How To Move To Estonia
The complete guide!

Find A Job

Estonia is growing in popularity as a working destination and if you are thinking of seeking employment in this little Baltic state, you might find a number of options are available to you. The ease with which you are able to work here will depend to some extent on whether you are already a member of an EU state, or whether you are a third party national.

If you are a citizen of the EU, you will have an advantage over applicants from other nations. Estonia has low tax and a relatively straightforward degree of bureaucracy, whether you are planning to work for someone else or set up in self employment.

Estonia does not have a specific work permit but operates on a visa system. If you are from an EU member state, you will not need permission to work and you will not need to apply for a visa either, although you may wish to consider a residency application if you are going to be in the country for any great length of time.

If you are from outside the EU, however, you will need to make an application for a D-visa – this is your residence permit and may include registration for short-term employment (this will need to be made with the Estonian Police and Border Guard). Your employer can assist you with this if you already have a job lined up and particularly in the case of people working in the IT industry, this is usually comparatively straightforward.

If you do need to apply for a D-visa, you will need to supply:

• a passport which is issued within previous 10 years, contains at least 2 blank pages for visas and is valid at least 3 months after the expiration date of the visa
• fully completed and signed application form
• photo (size 35×45 mm)
• insurance policy valid for Estonia or for the Schengen area with a coverage of at least €30,000 for the entire duration of your stay
• documents indicating the purpose of your journey
• confirmation letter from your host
• documents proving that you are going to work in Estonia (confirmation from the employer, registration of short-term employment)
• documents confirming sufficient means of subsistence
• documents confirming accommodation and provision for expenses

You will also need to pay a fee of around €100.

Estonia’s tech industry has been booming, with an estimated 3000+ IT companies hiring throughout the country, so if you are working in IT, Estonia could be a good fit for you. However, you will also find vacancies in education, medicine, marketing and the finance industry.

A number of companies are increasingly English speaking, but you may also find that speaking some Russian is an advantage.

The typical working week is 40 hours and consists of an 8 hour day for a 5 day week (Monday – Friday). Part time work/working from home will depend on negotiation with your employer. Business hours are usually Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m – 6 p.m. with an hour for lunch. In the private sector, you may find yourself working late.

You will be paid overtime for working outside given hours, however, and you can negotiate longer working hours with your employer if you both wish, but you cannot legally work longer than a consecutive 12 hour shift. Longer hours can be agreed if the working schedule does not exceed, on average, 52 hours per seven days over a period of four months.

You will be entitled to 28 days of leave per annum in addition to public holidays. Estonia currently has 13 national holidays per year.

If you are pregnant, you will be entitled to 140 days pregnancy and maternity leave, which may commence at least 70 days before the estimated birth date of the child. The father may also be entitled to claim paternity leave.

You will also be entitled to sick leave, consisting of182 calendar days of paid sick leave (maximum 250 days per year). The gross wage during this period is 70% of your last year’s average salary. Your employer will pay sickness benefit from the 4th to 8th day of sickness and the state will then contribute from the 9th day onwards.

The minimum wage in Estonia is currently €540 per month and this is mandated by the government. The average wage is around €1291 per month, but you can expect a higher salary as an IT professional, and if you are working for an international company.

Your spouse will be able to work without the need to apply for a work permit if they are also an EU citizen, but they will need a separate work permit if they are a citizen of a nation outside the EU.


Job Vacancies

It is entirely acceptable to make speculative applications to companies in Estonia.

You will find a number of online job fairs in relation to working in Estonia, particularly with regard to the tech industry. You can also investigate online job boards and recruitment agencies.


Applying For A Job

A standard CV/resume is acceptable when applying for a job in Estonia. It is probably unnecessary to have this or your qualifications translated into Estonian, but you could double-check this with the proposed company or your recruiter.

Estonia has a wide range of equality legislation. The Gender Equality Act regulates discrimination based on gender and, further, the Equal Treatment Act aims to cover protection against discrimination on grounds of nationality (ethnic origin), race, colour, religion or other beliefs, age, disability or sexual orientation.


Qualifications And Training

Given the growth of the tech industry in Estonia, having IT qualifications and experience will stand you in good stead. It is a good idea to have copies of any qualifications apostilled.


