Entry conditions and residence permits for Estonia
Different rules about residence and work in Estonia apply to citizens of the EU and to citizens of third countries. The length of their stay also influences which rules they must follow.
- EU citizens can enter Estonia without a visa, but if they stay for more than 3 months, they should register their place of residence and apply for an ID-card.
- Citizens of third countries may need a visa for short-stay visits (up to 12 months) and/or need a residence permit for employment for long-term work (more than 12 months) in Estonia.
For citizens of third countries:
- Short stay <12 months - you will need a visa: a short-stay visa (Schengen visa) (type C) or a long-stay visa (type D) (valid up to 12 months!)
- Longer stay >12 months - you will need a residence permit for employment, research or study (PhD students)
Applications for visas, residence permits or residence permits for employment should be submitted personally to a diplomatic representation of the Republic of Estonia or to a service office of the Estonian Police and Boarder Guard Board (PBGB). Registration of one’s place of residence is necessary in the case of longer visits for both EU citizens and citizens of third countries.
EU citizens can enter Estonia and work in Estonia without a visa. The same applies to the citizens of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. The only requirement is that if EU citizens stay in Estonia for longer than 3 months, they should register their place of residence (adress where they actually live in Estonia) (see tab below) at the local government authority within 3 months. Family members can submit a joint notice of their place of residence.
The registration of the place of residence gives the right to temporary residence for 5 years.
An EU citizen who has resided in Estonia permanently for five concecutive years on the basis of the right of temporary residency has the right to obtain permanent residency.
- you hold valid temporary residence permit;
- the data of your place of residence have been entered into the Population Register of Estonia;
- you have permanent legal income for subsistence in Estonia;
- you are covered with health insurane (by Eesti Haigekassa);
- you comply with integration requirements, i.e. you have knowledge of the Estonian language at least at level B1
The family members of an EU citizen, who is a third country citizen, will have the right of temporary residence if the EU citizen is employed or studying in Estonia, has sufficient legal income to ensure the subsistence of him/herself and the family and has medical insurene. The third country family members of an EU citizen are required to follow the visa requirements for entering Estonia which are described in the section Citizens of third countries. Short stay (see next tab). They can apply for the right of temporary residency in a foreign representation of the Republic of Estonia or by going in person to a service point of the Police and Border Guard Board after arrival in Estonia.
Within a month after the place of residence has been registered and the right to temporary residence has been obtained, an EU citizen must apply for an ID number and an Estonian ID card at the Police and Border Guard Board. See here for applying for the ID card.
The ID number enables you to obtain health insurance through the Estonian Health Insurance Fund when employed by an Estonian organisation and receive social support. The ID card can be used as identification and for giving digital signatures, and it carries the data concerning the right of residence. ID cards can be used for a wide range of electronic services. It also gives you the right to vore in local goverment elections and the European Parliament elections.
Citizens of third countries - Short stay (<12 months)
If you are not a citizen of the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you should first check whether you need a visa to enter Estonia. Information on visa requirements and the contact information of all the embassies can be found at the web page of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is uselful to check the website of the Estonian embassy in your home country for specific information.
- Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Visiting Estonia
Everything about visas.
For a short stay (<12 months) in Estonia you need either a short-stay visa (Schengen visa) (type-C) or long-stay visa (type-D). For a longer stay (>12 months) you must apply for a residence permit for employment, research or study (see next tab). You can apply for a visa at a diplomatic representation of the Republic of Estonia.
- Work in Estonia < 90 days - apply for short-stay visa (Schengen visa)
Estonia is part of the Schengen area. You can apply for a short-stay visa (type C) at the embassy of another Schengen member state if there is no Estonian embassy in your home country. See the list of embassies representing Estonia at the website of Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- Work in Estonia 3 - 12 months - apply for long-stay visa.
Long-stay visas (type D) still need to be applied for from the nearest Estonian foreign representation. Both short-stay and long-stay visa applications are processed in 30 days. If you come to Estonia through another country do not forget to check whether a transit visa is required.
Registering short term employment (<12 months)
Short term employment can be registered for 270 days, but for a longer time, up to 365 days, if one does research work or is a teacher or lecturer at HEI.Your employer must register you at the Citizenship and Migration Bureau (CMB). Short term employment must be registered by the employer before you start working and before you apply for a long-stay visa. You must append the document confirming your registration for short term employment to your long-stay visa application. The registration process at the CMB takes up to 10 days. The best way is to register short term employment by mail before arriving in Estonia (taotlus [at] politsei.ee)
It is also possible to register your employment through the fast registering process. This process presumes you already have the right to enter the country.
- fast registering
- your employment will be registered momentarily (or on next day latest)
- your right to work will start from the moment of submitting your application
If your period of work in Estonia is up to 5 days during a 30 day period, then you do not have to register your employment (employer does not have to register you).
Read more about registering short term employment on the PBGB portal.
Citizens of third countries - Longer stay >months
Citizens of third countries who stay in Estonia for work >12 months must apply for a temporary residence permit for employment (validity up to 5 years). Researchers planning to work in Estonia can apply for a residence permit for research. PhD students should apply for a residence permit for study (see more below).
