How to move to

Estonia

Top

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 35x45 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?.

Save On Health Insurance

Compare quotes from leading international health insurance providers


Rent Or Buy Property



Renting Property

There are two ways to rent a property in Estonia: privately, and via an estate agent. You can find a list of trusted estate agencies on the Estonian association of real estate companies’ website. There are no rent controlled properties available, meaning landlords can charge as much as they want. Sometimes rent can be negotiated, but that’s not always the case. Rental prices vary depending on where you are looking to settle; unsurprisingly, Tallinn is the most expensive city in Estonia, and the closer you are to the city center, the higher the prices. The cheapest rent at the moment for a one-bedroom flat is around €300 per month, which could go as high as €1,200. A monthly rent payment tends to be about 30 to 40 percent higher than a mortgage payment – something to think about when deciding whether to buy or rent.

Flats come furnished, part-furnished and unfurnished. The latter usually means that there are no white goods or any furniture in the property but again, you will need to check the rental agreement to confirm this. There is no minimum term for a property rental; some flats are advertised with a daily charge. Another thing to keep in mind is that the flats are classified by the number of rooms and not bedrooms. For example, a studio flat would be an equivalent to a one-room flat in Estonia.

The best place to start your property search will be websites such as KV.ee, city24.ee and kuldnebors.ee. If you are unfamiliar with the area, it is recommended to go through a local estate agent who can answer all your questions. Same goes for the rental agreement, which will need to be in Estonian – you can get this translated for a small fee.

A rental agreement may be signed for a fixed or an unspecified term. This means you sign an agreement for a specific amount of time and can renegotiate with the landlord or estate agent afterwards if you decide to stay. There are likely to be penalties if you breach the terms of the rental agreement or decide to leave early. Unspecified contracts, or ‘pay-as-you-rent’, mean you can leave at any time as long as you adhere to the agreed notice period. You will have to pay a security deposit that is equivalent to between one and three months of rent. You’ll get the deposit back when you move out as long as you have left the property in a satisfactory condition. Agency fees are typically in the region of one month’s rent unless otherwise agreed.

Rental payments are usually paid at the beginning of the calendar month. It is possible the landlord will ask you for an advance payment when you sign the rent agreement. You will need to have an Estonian bank account to set up a standing order to the estate agent or the landlord. Sometimes, if you are renting privately, the landlord can ask for the rent payment to be made in cash.

Payments for utilities should be stated in the rental agreement. Some utilities may be included in the rental price, but it’s more likely you will need to pay them separately. You should always make room in your budget for utilities as they will make up a considerable part of your housing-related expenses. An average cost for a two-room flat can be as low as €80 in summer and as high as €180 in winter when the heating comes on. It is advisable to ask for the previous bill to get an idea of how much you will have to pay

Another important point, especially for drivers, is to ask whether the property comes with a parking space. Most new apartment buildings have allocated parking spaces. This can be useful as parking, especially in densely populated areas, can be a bit of a nightmare in Estonia. In some cases, a parking permit will be required. Check whether you need to pay for this separately or if it is an expense included in the rent. For example, an annual parking permit in Tallinn city centre will set you back €120. It’s worth mentioning that public transport is free for registered residents of Tallinn.


Buying Property

Estonia is currently experiencing a building boom. This is good if you are planning on buying, as the supply outweighs the demand. As for those wishing to rent a property, the best websites for property hunting are KV.ee, city24.ee and kuldnebors.ee. You can check your chosen agent though the Estonian association of real estate firms, which is a professional association for Estonian real estate companies.

There are some restrictions for migrants when it comes to buying property or land in Estonia.

International individuals and companies are required to obtain the permission of the local authorities. There are legal restrictions on acquiring agricultural and woodland of 10 hectares or more. If you wish to do this, you will need to obtain permission from the county governor.

International individuals are not allowed to purchase land on smaller islands, or listed territories in proximity to the Russian border. In most cases, buying a flat has no restrictions.