Apply For A Visa/Permit

People from countries in the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA), or those who hold a residence permit for a Schengen State do not require a visa to enter Estonia.
For everyone else, here is a list of documents required for all types of Estonian visa applications:

• A completed application form. You can find and complete the Estonia Schengen Visa application form online and then print a hard copy.
• Two recent photos in passport format.
• Copies of your passport and previous visas. The passport must be valid for at least three months beyond your return date, and have at least two blank pages.
• Confirmation of travel and medical insurance with a sufficient monetary limit within Estonia as well as the entire Schengen area.
• A letter stating the purpose of your visit and complete itinerary.
• A copy of your return-ticket with dates and flight numbers specifying entry and exit from Estonia.
• Proof of accommodation (full address and contact information).
• Proof of civil status (marriage certificate, birth certificate of children, death certificate of spouse, ration card if applicable).
• Proof of sufficient financial means for the duration of your stay.

For people employed in Estonia:

• Employment contract
• Bank statements from the past six months
• Income Tax Return (ITR) form or certificate of income tax deducted from salary
• Letter from employer

For self-employed individuals:

• Copy of business license
• Company bank statements from the past six months
• ITR form

For students:

• Proof of enrolment
• Letter from school or university

For retirees:

• Pension statements from the past six months

If applicable:

• Proof of regular income generated by a property from the past six months

There are many different types of visa; the one you need will depend on your reason to visit the country. Listed below are the most common types of visa available, as well as the additional documents you will need to apply for them.

Estonia Tourist Or Visitor Visa:

• If applicable, an invitation letter from friends or family with the address and phone number
• Bank statements from the past six months
• Passport copies; passports must be valid for at least three months beyond return date and have at least two blank pages

Estonia Visa For Business Purposes:

• An invitation from the Estonian company or firm you will be visiting, their address, and the dates of your visit
• A certificate from your employer confirming your business travel arrangements
• If there were previous trade relations between the two companies, proof of this must be provided upon request
• Bank statements from the past six months from your business account
• Memorandum and articles of association in original certified copy (registered with joint stock companies), a trade license (first issued and present renewal), and proprietorship or partnership documents
• Either the employer or the partner company must confirm that they accept responsibility for any expenses incurred during the stay.

Estonia Visa For Medical Purposes:

• A local medical report
• A written confirmation from the hospital or doctor in Estonia, confirming the date of your appointment as well as your diagnosis
Payment receipt of medical fees or proof of sufficient funds

Estonia Visa for Cultural, Sports, Film Crew or Religious Purposes:

• Invitation letter from the above-mentioned authorities confirming the nature of events or activities
• Names of the applicants (crew members)
• Duration of stay
• Full travel itinerary

Estonia Visa For Members Of Official Delegations:

• Copy of the official invitation
• ID
• Purpose of visit
• Duration of stay
• Place of accommodation

Estonia Visa For Study, Training, Research, Or Other Type Of Internship Purposes:

• An enrolment confirmation from school or university
• Certificate of completion or courses attended
• Confirmation of sufficient funds

Estonia Visa For The Spouse Of An Estonian citizen:

• Proof of Estonian citizenship
• Estonian marriage certificate
• Estonian family record book

Estonia Airport Transit Visa:

• Visa or other type of entry permit in the transit country
• Copy of your valid visa for your final destination
• Confirmation of full itinerary

Estonia Visa For Under-Age Children:

• Proof of parent’s regular income and sufficient funds
• Notarised travel permission from parent (parental travel consent)
• If one parent lives in another country – their notarised parental travel consent.


Get Health Insurance

Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.

When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.

Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.

Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.

Important questions to ask the insurance provider:

1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?

2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?

3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.

4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?

5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.

6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.

7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.

8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?

9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.

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Rent Or Buy Property


Renting Property

There is no minimum term for a rental in Estonia, with some properties even advertised for daily rent. A lease may be for a fixed or unspecified term. Fixed-term leases can generally be renegotiated when the term has finished. You will probably have to give three months’ notice if you want to leave earlier. Both parties can agree to a shorter notice period, but not a longer one. Unspecified leases let you leave at any time, with an agreed notice period.

Many rentals are made without a lease. In this instance, the renter still has statutory protection under Estonian law, but you may want the safety net of knowing precisely who your landlord is and what you can expect of them. Therefore, if you are offered a purely verbal contract, ask for it in writing, and confirm exactly who is signing it.

When you sign your lease, you will typically have to pay a deposit and a month’s rent in advance. Once you leave the property, you should get the deposit back, minus the cost of any damages. You will need an Estonian bank account to make your payments by standing order. Usually this will be set up so that your rent goes out at the start of each month.

