Estonia has a reputation for being one of the easiest countries to move to. The relocation process is relatively fast and straightforward, and most things can be made digitally.
1. Get your diploma recognized
If you come from outside the EU and want to apply for an EU Blue Card (a residence permit for high-skilled specialists), you have to get your foreign diplomas recognized by the Estonian ENIC/NARIC Center. This takes around 30 days.
To apply for assessment, you will need the following documents:
- Completed application form
- Original diploma/certificate or a certified copy (made by a notary, an educational institution, or another competent authority)
- Original transcript and/or other additional documents or their certified copies
- Documents with supplements attesting to previous education, beginning with the first post-secondary qualification
- Authorized translation if the documents are not in one of these languages: Estonian, English, Finnish, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian
You can send scanned documents by e-mail to email@example.com. The assessment of educational qualifications is free of charge.
2. Wait for your employer to register your employment
There’s no special work permit in Estonia. However, after passing job interviews and receiving your job offer, you need to wait for your employer to register your employment to start working in Estonia.
If you’re a citizen of an EU country or a citizen of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland, you can enter Estonia without a visa and start working in this country without any special permit. However, if you want to work in Estonia for more than 3 months, your employer must register your employment at the Tax and Customs Board employment registry. For that, you need to register as an Estonian resident during the first 3 months of your stay and obtain an Estonian ID code (“isikukood”). See Sections 10 and 11 for more details.
If you are a citizen of another country and would like to work in Estonia for up to 6 months in a year, you should apply for a D-visa. Before applying for a D-visa, your employer should register your short-term employment with the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board. With a D-visa, you can start working in Estonia. But to work longer than 6 months, you need to apply for a residence permit. The overall process takes around 2–3 weeks and involves minimal paperwork.
Short-term employment can be registered for up to 365 days or longer — if you’re a top specialist who is going to work at a start-up company. If you’re to be registered as a top specialist at a start-up company, you must have a salary offer of no less than €2,814 per month. In this case, the process of registration is faster and takes up to 24 hours instead of 10 days.
For registration of your employment, you will need to provide your employer with your digital color photo (650 × 800 px) and a copy of your passport page with your personal data.
3. Apply for a visa
EEA (European Economic Area) and Swiss nationals can move freely without a visa in the EU and within Estonia in particular. In addition, visa-free entry is granted to citizens of these countries and territories (for stays of no more than 90 days in any 180-day period):
- Europe: Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, San Marino, Serbia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Vatican
- Asia-Pacific: Australia, Brunei, East Timor, Japan, Kiribati, Macao, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Zealand, Palau, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu
- North America: Canada, Mexico, United States
- Central America: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama
- South America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela
- Caribbean: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago
- Western Asia: Georgia, Israel, United Arab Emirates
- Africa: Mauritius, Seychelles
If you want to stay in Estonia longer than 3 months or if your country is not on the list of visa-free countries, you might need to obtain an Estonian D-visa. It will allow you to stay and work in Estonia for up to one year.
If you want to start working in Estonia as quickly as possible, apply to a D-visa first. In other cases, you can apply directly for a residence permit if you have a job offer in Estonia.
You need to apply for a D-visa in an Estonian consulate or embassy with the following documents:
- Passport with at least 2 blank pages and valid at least 3 months past the expiration date of the visa
- Application form
- Photo (35 × 45 mm)
- Insurance policy
- Short-term employment confirmation
- Visa fee of €80
It takes from 1 week to 30 days to obtain a D-visa.
4. Find temporary accommodation
Before traveling to Estonia, it’s recommended to find temporary accommodation. Your employer might provide you with a temporary apartment for several weeks. Specify conditions in advance to learn what applies specifically to you. If your employer doesn’t provide you with temporary accommodation, you can find it on Airbnb or similar websites before you arrive in Estonia.
5. Come to Estonia
International shipping companies can help you bring your belongings to Estonia. Shipping times and costs vary depending on your country of origin.