Here are the fees the buyer will need to pay during the purchase of the property:

• A minimum of 10 percent deposit, although this may be higher for a person applying for a mortgage through an Estonian bank
• Estate agent fees of two to four percent
• Solicitor fees of 0.02 to 0.07 percent plus 20 percent VAT
• Stamp duty of 0.3 to 0.5 percent, depending on the cost of the property being purchased
• Registration fee of 0.25 percent

When buying a flat or an apartment, you will need to check if the building has an apartment association. This is a non-profit association that has been established by apartment owners. Its main purpose is to maintain the apartment building and represent the common interests of its members. There is usually a monthly charge. The money collected goes in a kitty and is used to pay for any required repairs or renovations, cleaning services and any other necessary maintenance work of the communal space. Buildings with an apartment association tend to have lower utility costs due to their buying power

Having chosen the property you wish to buy, a pre-purchase protocol will be drawn-up by the parties involved or the solicitor. This is a document that commits you and the vendor to the sale. At this time, you will also have to pay your 10 percent deposit. There is no cooling-off period when it comes to property purchase in Estonia, so you need to be 100 percent sure before you proceed. After the contract is signed and deposit paid, the solicitor prepares the transfer of the ownership of the real estate, which both parties must sign. The next step is to pay the stamp duty at a commercial bank.

If you need some help choosing a solicitor, there is giudane on the chamber of notaries website. The have a list of notaries available to assist you.

There are no property deeds in Estonia. A notarized application is made to the land register to transfer the ownership of the property to the buyer in the land register book. After this, the title is legally valid. Public notice of the transfer must be published in the Official State Gazette, though this is does not affect the ownership title, the publication process is almost automatic.

All immovable properties (plots of land, apartment ownerships, building rights and rights of superficies in apartments) must be entered in the land register. The land register ensures legal certainty of immovable property ownership to minimise the risks associated with immovable property transactions. The land register is maintained at land registry departments of county courts. You can view the data entered in the e-land register query system.

Necessary documents for closing the sale transaction are:

• ID
• If applying for a mortgage, you will need to produce your bank statements from the past six months and proof of employment.
• In the case of a cash purchase, you will need to confirm the source of the money.

It is recommended that you let the solicitor draw up the necessary agreements and paperwork as they will do the required checks. For example, they can confirm that the seller is the legal owner of the property. In general, purchase of the property is quite straightforward, and the average time for completion in Estonia is 65 days from start to finish.


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.

Save On Moving Costs

Compare quotes from leading international moving companies


Register For Healthcare


QUICK LINK: Estonia health insurance

The Estonian Haigekassa (EHIF – Estonian Health Insurance Fund) pays your medical bills as long as you have an employment contract in the country and your taxes are paid. If you are self-employed and pay your own tax, then 13 percent of this will be transferred into health insurance. If you don’t qualify for the national health service, you will need to obtain private health insurance, as every temporary residence permit holder is required to have insurance cover during their entire stay. It may also be possible to purchase health insurance from the EHIF.

Everyone in Estonia has the right to receive medical care in case of emergency, even if they are not covered by the national health service. Emergency rooms are located at hospitals. The emergency number for ambulance, police and fire rescue is 112. For non-emergency minor health issues, you can call the General Practice (GP) advisory line on 1220, which is operational 24 hours a day.

There are some groups of people who are automatically covered by the Estonian health insurance. These are:

• Pregnant women
• Children and young adults (up to the age of 19)
• Pensioners
• Students

Every Estonian resident has a right to choose their GP (Pere Arts). You can register with a doctor by calling the Health Board of Estonia (Terviseamet) on (+372) 650 984. They will be able to assist you in finding out which doctors are in your area. Once you have your chosen GP, you need to submit an application form (known as an Avaldus perearsti nimistusse registreerimiseks) to your chosen clinic. This can be done in person, by mail or e-mail. Despite the fact that you can download the forms in English and Estonian, your application must be completed and submitted in Estonian; the English version is for your reference only.

Please also be aware that you are required to submit a separate form for each family member. Your application can take up to seven days to be assessed, and you will receive a notification if you are accepted to the doctor’s directory. If your application is rejected, you will need to select another clinic and repeat the process. For information regarding which clinics and doctors are accepting patients, you can contact the Health Insurance Fund’s line on 16363. Additional information is also available on the Health Board website; an English version is available.

