There are many ways for an entrepreneur interested in moving to Estonia to achieve their goal and make the move: a startup visa, exclusively for startup entrepreneurs, a D-visa for long term stays, which is most suitable for students, and a temporary residence permit, for those who see themselves living in Estonia more permanently than the other two options would allow.
Startup Visa in Estonia
The Estonian Startup Visa, initiated by the state and local startup community, is a program which helps non-EU founders to develop their startup in Estonia and also assists Estonian startups to hire skilled professionals from non-EU countries.
The program was launched at the beginning of 2017 and within the first year, 140 applications were approved (170 declined), making the average acceptance rate 45%. Most applicants come from India, Russia, Ukraine, Pakistan and Turkey.
To apply, a non-EU based startup with a tech-based business solution must first fill an application describing their business, team, goals and experience. The application will be evaluated by the Startup Committee, consisting of the members of the Estonian startup community. Businesses with great global growth potential are preferred, more than e-commerce businesses.
After receiving a positive evaluation, each person on the team should apply for a visa or a temporary residence permit at an Estonian embassy or the Police and Border Guard Board when already in Estonia. The startup visa gives the bearer the opportunity to settle in Estonia for up to 18 months to establish the startup. After the successful launch of the company, a temporary residence permit for entrepreneurship for up to five years can be applied for.
The startup visa can allow you to work for local companies both full-time and part-time, as it comes with a work-permit. Additionally, should one have any dependent family members (husband, wife, minor children), the visa will be granted for them.
In short, the application process is as follows:
- Fill in the application at https://startupincluder.com
- Wait for the committee’s decision: this takes 10 days
- If the application is successful (and 45% of the time it is), visit the nearest Estonian embassy
More information on startup visas can be found on the official program webpage: https://www.startupestonia.ee/
The long-stay or D-visa is mostly applied for the purposes of work, study or family. It can be issued for single or multiple entries into Estonia and the period the visa is issued for is usually 365 days (twelve months).
One should apply for the long-stay visa in person at an Estonian embassy or at the Police and Border Guard service points within Estonia.
Required documents for applying for the visa are:
- a valid travel document issued within the previous 10 years, containing at least two blank pages for visas and valid for at least 3 months after the expiration date of the visa;
- a fully completed and signed application form (PDF);
- a photo of the applicant (size 35×45 mm);
- an insurance policy valid for Estonia or for the Schengen area with coverage of at least 30 000 EUR for the entire duration of stay;
- documents indicating the purpose of the journey (e.g. a confirmation letter from the host; a diplomatic note or confirmation letter from the international organization; notice to appear; documents proving the intention to use tourism or entertainment products; a document proving the right to enter the next country of transit; international cargo service documents; documents proving that applicant is going to work or study in Estonia; air or other tickets; documents proving family ties or marital status.
- any information which supports an applicant’s intention to leave the Schengen area before the expiry of the visa;
- documents proving the sufficient means of subsistence for the duration of the intended stay and for the return to the country of origin or residence (100 EUR for each day in Estonia);
- Payment of the visa fee (80 EUR)
Long-stay visa for short-term employment
Before applying, short-term employment must be registered at the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board. An application for registration of short-term employment may be submitted in the following cases:
- persons engaged in creative activities who work in a performing arts institution;
- working as a teacher or lecturer in an educational institution, which complies with requirements established by Estonian law;
- working as a scientist if the applicant has appropriate professional training or experience;
- working as a sportsman, coach, referee or sports official for professional activities on the basis of an invitation from a respective sports federation;
- employment as a trainee in order to obtain vocational education intermediated by an educational institution or a student organization located abroad if this is a part of the relevant training programme;
- in order to serve in the diplomatic representation of a foreign country with the permission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
- working as an au pair;
- working as an expert, adviser or consultant, providing the applicant has the required professional training;
- working as an installer of equipment or a skilled worker, providing the applicant has the required professional training
- working as a seasonal worker processing agricultural products;
- on the basis of an international agreement.
A long-stay (D) visa enables travel in the Schengen area for up to 90 days within a period of 180 days, under the same conditions as the holder of a residence permit.
Temporary residence permit
If you are not a citizen of the European Union, you may apply for a temporary residence permit in Estonia for the following reasons:
- settling with a spouse
- settling with a close relative (e.g. settling of a minor child with his/her parent, settling of an adult child with his/her parent, settling of a ward with his/her guardian, settling of a parent/grandparent with his/her child/grandchild)
- settling permanently in Estonia
- to participate in Criminal Proceedings
- extension of a residence permit in existence of legal income
A person applying for a residence permit is subject to the Estonian immigration quota for foreigners, which shall not exceed 0.1% of the Estonian permanent population in one year. A foreigner shall not be subject to the immigration quota, if he or she is:
- a citizen of the United States of America or Japan;
- applying for a residence permit for the purpose of carrying out research or study.
It must be noted that if your reason to apply is business and/or employment related, your company should be at least 5 months old and conducting actual business activities. Additionally, the monthly salary should be the average of that in Estonia, which is currently (in January 2019) 1321 EUR.