Entry conditions and residence permits for Estonia
This page is being updated in autumn 2017. In case of question please contact the Estonian Police and Boarder Guard Board Migration Advisors directly.
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.
A citizen of the European Union (EU), of a member state of the European Union Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss Confederation - hereinafter an EU citizen.
A citizen of a third country - occasionally hereafter non-EU citizen.
- EU citizens have the right to enter Estonia without a visa, but if they stay for more than 3 months, they must register their place of residence and apply for an ID. By registering their place of residence, they obtain the right for temporary residence.
- Citizens of third countries need legal grounds to stay in Estonia. For short-stay visits (up to 12 months) they may need a visa. For longer stays (more than 12 months) they need a temporary residence permit (for study or employment) (valid up to 5 years) or a long-term residence permit (termless).
An EU citizen may obtain the right for residence, a third country citizen may obtain a residence permit.
For citizens of third countries:
- Short stay <12 months - you will need a visa: a Schengen visa (type C) (valid for 90 days during 180 days period) or a long-stay visa (type D) (valid up to 12 months!)
- Longer stay >12 months - you will need a temporary residence permit for employment, research or study (PhD students) (valid up to 5 years)
- short-stay visas (Schengen visa (type C))
must be submitted personally to a diplomatic representation of the Republic of Estonia or to a diplomatic representation of another country (see link for list) that represts Estonia.
- temporary residence permits (for study, for employment) and
- long-stay visas (type D)
must be submitted to a diplomatic representation of the Republic of Estonia. Or, if the third country citizen is already in Estonia on legal grounds, he/she can apply for a long-stay visa (type D) at a Service Office of the Estonian Police and Boarder Guard Board (PBGB).
EU citizens can enter Estonia and work in Estonia for up to 3 months without applying for additional rights. If EU citizens stay in Estonia for >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 of arrival. Family members can submit a joint notice of their place of residence.
The registration of the place of residence gives the EU citizens 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.
For registration of the right of permanent residence please address in person a Service Office of the PBGB or send the documents requested for registration of the right of permanent residence by post or e-mail (it is not possible to apply by post on behalf of a child younger than 1 year). Read more on the Estonian PBGB portal about the right of permanent residence of an EU citizen.
EU citizens' family
Family members of EU citizens who are also EU citizens can submit a joint notice of their place of residence.
Family members of EU citizens who are not Estonian or not citizens of EU
The family members of EU citizens, who are third country citizens, will have the right of temporary residence if the EU citizen:
- has valid rights for staying in Estonia
- has valid medical insurance provided by Eesti Haigekassa (Estonian Health Insurance Fund)
The third country family members of EU citizens must follow the visa requirements for entering Estonia, which are described in the section Citizens of third countries. Short stay <12 months (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 Office of the PBGB after arrival in Estonia (if he/she is already in Estonia on legal grounds (e.g. with visa or visa-free)). Family members of EU citizens, who are third country citizens, should register their place of residence in Estonia within 1 month of obtaining their right of temporary residence permit.
EU citizens receive a Estonian personal identification code (ID code) by registering their place of residence in Estonia (must register place of residence within 3 months of arrival). After this, the EU citizen must go to a PBGB Service Office and apply for an ID card. See here for applying for the ID card. Registering ones place of residence and obtaining personal ID code grants the EU citizen the right for temporary residence (up to 5 years).
The ID code 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 vote in local government elections and the European Parliament elections.
Citizens of third countries - Short stay (<12 months)
Non-EU citizens should first check whether they need a visa to enter Estonia. Some countries have contracts with Estonia for visa-free travelling. 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.
A visa does not grant the third country citizen the right to work in Estonia and vice versa, the right to work does not grant him/her the legal basis for staying in Estonia.
Short-stay means staying in Estonia based on the right of visa-free travelling or with Schengen visa (type C) <90 days.
Long-stay means staying in Estonia for >90 days with type D visa or with temporary residence permit.
- Stay in Estonia < 90 days - apply for Schengen visa (type C), or check if your country and Estonia have established visa-free travelling.
Estonia is part of the Schengen area. You can apply for a short-stay visa – the Schengen 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 .
- Stay in Estonia 3 - 12 months - apply for long-stay visa (type D).
Long-stay visas (type D) can be applied from the nearest foreign representation of Estonia.
- Stay in Estonia > 12 months – apply for temporary residence permit (see next tab)
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.
Both short-stay and long-stay visa applications are processed in 30 days, if applied for at a foreign representation of Estonia. If the D visa was applied for in Estonia, the application will be processed within 10 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)
A visa does not grant the third country citizen the right to work in Estonia and vice versa, the right to work does not grant him/her the legal basis for staying in Estonia.
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 your short-term employment for you at a PBGB Service Office. 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 PBGB takes up to 10 days. The best way is to register short term employment by mail before arriving in Estonia.
The employer may apply for registration of your short-term employment in person or via an authorized representative:
Fast registering of short-term employment
It is also possible to register your employment through the fast registering process. This is applicable for only certain professions (including teacher, lecturer, researcher, top specialist). 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 your employer does not have to register a short-term employmenr for you. This is applicable only if the work is truly temporary, e.e. a visiting professor/lecturer will give a lecture on one day or a short series of lectures.
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 code 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 code 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
This section applies to family members of non-EU citizens who are also non-EU citizens.
A non-EU citizen can apply for a temporary residence permit for settling with their spouse to whom a residence permit for employment has been granted. For applying residence permits for children, a non-EU citizen 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 - EU and non-EU citizens
If EU citizens stay in Estonia >3 months, they must register their place of residence (address where they actually live in Estonia) at the local government authority within first 3 months of arrival. The registration of the place of residence gives to EU citizens the right of temporary residence for 5 years.
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).
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. Citizens of third countries can register their place of residence only when they already have a valid right of residebce or residence permit.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.
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.