Foreigners Working in Estonia: Opportunities to explore

By now, Estonia’s e-Residency programme is well-established and well-optimized option for foreigners to set up and manage an Estonian company entirely digitally. Although Estonian e-Residency enables the online management of a company, it does not grant the founders nor the shareholders the right to physically visit or settle in Estonia, which will become more of a necessity the more the Estonian company grows, either for hiring local talent or seeing to other day-to-day operations. In this article, we shall give an overview of some of the most common options that foreign owners of Estonian companies can use to visit or settle in Estonia.

The start-up visa enables the founders or owners of any Estonian company recognized as a start-up to relocate to Estonia, while also allowing the company to easily hire non-EU talent, as this type of visa is also granted to any employees of said start-up company. The start-up visa is a long-term visa, meaning it is granted for the duration of 1 year, with the possibility of further extensions, as long as the company is still classified as a start-up.

The start-up visa

For a company to achieve the official status of a start-up company, they must make an application to the official start-up committee, who shall decide whether the product/service developed by the company is innovative and whether their business model is scalable and has potential for growth. The valuation of the Startup Committee is valid for five years, after which the company must be evaluated again in order to maintain the status of a start-up company.

The most important prerequisite for this visa is getting one’s Estonian company officially classified as a start-up by applying for the so-called start-up status. This process entails filing an online application with the Startup Committee, who will assess the details of the company and their product/business model and decide whether it is innovative and scalable.

As part of the visa application process, various other documents must also be submitted, and a state fee must be paid as well.

The working visa

The so-called „working visa“ is a form of a long-term visa (D-visa) given to foreigners intending to work in Estonia. This visa is issued with the maximum duration of 365 days and can be extended.

In order to apply for the working visa, an applicant must submit a visa application, as well as various documentation. Most importantly, the applicant must submit documentation proving their employment in Estonia – an employment agreement/service agreement for example.

The Estonian working visa is an alternative to the start-up visa, although a successful application entails submitting more documentation than with the start-up visa. A state fee must also be paid as part of the application process.

Temporary residence permit

An Estonian residence permit gives its holder the right to work in Estonia. The residence permit is issued with the maximum duration of five years and can be extended.

An Estonian residence permit may be applied for on the basis of start-up entrepreneurship. As is the case with the start-up visa, this also requires having one’s company officially recognized as a start-up by the Startup Committee.

The application process entails submitting various documentation and paying a state fee. As a rule, most residence permit holders are first issued long-term visas prior to acquiring a residence permit.

All in all, there are various opportunities for working in Estonia, especially for those involved in the ever-growing start-up scene. Should You require any assistance with immigration related questions, we are more than happy to help.

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