If you’re moving to Estonia from an EU country, there are no tax restrictions.
However, if you’re relocating from a non-EU country (including Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), you need to declare your personal items and a car if you want to bring them to Estonia. You can import your household items, clothes, and other personal belongings by applying for tax exemption in the Estonian Tax and Customs Board. In this case, you won’t pay any taxes.
You can only apply for a tax exemption when you have owned your belongings for at least 6 months. The goods must clear customs once they arrive in Estonia and you’re not allowed to sell them within 12 months. This exemption can only be done within the first 12 months after moving to the EU.
6. Buy a SIM card
Since Estonia is a digital country, you will need your phone to make bank transfers, sign documents, pay for parking and public transport, and more. And for this, you might want to purchase a local SIM card.
Until you get your temporary residence permit, your only option is a prepaid SIM, for example, Smart by Tele2, or Super or Simpel from Telia.
Once you’re officially a temporary resident, you can get a contract from one of these 3 major mobile providers: Elisa, Tele2, or Telia. All of them offer equally good services.
Prices range between €5 and €49 per month, depending on the size of the package. Most of them include free calling time, messages, and at least a few hundred megabytes of data.
You can buy a SIM card directly from the provider as well as in R-kiosks (a chain of convenience stores), supermarkets, gas stations, or post offices.
7. Apply for a residence permit
EU, EEA, and Swiss nationals can reside in Estonia for up to 3 months without registration. After 3 months, you must register your permanent Estonian address (not a hotel or Airbnb) in the population register and apply for the Estonian ID card. See Section 11 for more details.
Non-EU citizens must apply for a temporary residence permit to live in Estonia for more than 1 year. This will allow them to live and work in Estonia as well as travel within the Schengen area without a visa.
You can apply for a temporary residence permit before moving to Estonia at an Estonian consulate or embassy in your home country. If your short-term employment has already been registered and you’re in Estonia, you can make an appointment and submit your documentation at the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board office.
It takes 1–2 months to obtain a residence permit. You will need the following documents:
- Application form
- Data Concerning Close Relatives and Family Members
- Identification document
- Photo (40 × 50 mm)
- Document proving you paid the state fee (€64 in Estonia or €95 abroad)
- Permission of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund for employment (not required if you’re going to work at a start-up company)
- Opinion of the expert committee (may be required if you’re going to work at a start-up company)
- Invitation form completed by the employer and submitted to the Police and Border Guard Board by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by post (Pärnu mnt 139, 15060 Tallinn)
A temporary residence permit is valid for up to 2 years and can be extended for up to 5 years at a time.
This permit is linked to your employment in Estonia. You lose this permit if your employment contract is terminated. If you find a new employer in Estonia, you have to get a new residence permit.
If your residence permit expires, you can still stay in Estonia legally for the next 90 days. You can also stay in Estonia legally while you’re applying for a new residence permit.
Your spouse can obtain a temporary residence permit based on your permit. It will be valid as long as your residence permit is valid. Your spouse doesn’t have to obtain a new residence permit when you change employers in Estonia.
An alternative to the Estonian residence permit is the EU Blue Card. Here are the main requirements:
- Relevant higher education or at least 5 years of relevant work experience
- Employment contract valid for at least one year
- Salary offer that equals 1.24 of the Estonian annual average gross monthly salary (€1,745 per month for ICT workers as of the financial year 2020/21)
If you’re abroad, apply for an EU Blue Card at the Estonian embassy or consulate in your home country. If you’re in Estonia, apply at the Police and Border Guard Board.
An EU Blue Card is issued with a validity period 3 months longer than the employment period, for a maximum of 2 years and 3 months. It can be extended for up to 4 years and 3 months at a time. While your EU Blue Card is valid, you can be unemployed only once for up to 3 months.
The main advantage of the EU Blue Card is that its holder can sum up the number of years spent in a particular country on the Blue Card and then obtain a permanent residence permit in the state where the specialist has lived most of the time. For example, if you worked in Estonia for 1.5 years and then found a job in Germany and lived there for 3.5 years, you can get permanent residence in Germany despite the fact that the original Blue Card was issued in Estonia. The main condition for any European permanent residence permit is to spend 5 years in the EU.