Your lease will probably only be in Estonian. Ask for a translation, and persist to make sure you get one, even if you are initially told this isn’t possible. The lease should include a description of the property, including address, size and condition; the rental price; the payment method; responsibility for utility bills; duration of the agreement; conditions for cancellation and giving notice; penalties for breaches of any terms; and a precise inventory of the property’s contents.

Payments are often made in cash to help landlords avoid paying taxes. If you want to be able to prove exactly what has been paid and when, push to pay by bank transfer.

Flats come furnished, part-furnished and unfurnished. If you opt for an unfurnished property, bear in mind that these often don’t contain white goods or any furniture. Check that the state of the property matches the description in the lease. Furnished apartments stay furnished, so don’t try to negotiate this; the landlord probably has nowhere else to put their stuff.

Drivers should check whether the property comes with a parking space, and whether this is covered by the lease.

There are several agencies available that can help you find properties to rent:

RE Kinnisvara

There are also portals that aggregate rental opportunities:

City 24

Another way to deal directly with owners is to check advertisements in newspapers and call the numbers provided. Ads are always best responded to by phone, as the market is fast moving, and emails may not be answered, or else may be answered too late. However, it may be harder this way to find owners who will rent to foreigners.

Home Inspection lets you run a check on any home you find, and provides details of its price, condition, and so on.

The only real expat area in Estonia is Tallinn. Prices there vary significantly, and the advertised rent may or may not include bills. A one-bedroom apartment in Tallinn will probably cost you in the region of 400 to 450 euros a month. A higher-end apartment could cost you up to 1,200 euros a month.

The market is fast-moving, and properties may go to whoever signs and pays first, regardless of promises to hold them for other viewers. Reservation fees are not illegal, but there is little point to them. You may need to make a decision within 24 hours of viewing, and anything you can’t view more or less at once will probably be snapped up by someone else. If you are not already resident in the area, therefore, it is unlikely you will be able to secure somewhere. There is no point in starting to look before you arrive in the country.

Foreign nationals who stay for more than three months must have a residence permit, and they must be registered with an Estonian ID. Landlords must pay more tax for registered foreign tenants, so may decline offers from them. To avoid wasting anyone’s time, state straight off that you are not local, and that you will be registering yourself, or that you are already registered. It is your responsibility to see that your tenancy is added to the Population Register.

The number of rooms given in the property description refers to bedrooms and living rooms. Remember that any property built before 1990 was built during the communist era, when there were different standards of comfort and interior design. Confirm in advance that your flat has a separate toilet and kitchen amenities – flats are still advertised without either, though kitchen amenities can at least be bought separately. Many apartment buildings have shared laundry facilities, and this is considered perfectly normal.

Your lease should stipulate payments for utilities. Some may be included in your rent, but you are more likely to need to pay them separately. You will need to sign your own internet contract as a tenant, for which you will almost certainly need to be registered with an Estonian ID.

Estonian properties have a wide range of heating systems, for example, they can have: wood stoves (where you have to buy the wood), electric (the most expensive system), gas or central heating for the entire block. Check which applies to your property. If you are paying for your heating, then bear in mind the extremes of Estonian weather when budgeting. Bills may go from €80 in summer to €180 in winter. Ask to see a previous bill to get an idea of how much you will have to pay.

If renting in an apartment block, ask whether the building has an active and engaged apartment cooperative (korteriühistu). This will make maintenance issues far simpler for you.

Many apartments will not allow pets: if you want to keep one, state this straight off.


Buying Property

By and large, foreign nationals may buy property with the permission of the local authorities, which will usually be granted. However, Estonian’s four largest islands (Hiiumaa, Muhu, Saaremaa and Vormsi, which form its border with the Baltic sea) and certain listed territories adjacent to the Russian border are off-limits to non-EU citizens for the purposes of purchasing property.

The process of buying and registering a property usually takes around 65 days, once you have identified the property you want.

By law, a notary must be involved at every stage requiring documentation. Buyer and seller can prepare the documents themselves for review by a notary, but it is more common for the notary to prepare them. The buyer must be present in person to sign all the documents.

The first step is to verify that the property is registered with the Estonian Land Register, and that the seller is genuinely the owner. You also need to check that the property is free of encumbrances, such as mortgages and any unpaid bills or other debts.

Look the property up with the Estonian Land Board to get all the physical information that you need: the boundaries of the property, soil composition and so on.

