In the field of migration and citizenship, the Ministry of the Interior develops and implements policies in connection with temporary stay and settlement in Estonia, citizenship policy, adaptation policy and asylum policy.
The objectives of the Ministry of the Interior in the field of migration and citizenship are:
- the facilitation of the migration of people who contribute to the development of the Estonian state and society, and development of legal and administration solutions to support such migration;
- the formation of the support system to facilitate adaptation of new immigrants in cooperation with private, third and public sectors and to create support services that would allow immigrants to merge better into Estonian society as well as create preconditions for their further independent working and living;
- the creation of conditions for the reception of persons under international protection and providing adaptation services on the basis of their cultural, gender, religious, linguistic and other peculiarities;
a balanced citizenship policy that is based on the constitution and generally recognised principles of international law and ensures preservation of the national state, public order and national security.
Estonian citizenship is a legal relationship that brings rights and responsibilities to both citizens and the state.
Acquisition of Estonian citizenship by birth, acquisition of Estonian citizenship by naturalisation, resumption and loss of citizenship:
- Estonian citizenship is acquired at birth by a child, where at the moment of his/her birth at least one of the child’s parents is an Estonian citizen.
- Estonian citizenship can be acquired by naturalisation and can be restored to persons who have lost their Estonian citizenship while being minor.
- Estonian citizenship is lost, where he/she is released from or deprived of Estonian citizenship, or where he/she adopts citizenship of another state.
Rights and obligations of Estonian citizens
Citizenship is a legal relationship between the person and the state, which brings rights and responsibilities to both sides. Every Estonian citizen also has citizenship of the European Union.
Terms and conditions of the acquisition by birth and by naturalisation, resumption and loss of Estonian citizenship are provided for in the Citizenship Act.
Rights of an Estonian citizen:
vote in Riigikogu (parliamentary) elections and referendums (if a person is 18 years old and is not declared a person without active legal capacity by the court of law);
belong to political parties;
become a candidate in Riigikogu elections, if a person is at least 21 years old;
become a candidate in presidential elections, if a person is at least 40 years old and has acquired citizenship by birth.
No Estonian citizen can be expelled from Estonia or prevented from settling in Estonia. When staying abroad, Estonian citizens have the right to diplomatic protection of the Estonian state.
In addition, Estonian citizens have all the rights of the citizens of the European Union, including visa-free travel within the European Union and to many other countries, the right to work anywhere in the European Union without a work permit, more favourable learning opportunities in the European Union, and so on.
Obligations of an Estonian citizen:
be loyal to the constitutional order and defend the independence of Estonia (duty of loyalty);
male citizens of Estonia are liable to service in the Defence Forces from the age of 16 to 60 (duty of national defence);
respect the constitutional order of Estonia (citizens of foreign states during their stay in Estonia and stateless persons are also obliged to respect the constitutional order of Estonia).
The Police and Border Guard Board deals with the determination of citizenship and issuing of respective documents.
In order to guarantee the statehood of Estonia and to secure cohesion of the population, it is important to continue measures that promote the activeness of persons with undetermined citizenship with regard to deliberate and weighted application for citizenship. A number of measures aimed at raising the interest of persons with undetermined citizenship towards applying for Estonian citizenship have been implemented, including campaigns on raising awareness of the terms and conditions of the acquisition of Estonian citizenship and its necessity. Also, since 2016, Estonian citizenship is granted by naturalisation as of birth to a child who was born in Estonia, if his or her parents are not recognized by any state as its citizen and who have resided in Estonia for at least five years by the time of the child´s birth.
- As of January 2018, 77,268 persons with undetermined citizenship were resident in Estonia (compared to 79,438 persons in 2017).
- In 2017, 873 persons acquired Estonian citizenship by naturalisation. 590 of them were persons with undetermined citizenship.
As a member state of the European Union, Estonia shares European values, respect for human rights and applies common European Union immigration policy.
