Interior minister abandons plan to split immigration quota in two

Interior minister Mart Helme.
Interior minister Mart Helme. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) has abandoned plans to divide the immigration quota into two halves, settling instead for a categorization of the quota, recently set at 1,314 for 2020, with a little under 50 places reserved for creatives and sportspeople.

The immigration quota is imposed on third country citizens from outside the EU and a few other countries like the U.S. and Japan.

In September, Helme proposed dividing the number of permits in two, with 657 issued for the first half of the year, and the same figure for the second half.

This has been left aside, however, in favor of dividing 2020's quota into categories, with thresholds for creative employees, and sportspeople as well as a separate threshold for those moving to Estonia under international agreements.

"We have clearly set the goal of protecting Estonia's own labor market and bringing a highly qualified labor force to Estonia," said Helme via spokesman.

"While on October 31, we set the 2020 immigration quota at 1314, we have now broken this down, which sets for next year allowances for those whose settlement [here] is in the best interests of our country and society," he added.

Under the new division, just under 30 permits will be issued to those working in performing institutions as a creative worker, under the understanding of the Performing Institution Act, and 18 temporary residency permits going to professional sportspeople, coaches, referees and similar.

This would leave 1,258 to be shared out among the remainder, for 2020.

The quota does not include those relocating to Estonia to be with families, top specialists in IT and tech, startups, major investors, and those coming to study or work in research or teaching positions.

Helme's initiative to divide the quota in two was rejected by several ministries, and criticized by employment associations.

Helme has also recently called for the minimum wage for third country workers to be set at 1.5 times the national average, to avoid the exploit of cheap foreign labor, he says.

Last month, Helme said that Estonia would not accept a single asylum seeker. He also recently said that Ukrainians moving to Estonia for work should face "systematic scrutiny". Many such workers are employed in the construction sector.

Under the current law, the annual immigration quota must not exceed 0.1 percent of the permanent population of Estonia annually. It tends to get filled early on in the year; notable people who have missed out on a spot include Metropolitan Yevgeny, head of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, who was too late for the quota in 2018.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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