There are 19 main hospitals in Estonia funded by the EHIF. There are also more than 20 private and semi-private clinics and hospitals which have different levels of agreements with the state for providing services. If you choose to go private, you will have much shorter waiting times for seeing specialists and elective medical procedures. All non-emergency treatment in private medical facilities requires payment, so it’s worth checking whether your private health insurance will cover some or all of the costs.

There are no real counselling and psychotherapy organisations that operate in English in Estonia. However, if you require treatment for a mental health condition, then you can get in touch with international organisations such as Transitions Therapy International.

There are many dental clinics in Estonia to choose from; they offer a variety of services from orthodontics to dental surgery. About 90 percent of dental clinics in the country are private, but most have an agreement with the EHIF. From July 2017, adults covered by the health insurance plan could apply for a refund of up to €30 for dental procedures if care was received at one of the dental clinics that have a contract with EHIF. As a general rule, dental treatment (whether emergency or routine) is not covered by the national health insurance, with the exception being for children and young people up to the age of 19.

There are no major health issues affecting the population, and over 54 percent of the people living in Estonia would class themselves as being in very good health. As in the UK, smoking is now banned from inside all pubs, clubs and other public places, but a few establishments still have designated smoking areas inside. Tallinn airport also has several smoking rooms inside after you pass the security checks.


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.

www.swedbank.ee English version available, 24-hour support line (+372 6 310 310), internet banking
www.luminor.ee English version available, 24-hour support line (+372 628 3300), internet banking
www.tfbank.ee – no English version, mainly leasing and financing
www.bigbank.eu – 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.

Save On Money Transfers

Compare quotes from leading foreign exchange currency brokers


Learn The Language


There is a joke doing the rounds on the internet which says that the Estonian language has no sex and no future. This is in reference to the fact that the language has no genders and no future tense. All joking aside, the Estonian language (Eesti keel) belongs to the Finnic branch of the Finno-Ugric languages. It resembles Finnish quite a bit, to the point that a Finnish and an Estonian speaker could have a basic conversation and understand each other. This similarity is comparable to Spanish speakers being able to understand Portuguese and vice versa. There are two main dialects in the Estonian language: northern and southern, which are historically associated with the cities of Tallinn in the north and Tartu in the south.

As in the rest of Europe, many young Estonians speak English pretty well or at least well enough to carry on a reasonable conversation. You will be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t speak any English in the city centre of Tallinn, although there are fewer English speakers further afield. English is the first foreign language Estonian people are taught in school; additional foreign languages tend to be German and French. However, please keep in mind that it’s unlikely you will be able to converse in English with the older generation; this also applies to doctors and businessmen.

If you are thinking of immigrating to Estonia and don’t speak the language, fear not. There is a ‘Welcome to Estonia’ training program available for you. It offers the below modules for you to choose from to help you to settle in the country:

• Basic module
• Work and entrepreneurship
• Study
• Research
• Family life
• Children and young people
• International protection
• Estonian language training for beginners (Level A1)

The course will not take up much of your time. Most modules last between five and eight hours and you don’t have to attend all of them; you can pick and choose the ones that interest you.

The language training should mean you feel confident in all these areas:

• Polite expressions
• Getting acquainted, introducing oneself and one’s companions
• Numbers and the clock
• Countries, nations and languages
• Food and beverages, eating habits
• Café conversations
• Arranging a meeting
• My day and hobbies
• My family
• Asking and telling the way
• Feeling well/unwell

The entire language training should take up about 80 hours of your time. There are usually three or four classes that take place on any given study day, with each class lasting 45 minutes. Language training usually takes place two days per week and there are options to attend a morning class or an evening class.

Once you’ve completed the language module, you will be required to take a written test and an oral exam. The written test consists of simple questions about the topics covered in your training. During the oral section of the exam, you will need to introduce yourself, ask questions and provide answers to questions. Once you’ve passed, you will receive an A1 language qualification.

