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Estonia – Work Permits and Working Legally

Necessity of Work Permits for Expats in Estonia

Working legally in Estonia as an expat may require obtaining a work permit, depending on your nationality, the type of work you intend to do, and the duration of your stay in the country. In this article, we will explore the necessity of work permits for expats, who must make the application, exemptions, and other essential details related to working legally in Estonia.

Who Submits a Work Permit Application

In Estonia, the responsibility for submitting a work permit application typically falls on the employer who intends to hire the expat. The employer initiates the application process, provides the necessary documentation, and ensures compliance with the regulations. However, the expat employee also plays a significant role by cooperating with their prospective employer, providing required information, and attending any necessary appointments or interviews.

It’s important for both the employer and the employee to understand the specific requirements and processes for obtaining a work permit in Estonia.

Exemptions from Work Permits

While work permits are generally required for expats working in Estonia, there are exemptions and special categories that may not necessitate a standard work permit. Some common exemptions and categories include:

  • European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) Citizens: Citizens of EU and EEA countries do not need a separate work permit to work in Estonia. They have the right to work in Estonia based on the principle of free movement of labor within the EU/EEA.
  • Short-Term Employment: Some short-term employment activities may not require a work permit, but there are limitations on the duration of such work.
  • Highly Skilled Workers: Estonia has specific regulations for attracting highly skilled workers from non-EU/EEA countries. These individuals may have facilitated procedures for obtaining work permits.

It is essential for expats to thoroughly research these exemptions and confirm their eligibility with the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board or seek legal advice to ensure compliance with immigration regulations.

Types of Work Permits for Expats in Estonia

Estonia offers several types of work permits and visas to accommodate different categories of expat workers. The most common work permit categories include:


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  • Temporary Residence Permit for Employment: This permit is typically issued to expats who have secured a job offer from an Estonian employer.
  • Temporary Residence Permit for Self-Employment: Individuals who plan to be self-employed in Estonia may apply for this type of permit.
  • Startup Visa: Estonia has introduced a startup visa program for entrepreneurs who wish to develop their startup in the country.

Each type of permit or visa has its own eligibility criteria, requirements, and limitations. expats should consult the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board or seek legal advice to determine the most suitable option for their situation.

Procedure to Apply for a Work Permit in Estonia

The process of obtaining a work permit in Estonia involves several key steps:

  1. Job Offer: expats seeking employment in Estonia must secure a job offer from an Estonian employer. The job offer is a fundamental requirement.
  2. Employer’s Role: The Estonian employer initiates the work permit application process, provides the required documentation, and submits the application to the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board.
  3. Document Submission: The expat employee, with the support of their Estonian employer, submits the work permit application, along with the necessary documents and fees, to the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board.
  4. Processing Time: Work permit processing times can vary depending on the specific circumstances and type of permit. Applicants should check with the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board or their employer for current processing times.
  5. Work Permit Approval: Once the work permit is approved, the expat employee is notified and can proceed with the next steps, such as obtaining a visa if required.

It is essential to follow the prescribed procedure diligently, provide accurate and complete information, and meet all deadlines to ensure a smooth application process.

Documents Required for a Work Permit Application

When applying for a work permit in Estonia, expats and their employers must prepare a set of documents to support the application. The specific documents required may vary based on the type of permit and individual circumstances, but common documents include:

  • Job Offer Letter: A formal job offer from the Estonian employer, detailing the terms and conditions of employment.
  • Valid Passport: A valid passport with an expiration date beyond the intended duration of stay in Estonia.
  • Health Insurance: Proof of health insurance coverage for the duration of the stay in Estonia.
  • Passport Photos: Recent passport-sized photographs meeting specific requirements.
  • Educational and Professional Certificates: Copies of relevant educational and professional certificates or diplomas.
  • Application Forms: Completed application forms provided by the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board or relevant authorities.

Expats should be prepared to provide additional documents if requested during the application process. It is advisable to verify the specific document requirements based on the chosen permit or visa category.

Costs Involved in Applying for a Work Permit in Estonia

Obtaining a work permit in Estonia may involve various costs, which can vary depending on the type of permit or visa and individual circumstances. Common expenses related to work permits may include:

  • Application Fee: The fee associated with processing the work permit application, typically paid by the employer.
  • Visa Fee: If a visa is required in addition to the work permit, there may be visa application fees.
  • Legal Fees: Some expats choose to seek legal or immigration consultancy services, incurring additional fees.
  • Health Insurance: The cost of health insurance coverage, which is mandatory for all residents and workers in Estonia.

Expats should budget for these costs and confirm the current fee structure with the relevant authorities or their employer to avoid any surprises during the application process.

Reliable Sources for Information on Working Legally in Estonia

Expats seeking reliable information on working legally in Estonia can refer to various sources:

  1. Estonian Police and Border Guard Board: The official website provides comprehensive information on work permits, visa requirements, and application procedures.
  2. Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The ministry’s website may contain valuable information on immigration regulations and procedures.
  3. Work in Estonia: The official portal for foreign nationals interested in working and living in Estonia offers guidance and resources.
  4. Expat Forums and Websites: Online expat communities and forums often provide insights and advice from individuals who have experience working in Estonia.
  5. Invest in Estonia: The official website for investment and business-related information may offer insights into entrepreneurial opportunities.

Staying informed about the latest immigration policies and requirements is essential, as they can change over time. expats should rely on official government sources and seek professional advice when necessary to navigate the complexities of obtaining a work permit in Estonia.


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