periods.
In late 2022, Estonia as with the rest of the European Union commences a new system allowing them to monitor the comings and goings of visa-exempt travellers, entering and leaving the Schengen Zone; the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).
Those not visa-exempt must apply for a Schengen Visa to holiday, visit friends and family, for certain business reasons and some brief work-related activities. Otherwise, those looking for work for more than three months, need a D Visa or a Temporary Residence Permit for Employment.
Many companies expanding into new territory look towards a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) and Employer of Record (EOR), such as Bradford Jacobs, to set up their business, recruit staff and operate payroll to save time and money … and that includes acquiring immigration and work documentation. Here are some guidelines to assist you.
What Types of Work Visas and Permits for Estonia are there?
European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) nationals do not require a visa or residence permit to visit, stay and work in the country. Although travel documents are not checked when passing through the open borders, citizens may be asked to show documentation that allows them to travel visa-free i.e., a passport or national ID card. For longer than three months, they must register their address at their local government office, which gives them the right of residence. They must also apply for an Estonia ID card. Individuals must have their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with them and private health insurance for the initial three months.
Types of Visas for Third Country Nationals (TCNs):
- Transit. For individuals needing to change transport e.g., at an airport.
- C Schengen. Allows visits to friends, family, a holiday or some business-related work (not full-time employment) for 90 days in a six-month period.
- D Long Stay. Single or multiple entries. For up to one year, extendable.
- Digital Nomad. Allows foreigners who live in and ‘work remotely’ from Estonia, for companies or their own company registered in another country.
- Start-Up. Allows foreign entrepreneurs to stay for 12 months (renewable for six months) to launch their Start-up; must be appraised by the Ministry of Interior’s expert committee and an application submitted for the appraisal.
- E-Residency. In 2014, Estonia was the first country to offer this service. Individuals can set up a business and open a bank account, sign contracts etc. and operate it from abroad without having to go to Estonia – all done digitally. This is not an entry visa or residence permit.
Estonia also has the Tourist Visa, Business Visa, Student Visa, Family Visa and Medical Visa – requiring various documents concerning the reason for travel.
Third Country Nationals (TCNs)
Foreigners arriving to live, and work are covered by the Alien Act, regarding their legal obligations and rights. To work, the first step is that the employee must be registered with the Police and Border Guard Board (PBGB) and to stay there legally, they must have the relevant documentation e.g., visa or residence permit, or be visa exempt.
There are two routes into the labour market for TCNs, either through:
- Registration of Employment and the D Visa to enter and stay for employment of less than one year
- Applying for a Temporary Residence Permit (TRP) which is done at the embassy or similar abroad and then sent to the PBGB for processing and registering the employment for more than one year.
The first is quicker and there are ‘annual quotas’ on the TRP which may hold things up!