When issuing your residence permit or your ID card, the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board should inform you that this programme is available. If you want more details, you can contact the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board office to enquire. You can also find a lot of other useful information on their website.

The welcome programme is designed for any migrants who have legally resided in Estonia for less than five years and who fall under one of these categories:

• Migrants who have been granted temporary residence permit in Estonia on the basis of the aliens act or the act granting international protection to aliens
• Citizens of the EU who have acquired a temporary right of residence in Estonia on the basis stipulated in the citizen of the European Union act
• Family members of citizens of the EU who have been granted a temporary right of residence in Estonia on the basis stipulated in the citizen of the European Union act.

For additional information please follow this link.


Choose A School


In Estonia, the first of September is known as ‘knowledge day’. This is the start of the academic year for everyone, from kindergarten children to university students. Summer holidays last from mid-June until the 31st of August in addition to autumn, winter and spring breaks.

The Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020 views learning as a lifestyle, with continuous self-improvement. The learning process itself is based primarily on these values:

Responsibility: Students should be aware that learning and self-development are their own conscious, personal choices, meaning it is their responsibility to engage fully in these tasks.
Necessity: The learning process is guided by an individual’s personal interests and abilities and should support their development, whilst keeping in mind the requirements of the labour market.
Opportunities: A system of lifelong learning should offer high quality, contemporary and flexible learning opportunities that are tailored to individual needs.

General education in Estonia is divided into three sections: preschool, basic and upper-secondary education. Preschool education is for children between the ages of 18 months and seven years, and takes place in kindergartens. The main aim of this early educational stage is to encourage the child’s growth and development while accounting for their individuality and abilities. Facilities for the preschool education are provided by local authorities. Preschool children’s institutions must follow the state curricula, which has been specifically structured to achieve the above goals. Children who have passed the preschool curriculum will be issued a certificate that documents their development. This record will be submitted by the parents to the school where the child will be enrolled after their seventh birthday.

Basic education is the mandatory minimum general education requirement. This can be acquired either in primary schools (grades one to six), basic schools (grades one to nine), or upper secondary schools which also teach basic school curricula. After year nine, students have a choice: to either remain in school and obtain the necessary qualifications for university attendance, or leave school and enroll in college to learn a manual vocation.

General secondary education in Estonia is taught at the upper secondary school level. Upper secondary schools are designed to help students become creative and multi-talented. Students are also taught to become reliable citizens who have honed their talents and are working on implementing them in their future educational and career paths. The study program at upper secondary school is divided into mandatory and voluntary courses. Some additional courses are free, while others carry a fee that needs to be paid directly to the school. Graduation from upper secondary school requires the student to complete a curriculum comprising of 96 individual courses passed to a satisfactory level as a minimum. Students also need to pass the state exams: Estonian language or Estonian as a second language, maths and a foreign language exam. Students are allowed to sit one state exam of their choosing. In addition to passing the state exams, completing a student research paper or practical work during the study period is also mandatory.

Since the beginning of 2012/2013 academic year, higher education became free of charge in Estonia for those studying full-time and in Estonian. A new, needs-based student support was system put in place from September 2013. Students from less privileged backgrounds can apply for a study allowance when studying full-time and completing at least 75 percent of the curriculum as a minimum. Depending on a child’s circumstances, this allowance can amount to anywhere between €75 and €220 per month. Students who started their studies in 2012/2013 or earlier and who study full-time are also eligible to apply for a study allowance of €55.93 per month. PhD students who meet the necessary requirements can receive up to €383.47 per month. Students involved in teacher training can apply for a special study allowance of €1,300 per year. These students also have the possibility of a special study loan from banks. The average amount of a study loan is around €2000 per academic year. Additional information can be found on the Estonian ministry of education and research website; www.hm.ee/en English version available.



Expat Health Insurance Partners


Cigna Global

Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.


Copyright © 2019 Expat Focus. All Rights Reserved. Use of this website signifies your agreement to the Terms of Use/Privacy Policy. Comments are property of their posters.
Interactive software released under GNU GPL, Code Credits, Privacy Policy