After having lived in Estonia for 5 years on a temporary residence permit or an EU Blue Card, you can apply for a long-term residence permit. This permit isn’t linked to a specific employer, so you can change jobs more easily.
If you’re a driver, you have to register your car with the Estonian Road Administration within 30 days after becoming a resident in Estonia. Your driver’s license must be exchanged for an Estonian one after one or two years, depending on your country of origin.
8. Obtain an Estonian ID code
Together with your residence permit, you will get your Estonian ID code (“isikukood”). This unique 11-digit code will give you access to state health care and to e-government services.
However, you’ll become eligible for the national health insurance only when your place of residence is registered in Estonia. See Section 10 for more details.
9. Find a permanent place to live
While obtaining all the essential documents, you can simultaneously look for a long-term rental apartment or house in Estonia.
If you have a tight budget or a pet, or you’re searching for a place with no broker’s fee, then it might take some time to find an apartment. Otherwise, you can choose from plenty of offers on the market.
Here are popular Estonian property websites:
Properties are listed by the total number of rooms (minus the bathroom and kitchen), so a one-bedroom apartment with a living room is usually called a two-room.
When you find an apartment you like, contact the broker listed on the website. Most brokers speak English and sometimes also Russian. You can then make an appointment to view the property. There’s also a list of Estonian real estate agencies.
Remember that you’ll have to register your place of residence later. So ask your future landlord in advance whether the registration is possible at their place.
Leases are usually signed for at least one year or an unspecified term. In the case of a lease contract signed for an unspecified term, the landlord has the right to change the rent every 6 months, but they must give you at least 30 days’ written notice.
Note that in summer, due to student demand, housing prices rise significantly, so it’s better to sign a contract for at least 6 months or a year so that you don’t have to move out in summer.
If you rent an apartment through a broker, you will have to pay triple rent at once: a rental deposit, rent for the first month, and a broker’s fee. Even if you rent without a broker, there still can be a fee “for the contract”, which is also a kind of broker’s fee.
For example, if you’re renting an apartment for €500 a month, expect to pay at least €1,500 upfront:
- First month’s rent: €500
- Security deposit: €500 (it can be up to 3 months’ rent; you’ll get it back when moving out)
- Broker’s fee: €500
Some property websites let you filter rental properties by “directly from the owner” (“otse omanikult”). In this case, there’s no broker fee. However, as a general rule, these properties are snatched up so quickly that they don’t reach the general public. There are also Facebook groups that list properties offered directly by owners.
Since not all apartments come furnished, you might also have to buy furniture and home appliances. You can find cheaper things in Jysk stores, while more expensive stuff is offered in Zara Home or H&M Home stores.
Utilities can be included in the rental price, but in most cases, you will pay them separately. In a two-room (one-bedroom) apartment, the utilities amount to €80 in summer and €180 in winter. Always ask to see past utility bills for both the summer and winter months.
Additionally, an Internet + TV package would cost you around €30 on average. Three main Internet and TV providers in Estonia are Elisa, STV, and Telia. Without a residence card, you’ll have to make a security deposit that you’ll get back once you have your card. If your apartment has a connection with the provider, activation usually takes 3–4 hours. However, if a connection is not set up in your home, it might take up to a week to get it done.
10. Register your permanent address
EU citizens must register their place of residence within 3 months after arrival in Estonia, while non-EU citizens must do it within 30 days after receiving their residence permit. You can register in person at a local government service office or online on the citizen portal eesti.ee (if you already have an Estonian ID card).
The registration of your place of residence will allow you to get access to social services, such as a family doctor, health insurance, free public transportation, and social benefits.
