Labour and entrepreneurial migration

Throughout my life, I’ve spent a lot of time in school and studied extensively. I have a diploma in power engineering. The work has been extremely interesting and exciting, kind of like rocket science. It is just that there is not much of it left … Our country is in a bad shape. What should I do – study something else? Look around? Look further? I looked further and found a fantastic job in Estonia – something that suits my speciality, my knowledge, my expectations. Jaroslaw from Ukraine         

  • A third-country national is any person who is not a citizen of the European Union (except the citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland).
  • A third-country worker is a third-country national who has been admitted to the territory of a Member State, and who is legally residing and allowed to work in the context of a paid relationship in that Member State in accordance with the national law or practice. (Directive 2011/98/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council)
  • A posted worker is any person who, for a limited period, carries out his work in the territory of an EU Member State other than the State in which he normally works. (Directive 96/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council)
  • A residence permit is an authorisation issued by the authorities of an EU Member State allowing a third-country national to stay legally in its territory. (Council Regulation No 1030/2002/EC)

Working-age population in Europe is decreasing and retirement-age population is increasing. In order to alleviate the problem of labour shortage, workers from third countries are being admitted into Member States. Third-country workers contribute to the development and economic growth in their countries of destination, while also contributing substantially with their earnings, acquired skills and knowledge in their countries of origin.

Approximately 150 million of the estimated 232 million migrants in the world are migrant workers (ILO). In 2017, the European Union issued third-country nationals (people coming from outside the EU) more than 3 million first-time temporary residence permits, almost 32% of which were issued for employment. Most migrant workers who arrived to the EU in 2017 were

Estonia is increasingly supportive of labour migration and currently simplifying the conditions of entry, residence and employment for third-country workers. Labour migration fosters the development of our economy, science, education and culture. Special opportunities for working in Estonia are being created for foreign nationals with the required knowledge and skills, meaning that migration of specialists is particularly encouraged. Workers coming from the EU or European Economic Area (incl. Switzerland) simply need to register their stay in Estonia. If the foreigner is a third-country national, however, he needs to apply for a residence permit in order to work or do business in Estonia.

Whether the foreign national has to apply for a temporary residence permit for employment or business, or simply can register for short-term employment, depends on the kind of work he/she is going to do and his/her plans for doing business.

In order to limit the number of foreign nationals settling in Estonia, the annual immigration quota has been set at 0,1% of the permanent population of Estonia. Given that the quota is relatively small, certain experts are exempt from it, including the foreign nationals arriving for science and research purposes; ICT sector employees; founders and employees of start-ups and major investors; those arriving on the basis of the European Union (EU) Blue Card, etc.

In addition, there is the option of registering for short-term employment, which allows a foreign national who is staying on the basis of a visa to work in Estonia for a restricted period of time. There is also an innovative solution in place that enables one to apply for a residence permit or visa for setting up a start-up business.

Employment has been the most frequently cited reason for immigration to Estonia since 2015 (replacing family migration as the most popular reason), making up approximately 35% of all the first-time temporary residence permits applied for in 2017. In 2017, Ukrainian and Russian citizens were the most numerous groups among incoming workers.