A pre-purchase contract is drawn up based on the buyer’s offer to the seller, which can be oral. Once signed and notarised, the contract is immediately binding under Estonian law, with no opt-out period. It commits buyer and seller to the sale and establishes terms such as payment amounts and dates. At this stage, the buyer must pay a deposit of between 10% and 20% and a tax of 0.4% of the property value.

Once payment is made, the notary prepares the Transfer of the Ownership of the Real Estate, which is signed by both parties. The buyer then pays stamp duty (0.3% to 0.5%), and the notary applies to the Land Register to register the transfer of ownership. Estonia does not have property deeds. Once the 0.25% fee has been paid at the Land Register, the process is complete and the property is yours. The transfer will automatically be published in the Official State Gazette, but this does not affect your ownership.

If you are relying on a mortgage from abroad, your lender may be accustomed to more layers of bureaucracy than the Estonian system provides. They may therefore require documents that do not formally exist in Estonia, such as a survey report or a formal document declaring freedom from encumbrances. If this is the case, your notary can probably help assemble an ad hoc document that will satisfy them.

If you are an EU citizen or have been granted an indefinite residence permit, then you will qualify for a home loan under mostly the same conditions as an Estonian citizen. Your best chance will be if you are already a customer of the bank.

However, a mortgage granted to a foreigner may be no more than a 50% mortgage at 7% interest, rather than the more usual 80% at 2% to 4% interest. Your bank may also require an income paid in euros, and a larger down payment – i.e. a minimum of 40% rather than 20%. They will make their own assessment of how likely you are to make the property your full-time residence. Some may add a requirement that if you leave the country permanently, or have your residency revoked, then the loan must be repaid in full.


Move Your Belongings

Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.

Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.

If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.

The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).

Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.

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Register For Healthcare

QUICK LINK: Estonia health insurance

Healthcare in Estonia is managed by the Ministry for Social Affairs. The national insurance scheme is funded out of taxes and should be available to you wherever you are living in the country.

If you are an expat, as soon as you are registered as resident in Estonia, you will become eligible for the state health insurance system and will need to start making contributions. You can only pay quarterly or annually, not monthly. If you do not pay, EHIF will cancel your insurance.

Your employer will sign you up for health insurance, but check that this has been done and that you have been allotted an Estonian ID code. If you are self-employed, you will need to sign up yourself, and if you are not working and not a dependent of someone with medical insurance, you will also need to register with EHIF.

In Estonia, the start and end dates of your medical insurance are linked to your tax returns. After you submit your first return and pay your tax, your insurance will begin, and it will end on the day after the deadline for your next return. When you first register, your insurance will only begin a month after you sign.

If illness or accident renders you incapable of working, the national insurance scheme should also give you access to some state benefits.

When you have signed up with a GP, you will need to submit an application form (Avaldus perearsti nimistusse registreerimiseks) and this must be completed in Estonian. A practice may refuse to take you on if it is full.

There is also a telemedical service called MinuDoc, which is recommended for expats, since consultations can be held in Estonian, Russian, English, Finnish, French or Spanish. You will have to pay approximately €50 per session.

Your employer must sign you up for healthcare. International House in Talinn gives free consultations about aspects of life in Estonia, and this includes healthcare and health insurance: they will be able to assist you.

It is also possible to sign up with EHIF directly under the “voluntary insurance contract”. You will be able to do this if you have been insured with them previously, for at least a year; or if someone who has also been insured with them registers on your behalf.


Open A Bank Account

The main banks in Estonia are Swedbank, Luminor, TF Bank and Bigbank. As a non-resident, you will be allowed to set up a bank account in the country as long as you meet certain requirements and have the necessary paperwork. The definition of a non-resident is a citizen of another country who doesn’t have a long-term residence permit or who has a temporary residence permit which is issued for less than one year.

A crucial prerequiste for non-residents who wish to open a bank account is that they have a connection with Estonia.

The purpose for opening the account must be clear and sufficiently explained.

The decision as to whether you can open your account will be made as soon as possible, and no later than within 10 banking days after receiving all the required documents. You will be notified of the decision either by phone or email – whichever is more convenient for you. If the answer is positive, you will be asked to come to the same branch to open an account within 30 days of receiving the notice.

As a non-resident you will be asked for additional documents to evidence your connection to Estonia. The below conditions are acceptable connections:

• studying in Estonia
• working in Estonia
• owning or renting real estate in Estonia
• shareholding in an active Estonian company
• having close relatives in Estonia – that is, spouses, partners, children and parents.

It’s advised that you take original documents, such as employment contracts, school certificates and marriage certificates, with you when you come to apply for the account.