To register, you will need the following documents:
- Note of residence
- Your ID or a photocopy of the ID if the documents are sent by mail
- Your tenancy agreement or permission of the owner of the dwelling (if the property you register belongs to many owners, you must have everyone’s consent)
If you moved to Estonia with your family, you can submit a joint address registration form.
If you move from your registered address, you have to register again.
11. Obtain an Estonian ID сard
If you’re a citizen of the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, you need to apply for an ID card. For this, you must submit the following documents to a Police and Border Guard Board office in person (or online) within a month after registering your place of residence:
- Completed application form
- Passport or another ID
- One color photo (40 × 50 mm)
- Document certifying the payment of the state fee (€20–25 for adults or €7–10 for children)
An ID card is valid for up to 5 years.
If you are from a non-EU country, your temporary residence permit will be your ID card.
As soon as you get residency and register your place of residence, you can buy a Public Transport Card and connect it to your ID card and use free public transport including buses, trams, and regional trains.
All new residents are included in the Welcoming program that covers studying, family life, language, and more. The Police and Border Guard Board will tell you all about it once you get your residence permit or ID card.
12. Open a bank account in Estonia
Many Estonians hardly ever use cash anymore since much of the banking is done online. The most common method of payment is debit cards like Maestro (MasterCard Debit) or Visa Electron, or credit cards like Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.
The largest banks in Estonia are:
- Bigbank (bigbank.ee)
- Danske Bank (danskebank.ee)
- LHV (lhv.ee)
- Luminor (luminor.ee)
- SEB (seb.ee)
- Swedbank (swedbank.ee)
All of them have convenient online banking options and applications. However, cash operations might not be available. For example, LHV doesn’t handle cash at all.
Non-EU nationals who don’t have a residence permit yet usually must pay a fee to open a debit account.
Most banks don’t open credit accounts for people whose residence permit is valid for less than 5 years. It can be hard to get a credit card if you’re a new resident. Banks usually associate your creditworthiness with your salary and length of employment. This means that you can apply for your first credit card about 6 months to a year after having started employment.
Alternatively, you can open a TransferWise Borderless bank account and get a debit card before you have your temporary residence permit.
To open a bank account, most commercial banks in Estonia require you to come to one of their branches in person. You will need to have your ID and contract of employment with you.
Once you have your account opened, you have instant access to your account over the Internet, and you can start banking online if you have your residence permit or ID card.
13. Change your tax residency status
You’re considered an Estonian tax resident retrospectively from the day of arrival if your place of residence is in Estonia or if you’ve stayed in this country for at least 183 days over 12 consecutive calendar months.
Being an Estonian tax resident means you have to declare and pay tax on income from all sources from all over the world (e.g. capital gains on selling shares, dividends, etc.). As to the income tax, you only have to file it if you have tax benefits or exemptions (gifts, donations, housing loan interests, training expenses, pension contributions, deductions for children, or unemployment insurance contributions) to claim, or any income other than your regular job (such as rental income, foreign employment income, or profit from selling stocks).
Although you might have changed your residency by the time you’re on this step, your tax residency doesn’t change automatically. It’s your responsibility to inform the Tax and Customs Board by submitting Form R via email (email@example.com — if you have an Estonian ID card for digital signing) or in person.
14. Apply for healthcare and social services
If you’ve registered your place of residence in Estonia, you’re entitled to healthcare and social services.
Estonian residents have the right to choose a family doctor or general practitioner (GP) in their area. In case of your illness, this specialist would diagnose and treat conditions, refer you to other specialists, start and end your sick leave, and prescribe medications.
To register at a GP’s office, submit an application form for each family member to the specific clinic in your residence area and receive a confirmation within 7 working days.
There are several ways to find a GP:
- Contact the Ülemiste Health Center. They’re located in Tallinn and have English- and Russian-speaking personnel.
- Contact the Estonian Health Board (Terviseamet): +372 794 3500, +372 650 9843; firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Check the Estonian Health Board’s registry (in Estonian).
You can also apply for social benefits at eesti.ee as well as enroll your children in a school (for example, you can choose from schools where the language of instruction is English).