Hiring outside EU
An expert from a non-EU/EEA country has two options for obtaining the right to work in Estonia: registering for short-term employment or obtaining a residence permit for employment.
The Police and Border Guard Board will look into the foreign talent’s background and qualifications, as well as into your background as an employer. All this will influence the processing time for visa and/or residence applications.
If your new employee hasn’t yet arrived in Estonia there are two main hiring schemes to consider:
1) The employee applies for a temporary residence permit for employment in their home country and relocates after receiving the permit. This process can take up to 2 months.
2) You register the foreign expert’s short-term employment at the Police and Border Guard Board office in Estonia, so your employee can relocate to Estonia on a D-visa and start work right away. The process of employment registration, visa application and actual relocation takes less than a month.
When hiring a foreign employee, you must usually pay a monthly gross salary that is at least equal to the latest annual average in Estonia, as published by Statistics Estonia (around 1291 euros in the 3rd quarter of 2018).
If a residence permit is issued without compliance with salary requirements, the salary must be sufficient for an employee’s subsistence in Estonia.
For more information consult with the Police and Border Guard Board.
Hiring an employee for a short term (up to one year)
As you are aware, the Estonian government encourages employers to attract qualified individuals from non-EU countries and is thus offering the short-term employment option.
The benefit of the short-term employment plan is that the foreign talent can start work quickly and doesn’t need to wait for a residence permit before starting employment. (If the foreign expert doesn’t need a visa to enter Estonia, he also doesn’t need the D-Visa to start employment.)
What to consider?
You can hire a foreign employee for short-term employment (up to one year) upon prior registration of the short-term employment with the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board (and if the foreign expert is eligible for the D-visa). Often, proof of the foreign talent’s qualifications is required (e.g. a degree diploma related to your work, previous work experience, a certificate proving professional training for work, etc.).
If you sign a contract for longer than 6 months, you can also submit the application to obtain a temporary residence permit for employment in the Police and Border Guard Board office when the foreign expert is already residing and working in Estonia.
However: the period of employment indicated in the short-term employment registration application should still be up to 6 months even though the actual contract might be longer. Also, as the process of obtaining the residence permit takes longer, start the application process at least 3 months before the short-term employment ends.
Take note #1: in case the residence permit for employment will be issued before the end date of the short-term registration, the registration of the short-term employment will be terminated.
Take note #2: it is your responsibility to register your employee’s short-term employment with the Police and Border Guard Board.
Registering short-term employment
There are many options for registering a short-term employment of a foreigner. You may apply for registration in person, via an authorised representative at a Police and Border Guard Board’s service office, by post or by email.
In most cases, registration of short-term employment takes up to 10 working days after submitting the application.
The expedited procedure – which may be used for teachers, lecturers, scientific researchers and top specialists – allows the employee to start working in Estonia at the latest of the next business day following the date of submission of the application. (Of course, the foreign expert still needs to meet the legal base requirements for entering Estonia.)
Reasons for refusal to register short-term employment in Estonia
Upon hiring, you should know the reasons which may cause the refusal for registration:
- At least one of the required conditions for the employer is not fulfilled;
- The required minimum salary criterion is not fulfilled;
- The foreign employee is not allowed to enter in Estonia;
- In case one of the parties of the application has violated the Aliens Act and the violence has not expired;
- The employer has tax arrears and they have not been postponed;
- The bankruptcy or liquidation proceeding of the employer has been commenced or the employer has been declared bankrupt;
- The prohibition on business activity has been imposed for the member of the management board, a partner of a general partnership or a general partner of the employer;
- There is doubt that the purpose of the foreign expert’s employment in Estonia does not correspond to its actual purpose;
- There is a reason to doubt the trustworthiness of the foreign employee and/or the employer.
See also: step-by-step guidelines for the employee
Hiring an employee on a long-term basis (more than one year)
All long-term relationships are valuable. If you are interested in employing a foreign expert for a period longer than 6 months, they should apply for a temporary residence permit for employment.
Options for residence permits
There are two forms of residence permits in Estonia: temporary and long-term.
At first, the foreign talent can apply for a temporary residence permit for employment. This permit may be issued for up to 2 years and it can be extended for up to 5 years at a time. After the employee has resided in Estonia permanently for 5 years (= using several temporary residence permits), they are eligible to apply for a permanent (long-term) residence permit.
A residence permit card will be issued to the foreigner within 30 days after receiving the residence permit. This is the official document certifying the basis of residence in Estonia for an employee coming from non-EU/EEA countries.
Take note #1: the residence permit will be given for a person to work in a specific position, for a specific employer determined in the residence permit. In case the employer changes during the period of residence permit, your employee has to apply for a new residence permit.