The following documents are accepted by banks as proof of ID:

• An Estonian passport
• The identity card of a citizen of an EU Member State (including Estonia), an EEA Member State or the Swiss Confederation (known as an ID card or Digi-ID)
• A driver’s license issued in the Republic of Estonia (except for a temporary driver’s license)
• An alien Estonian passport which has a valid Estonian residence permit
• A diplomatic passport
• A passport from another country which has a valid Estonian residence permit or visa, unless the passport is from one of the countries that has entered into a visa-free deal with the Republic of Estonia.

Swedbank and Luminor seem to be the most user-friendly when it comes to everyday banking, while TF and Bigbank focus more on investments and lending. An overdraft is not really an option for a private bank account, but you can apply for a credit card subject to the terms and conditions of your chosen bank. As a rule, cheque books are not issued with a private bank account. Please be aware that the bank may charge you for depositing cash via the branch office. If you don’t wish to pay, you can use cash machines to deposit up to €5000 per day for free.

You can withdraw money without charge from a cash point associated with your bank; other banks will charge you for the privilege. If you wish to have a debit card, the bank will charge you €2.50 at the point of issue and around €1.28 per monthly afterwards. If you choose a bank card with additional benefits – such as bonus points or travel insurance – the fee will be higher. All banks have online banking available free of charge, so you can have access to your finances at all times. Should you wish to speak to someone, there are customer support lines open 24 hours a day, details of which are below. English version available, 24-hour support line (+372 6 310 310), internet banking English version available, 24-hour support line (+372 628 3300), internet banking – no English version, mainly leasing and financing – English version available, lending and investments.

Please be advised that some operators may not speak English since the service is provided in Estonian and Russian.

Most banks are closed at the weekends, and keep regular office hours Monday to Friday, which are 9am to 5pm or 10am to 6pm. Currency exchange offices are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm and often on Saturdays from 9am to 3pm. There are some currency exchange points not associated with the banks that are open 9am to 9pm every day; one of the more popular ones is Eurex.


Transfer Money

There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.

International Bank Transfers

For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.

Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.

You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.

When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.

As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.

As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.

Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals

Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.

You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.

Currency Brokers

Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.

Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.

A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:

1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.

2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.

3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.

Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.

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Learn The Language

If you are going to be working or living in the Baltic state of Estonia, one of your priorities will be whether or not to learn the language. What is the official language of Estonia? Is English widely spoken in the country? We will answer some of your questions below.

Estonia is a fascinating country and its language is no exception. People here speak Estonian, which is related to Finnish, and bears little resemblance to other European languages. It is a Uralic language, divided into Northern and Southern Estonian, and the latter is itself split into a number of dialects (Mulgi, Tartu and Võro).

However, it is not the only language that is widely spoken in Estonia (speakers of Estonian are estimated to be around 67% of the population, and the language is thus spoken by around 1 million people). Other recognised languages include the following, in order of popularity:

• Russian
• English
• German
• Swedish

Estonia had a more substantial Swedish population from the 13th century onwards, but most of these people returned to Sweden in WW2. The language is still spoken a little in the country, however.

In addition, languages such as Ukrainian, Belarussian, Finnish, Latvian and Lithuanian are also spoken: it is estimated that there are over 100 active languages in Estonia.

Estonia borders Russia and there are a large number of Russian speakers in the country, including some areas in which Russian speakers outnumber Estonian speakers. Whilst the German population of the country is small, German is nonetheless also a common language in Estonia.

It is usually recommended that you learn some basic phrases for the following:

• meet and greet
• numbers
• directions
• days of the week/months of the year
• shopping and food-related vocabulary, including eating out
• some basic medical vocabulary (e.g. asking for a doctor’s appointment)
• some basic banking vocabulary (e.g. opening a bank account)

Estonian uses the Latin alphabet with some additional letters (õ, ä, ö, and ü). Be aware that it is not an easy language to learn: it has no future tense, but does have 14 noun cases, and it is said to be in the top five of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn. Estonians like to joke that it most closely resembles Elvish!

If you are intending to be in the country long term, you may like to take classes in Estonian and you will find provision across the country. There are a number of private language schools and you may also be able to sign up at university level as an open university student. Tallinn and Tartu Universities offer language practice swaps, for example. There are some language practice groups, too, for example in Tallinn. You will also find some provision in Estonian online: there is a Facebook group for Tallinn-based foreigners learning Estonian, for example, as well as language learning sites.