One can apply for residence permit for research at a service office of the Police and Boarder Guard Board. Researchers are exempt from the immigration quota.
It is necessary to make a reservation for service time if you want to apply for residence permit or extend your residence permit at the Police and Boarder Guard Board sevice offices.
- The residence permit for research is issued, if the alien has appropriate professional preparation or experience for such activity and if:
- the R&D institution has been registered by the Ministry of Education and Research and has received a positive evaluation at least in one research field or;
- or the institution has valid institutional accreditation;
- or the main activity of the institution according in the state register is R&D;
- or the hosting agreement is signed between the researcher and the hosting research institution for carrying out R&D work.
- The hosting R&D institution should make sure that:
- the alien has legal permanent income for sustining oneself in Estonia;
- insurance contract;
- funding for research activities.
There are several ways how to apply for a residence permit for employment as a researcher: see our ROAD-MAP for coming to Estonia.
The hosting agreement certifies to the Police and Boarded Guard Board that you will be doing research in Estonia.
- The hosting agreement should contain:
- your name and qualification;
- name and registration code of the hosting institution;
- name and position of your contact person in the institution;
- duration of the research project;
- financing source of the project
If the above listed data is stated in your employment contract, then a copy of such employment contract may be submitted instead of the hosting agreement.
Hosting Agreement Sample 1 (35 KB)
Hosting Agreement Sample 2 (29.5 KB)
The list of other necessary documents and the application form for the residence permit for employment can be found at the website of the Police and Border Guard Board. The process of obtaining a residence permit for employment may take up to 2 months.
A citizen of a third country should register his/her place of residence at a local government registers office within a month after coming to Estonia. Family members can submit a joint notice. See next tabs.
Validity time of permits
A temporary residence permit for employment is issued for the period of guaranteed employment in Estonia for a period of up to 5 years, and can be extended for up to 10.
A temporary reisdence permit for study (incl. PhD students) is issued for until the end of nominal study period under the study programme.
Application for extention must be issued at least 2 months before the current permit will expire.
EU Blue Card
As of July 2011 a residence permit for employment in Estonia may be granted on the basis of the European Union (EU) blue card. The EU blue card is a residence permit for employment, which is granted for residence in Estonia and for employment on a position or job which requires higher qualification. Employer needs the consent of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund for applying for the blue card. More information on EU Blue Card is available on the website of the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board.
Together with the residence permit for employment or the residence permit you will receive an Estonian ID number and an Estonian residence permit card (short - ID card) (Est elamisloakaart). You can apply for an Estonian ID card already at an Estonian foreign representation, but you will receive the ID card once you have arrived in Estonia. The ID number enables you employer to forward all the necessary information to the Estonian Health Insurance Fund, the Employment Register, the Tax and Customs Board and the Social Insurance Board, so that you will have granted health insurance and other rights resulting from paid taxes. The ID card can be used as regular identification and for giving digital signatures. It also carries the residence permit and conditions of employment (name of employer, location of employment, your position). You are allowed to work in Estonia only under the conditions determined in your residence permit. If you have granted a temporary residence permit for employment, you may be employed by several employers at the same time, provided that the specified conditions determined in your residence permit for employment are still followed.
ID cards can be used for a wide range of electronic services.
You should apply for a residence permit for study, if you wish to study at a university in Estonia. A residence permit for study is issued for full-time intensity studies until the end of the nominal study period under the study programme. Aliens who have been issued a residence permit for study are exempt from the immigration quota.
You may get a job in Estonia without a work permit, provided that working does not interfere with studies and you continue on full-time intensity studies. If happens, that you must continue your studies on half-time intensity (instead of full-time) and you have a valid reason, then your residence permit will not be canceled.
All doctoral students who receive a doctoral allowance based on the Study Allowances and Study Loans Act are provided with social guarantees, including health insurance. If you do not qualify for doctoral allowance under this act you need to obtain a private health insurance contract for the duration of your studies.
Citizens of third countries. Residence permits for families
Citizens of third countries can apply for a temporary residence permit for settling with their spouse to whom a residence permit for employment has been granted. For your children you should apply for a residence permit for settling with a close relative who resides in Estonia.
The applications for residence permits for family members can be submitted at the same time as the researcher’s application. The decision whether or not the family members will be granted a residence permit will be made after the decision concerning the researcher has been made.
If a residence permit has been issued for settling with a spouse, it is not necessary to apply for a separate work permit.
Registration of a place of residence
Registration of one’s place of residence is obligatory if you are staying in Estonia on the basis of a residence permit or a residence permit for employment. The place of residence should be registered at the local government registers services, or in the case of smaller local governments, directly in the local government’s office with a person responsible for the registers. The place of residence can also be registered by mail. Family members can present a joint notice of place of residence. A citizen of a non-EU Member State residing in Estonia on the basis of a long-term residence permit may vote at the local government council elections but cannot stand as candidate to the council.
Registering one’s place of residence offers some benefits. EU citizens who have been registered at a local government have the right to vote in local government elections and the European Parliament elections (must have the Estonian ID card).
The town government registers’ service in Tartu is at Küüni 5, Tartu 51004, and its telephone numbers are (+372) 736 1143; (+372) 736 1141.
There are registers services in all the districts of Tallinn.