Take note #2: a foreign employee must submit the application for a temporary residence permit for employment IN PERSON to a representative of the Republic of Estonia. In some cases, the application may be personally submitted to an office of the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board (e.g. when the short-term employment is registered).
There are various conditions that must be met before an employee can receive a temporary residence permit for employment. Sometimes, you as an employer must have the consent of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, and you must fulfil the salary criterion and other professional requirements. (The permit issued by the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund is granted for fulfilling one or several positions and is therefore not personalised.)
Applying for a temporary residence permit for employment for a foreign employee in Estonia:
- With the consent of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund and by fulfilling the salary criterion
- Without the consent of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund and not fulfilling the salary criterion
- On the basis of the European Union (EU) blue card
- For scientific research
- For employment as a top specialist
- For employment as a temporary agency worker
- Working at a start-up
- Working as an employee transferred within an undertaking
Granting - or refusal of – residence permits
The Police and Border Guard Board will grant, or refuse to issue, a temporary residence permit within 2 months of the acceptance of the application.
If a residence permit is granted, a residence card will be issued within 30 days.
A temporary residence permit for employment is valid for up to 2 years and can be extended for up to 5 years at a time.
An EU blue card will be valid for a period of three months longer than the employment period granted by an employer. Its validity period cannot exceed 2 years and 3 months, and it can be extended up to 4 years and 3 months at a time.
During the validity period of the EU blue card a foreign employee can be unemployed once with the duration of up to 3 months.
See also: step-by-step guidelines for the employee
Conditions for employment by several employers
A foreign employee who has been granted a residence permit for employment can be employed by several Estonian employers at the same time if employment is continued strictly on the conditions determined in the residence permit. This means that the conditions determined in the residence permit have to be fulfilled by the employer determined in the residence permit.
If you, as an employer, would like to hire a foreigner already employed in Estonia for a position that the salary requirements are issued, you have to ensure the required salary for the foreign expert.
If your employee holds a residence permit for employment, and the initial employer determined in the permit is obliged to pay them the remuneration based on the salary criterion, then you (or any other employers) have no obligation to pay the remuneration based on the salary criterion. The obligation to pay remuneration within the salary criterion lies only with one employer (usually the first one).
Take note #1: before starting to work with a new employer, the new employer has to register the employment in the employment register with the Tax and Customs Board. The foreign employee also has to notify the Police and Border Guard Board in writing as well.
Take note #2: when the (first) employment – on which an employee’s residence permit is based – is terminated, and the foreign employee wishes to work for another employer, they have to apply for a new residence permit.
Refusal to issue a temporary residence permit for employment
The issue of a temporary residence permit for employment may be refused upon following situations:
- The salary of the foreign employee does not cover their substance in Estonia;
- The employer has tax arrears;
- The employer has a criminal record for offence stated in the Aliens Act;
- The employer has failed to perform the notification obligation required by law;
- There is a ground to doubt the trustworthiness of the employer.
Registration of the fact of staying away from Estonia
Non-EU/EEA citizens holding a residence permit and wishing to stay outside Estonia for more than 183 days per year, should register their stay away from Estonia with the Police and Border Guard Board, either in person or via post before they leave.
The staying away period can be registered only in advance and for a period of up to 2 years at a time.
The staying away from Estonia shall be registered, if the purpose is:
– serving in foreign armed forces,
– other temporary reasons.
To register the period of staying away, the foreign employee needs to submit:
– an application form,
– copy of their valid ID,
– the document confirming the reason and circumstances of staying away from Estonia.
Obligations regarding the employment of a non-EU/EEA citizen
It is the employer’s obligation to verify that the foreign expert has a legal right to enter and work in Estonia.
The law prohibits an employer from entering into an employment contract with a non-EU/EEA national who lacks a legal basis for employment in Estonia. As an employer, you are required to keep the data and documents that prove the legal basis for a foreigner’s employment for up to 10 years after termination of the employment.
If you violate the conditions of employment with a non-EU/EEA national, you may be fined up to 3,200 euros. This happens when:
- you enable a foreigner’s violation of employment conditions in Estonia, including employing an individual who is not in compliance with the legal conditions determining their right to work in Estonia;
- an employee is paid less than the wage rate specified;
- you employ a foreigner who does not have the legal right to work in Estonia.
You must notify the Police and Border Guard Board, in writing within one calendar week, of the following:
- the commencement of work by a foreign employee;
- the failure of a foreign employee to appear for work;
- amendments to the conditions determined in the application of the temporary residence permit for employment;
- the termination, ahead of time, of a contract that forms the basis of a foreign worker’s employment, along with the actual termination date of employment of a foreign employee.
The notice must be sent to the Police and Border Guard Board either by email (email@example.com), or by regular post (Pärnu mnt 139, Tallinn, 15060).