If you’re looking to hire foreign workers in Estonia, you are not alone.
Lots of Estonian businesses are considering international talent to address their labor shortages.
According to a report commissioned by the Migration Partnership Facility (MPF), there are persistent labor shortages across various industries of the Estonian labor market.
Currently, there are four specific occupations grappling with substantial labor shortages: IT developers, healthcare professionals, welders and flame cutters; and audiologists and speech therapists.
Many local employers have voiced concerns about the lack of qualified workers which they perceive as a significant hindrance to business growth.
That’s why foreign workers play an important role in the country’s economy as they fill positions for which local workers are not available.
In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of hiring foreign workers in Estonia, including immigration procedures, requirements, and fees.
4 Steps to Hiring Foreign Workers in Estonia
The rights and obligations of non-EU nationals entering Estonia for work purposes are regulated by the Aliens Act.
According to the Aliens Act, third-country nationals must hold a residence permit to legally work in Estonia.
However, before your prospective employee initiates the residence permit application, you must obtain the consent of the competent authorities to hire them.
Let’s examine each of the steps within the hiring process.
Step 1: Monitor the Foreign Employee Quotas
Unlike other EU countries, Estonia has a more restrictive migration regime. In order to protect the local labor market, the Estonian government has set specific quotas for foreign employees.
Based on these quotas, the number of temporary residence permits cannot exceed 0.1% of the country’s population.
You can exceed this quota only under specific circumstances, such as:
- You’re hiring foreign workers for a startup
- You’re hiring ICT specialists, engineers, or researchers
- You’re hiring highly skilled professionals under a skilled worker visa for a gross monthly salary of at least € 2,528
- You’re hiring foreigners for short-term work (up to 1 year)
- You’re hiring in a growth company that:
- Has been operating for at least 10 years
- Paid at least one million EUR in labor taxes in the past year
- Has at least 50 employees in the country
- Recorded a 20% increase in cumulative labor tax payments over the last three years
Before proceeding with international hiring, make sure you check the foreign employee quotas with the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board. Make sure you also check the time slots for submitting residence permit applications.
Step 2: Obtain Permission to Hire Foreign Workers in Estonia
To get permission to employ non-EU workers, you must submit an application to the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund.
You have different options for submitting the application:
- Email the application to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Send it by regular mail
- Forward it to the regional department
- Submit it in person
The application form you must fill out is available on the website of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund.
The Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund will give you permission to hire foreign workers if these two conditions are met:
- No Estonian citizen, EU national, or legal resident of Estonia is available to fill the vacancy
- The labor market conditions indicate that employing a foreign national is warranted
In Section 181 of the Aliens Act, you can read about the circumstances under which requesting permission to hire foreigners is not mandatory.
Step 3: Submit an Employer Invitation and the Permission to Hire Foreign Workers
If required, you may need to submit an employer invitation and the permission you obtained from the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund to the Police and Border Guard Board.
The employer invitation form can be found here.
You can submit the documents by email or by regular post.
Step 4: Your Future Worker Applies for a Temporary Residence Permit
After you’ve received permission to hire foreign workers and signed an employment contract, your future employee must apply for a temporary residence permit.
They must submit the application to the competent Estonian Diplomatic Mission in their home country.
As an employer, it is your responsibility to provide the candidate with certain supporting documents.
The supporting documents include:
- Duly completed and signed application form
- Valid passport
- One photograph
- Medical insurance
- For top specialists: If the candidate will be employed in a company that’s been in Estonia for less than a year and began with state or private investment, they need to submit documents showing the investment source. If the parent company has been around for at least a year and makes at least ten million euros in annual turnover, they should provide proof of this.
- For foreigners who will be employed in a startup: If the company is not on a list of approved startups by the Minister of the Interior, the candidate must submit an opinion from an expert committee.
- Proof of paid fee (€ 145)
The processing time for a temporary residence permit is 2 months.
Upon approval of the application, your future employee will receive a residence card at the relevant Diplomatic Mission. Do note that the residence card might take some time to arrive at the Diplomatic Mission.
The residence permit card is not a travel document on its own. Your employee must carry it together with their passport when entering Estonia.
Hiring Foreign Workers in Estonia: Final Considerations
Due to strict foreign employee quotas, companies have faced difficulties in hiring foreign workers in Estonia.
To tackle this issue, some employers have proposed the idea of allowing specific foreign workers to be exempt from these restrictions.
These exemptions (some of which have been newly incorporated into the Aliens Act) have streamlined the immigration process, opening more opportunities for local employers to address their skill shortages.
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