- Aliens Act »
The entry of aliens into Estonia, their stay in the country, their residence and employment
- Citizen of the European Union Act »
The rights of citizens of the European Union and their family members in connection with residence and employment in Estonia
- Police and Border Guard Board »
Administration of residence permits and issue of documents
The entry of aliens into Estonia, their temporary stay in the country as well as their residence and employment are regulated by the Aliens Act. Estonian immigration policy has historically aimed at facilitating settlement of those aliens in Estonia, whose residence here is consistent with the public interest and preventing the entry of aliens into Estonia who may be a threat to public order or national security. The rights of European Union citizens and their family members with regard to residence and employment in Estonia are set out in the Citizen of the European Union Act.
The Police and Boarder Guard Board deals with the administration of residence permits and issue of documents.
More information on residence permits and right of residence is available on the website of the Police and Border Guard Board.
- As of January 2018, 188,678 persons possessed valid residence permits (163,183 of them with long-term permits and 25,495 with fixed-term permits).
- In 2017, the Police and Border Guard Board issued to citizens of third countries 1,370 temporary residence permits for family relocation, 2,272 residence permits for work and 1,412 residence permits for study in Estonia.
- In 2017, the Police and Border Guard Board registered 7,584 short-term employment.
Foreigners working in Estonia
The rights, which people from outside Estonia have for working here, depend on several factors – whether the person is a citizen of the European Union or a third country, what job and for how long the person intends to do, and who pays his or her salary. A European Union citizen does not have to apply for a separate permit for working. A forigner (a third country national) must obtain a residence permit for empolyment or his/her short-term employment must be registered in order to work in Estonia.
Short-term employment in Estonia (up to 365 within a period of 455 days or, in the case of seasonal work, 270 days within a period of 365 days) does not require a residence permit. The migration quota does not apply to short-term employment without a residence permit and there is no need to apply for a permit from the Unemployment Insurance Fund to employ a foreigner. Employers are, however, obligated to pay employees at least the Estonian average gross salary. The salary criterion does not include people in the exempt category, such as the employees of start-ups, teachers and researchers, seasonal workers, etc. In order to engage in short-term employment, a foreigner must have a legal basis (a visa or other such) for staying in Estonia.
For long-term employment in Estonia (more than 12 months), a foreigner must apply for a residence permit for employment. Before a residence permit being applied for, the employer must obtain a permit from the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund to employ a foreigner, and the salary criterion applies. The salary criterion and the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s permit requirement does not apply to various people in the exempt category, such as the employees of start-ups and foreigners who have obtained higher education in Estonia, etc.
The number of foreigners who can come to work in Estonia on the basis of a residence permit is limited – their number must not exceed 0.1 percent of Estonia’s permanent population a year. The quota does not include people in the exempt category, such as top specialists, the employees of start-ups and ICT areas, etc.
NB! On the basis of the decree of the Minister of the Interior (269.09 KB, PDF) foreign employees working in the agricultural sector who comply with the following terms and conditions are allowed to stay in Estonia until 31 August this year:
- foreign nationals currently staying in Estonia on a legal basis and arrived in Estonia before 17.03.2020.
- foreign nationals who have used the maximum allowed short-term working period (depending on the type of work - 365 or 270 days) or the permit expires before 31.07.2020.
- the short-term employment of the foreign national is registered in the Police and Border Guard Board.
- The employer’s main activity is in the agricultural sector (plant production, livestock farming, hunting and areas of activity serving them).
The ability to obtain international protection is one of the fundamental human rights. Estonia has undertaken an international obligation to protect those aliens who are not able to live safely in their home countries. Estonia also participates in the development and implementation of the European Union’s common immigration and asylum policy.
In Estonia international protection policy is developed by the Ministry of the Interior, while asylum applications are processed by the Police and Border Guard Board. The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for the reception of asylum seekers and settling of beneficiaries of international protection in local municipalities.
The grounds for granting international protection to aliens, legal status of aliens and grounds for their stay in Estonia are regulated by the Act on Granting International Protection to Aliens, based on international agreements and European Union legislation.
- In 2017, 108 international protection applications were submitted in Estonia (compared to 84 in 2016 and 228 in 2015).
- Since 1997, 1011 aliens have asked for international protection in Estonia and 446 of them received it (as of 31 December 2017).
Visa Information System