However, if you are only in Estonia for a short time, you may prefer to rely on a few phrases. It is possible to get by perfectly well in Estonia, particularly in cities such as Tallinn and Tartu, by speaking English. The language is widely spoken across Estonia, particularly in customer-facing sectors such as travel and tourism.

If you are travelling in rural areas, it is a sensible precaution to take a phrase book with you (do not rely on digital translation methods in case you find yourself in a region without wifi or mobile phone signals), as not every Estonian will speak English. You may also find that this is age-related: older Estonians may speak more Russian, as opposed to younger people who are more likely to be English-speaking. Increasingly, younger Estonians are becoming bilingual in English and Estonian.

Speaking Russian to Estonians may not go down well, due to historical tensions: if you speak Russian in addition to English, it may be advisable to save it for your visits over the border.

If you are working in the country, particularly in tourism or hospitality, or IT (Skype was developed in Estonia), it is likely that your workplace language will be English.

You may be intending to visit Estonia in order to teach English. It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) as this is a requirement in many schools.

It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality. Business English is always a good specialisation.

You will require at least a Bachelor’s degree: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. There are opportunities in universities and in government institutions as well as private language schools. Most job opportunities are in the cities: Tallinn, Tartu and Narva. Salaries vary but an average quoted rate is US$1250 per month. You can apply to schools directly, but can also apply through one of the TEFL job agencies. Most schools start recruiting for September, so contacting potential employers at the start of the summer, at least, is advisable.

If you are intending to find work as an interpreter or translator, your Estonian will need to be of a high standard, and qualified translators or interpreters are preferred.


Choose A School

State education in Estonia is well developed and well regulated. It is controlled by the Ministry of Education. Lessons are conducted in Estonian (a Finnic tongue), and several other languages may be taught throughout the system, including English.

Pre-school is available by request to the local authority, after which tuition is compulsory from ages 6 to 15, and provided free up to secondary school graduation.

If your child needs Estonian language training to be able to attend state school, this can be organised locally (typically a minimum of 70 hours would be required), and extra support can be continued at school as necessary – many city schools have Estonian as a second language programs.

Children can be enrolled at a very early age in nurseries or in kindergartens. Pre-school is not mandatory but can be requested from the local authority. Primary schooling covers ages 7 – 11; basic secondary school runs from ages 12 – 16.

Upper secondary school runs from ages 17 – 19, but many students will either cease study at 16, or enter a vocational or technical college with the aim of gaining qualifications in their chosen trade. The duration of tuition here will vary depending on the profession or occupation chosen. For those attending the vocational colleges or taking apprenticeships, there is also the chance of further advancement through technical universities, and there are many institutions for professions such as teaching.

For those continuing their studies in the state upper secondary system, a final Graduation Exam is taken at the end of studies, with many then expected to go on to university, depending on exam grades. Colleges and specialized institutions are available for those who may not achieve the grades necessary to go to university.

Homeschooling is a consideration for many expats. Although it is legal in Estonia, numbers and support are very low, and you will need to do your own thorough research and seek out expats who might have tried this route already.

There are a number of private schools in Estonia offering tuition at the various levels, and very often subsidised by the government. Their curricula will generally be closely aligned to the state system, with additional classes and activities depending on the philosophy of the individual school.

There are also a good number of fee-paying international schools catering more specifically for expat children of all ages, some with day care for infants, but separate pre-school kindergarten (ages 3 -6) is also available privately in the larger cities. Several of these schools offer the full International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP), and most are based on tuition in English under various national education systems.

Here are a few of the international schools in Estonia:

• International School, Tartu (IBDP candidate, English)
• International School of Estonia, Tallinn (IBDP, ages 3 – 19)
• European School, Tallinn (English and French)
• International School of Tallinn (IBDP candidate with expanding range)
• Tallinn English College (IBDP expanding program)
• French School, Tallinn (French curriculum)

Extra-curricular activities will vary considerably, and need to be ascertained from the individual school. Demand for places at international schools is always high, and it is important to contact the school of your choice as early as possible. Fees will also be quite substantial, and need to be ascertained with the school. It is always important to read the small print – additional expenses can mount up – for example many schools have additional contributary capital funds for improvements/repairs.

High school or international school graduates will have the choice to continue their studies in Estonia, perhaps at the University of Tartu, or Tallinn University, both of which have excellent reputations, but many students, local and international, will want to pursue their higher education abroad. Successful graduation from Estonian schools public or private will give your child an internationally recognised high standard qualification, which is accepted at major universities worldwide without the need for additional assessment tests.


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