Estonia's foreign missions saw an increase of visa applications last year while the number of queries involving e-residents' digital IDs fell considerably, data published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday reveals.
Estonia received 158,797 visa applications last year, up from 138,108 the year before and 144,578 in 2017. The lion's share of these was processed in just three countries. In Moscow, St. Petersburg and Pskov in Russia, Minsk in Belarus and Kyiv in Ukraine.
Amendments to the Aliens Act that entered into force in 2017 and favor the use of the D-visa or a long-term visa in place of a residence permit have seen the relative importance of D-visas soar – 12,300 D-visas were issued in 2019, up 20 percent from 10,234 D-visas issued in 2018 (6,046 in 2017).
Estonian citizens can travel to 128 countries and 22 overseas territories of EU member states. As of late 2019, 17 Schengen countries represent Estonia based on visa representation agreements in 104 countries in a total of 117 locations. It is possible to apply for a short-term visa to Estonia in a total of 138 locations, Estonian missions included.
Need for consular aid unchanged
Estonian citizens were given consular aid a total of 1,281 times last year that remains in the same ballpark with 2018 (1,294 consular aid cases) and 2017 (1,348 cases). Most of these – 867 cases – covered issuing replacement IDs, with consular officers offering help to arrested Estonians in 109 cases, help with deaths abroad in 91 cases, accidents or illness in 75 cases, financial aid in 28 cases and help for victims of crimes in 18 cases.
The ministry points out that Estonian citizens were helped by embassies of other EU member states 13 times last year. Estonia helped citizens of other countries – primarily Finland, Latvia and Lithuania – with replacement IDs on 19 occasions.
Cross-border child protection cases are a growing trend in the field of consular aid, most times concerning kidnapping, meaning one parent taking the children to another country without the other parent's consent, custody disputes and abuse, the ministry outlines. These cases are solved in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and the Social Insurance Board.
E-resident queries down
Acts involving the digital ID of e-residents were down from 19,816 in 2018 to just 14,778 last year – a drop of 25 percent. Procedural acts involving e-resident cards numbered 11,964 in 2017. E-residency queries made up the third most numerous group of consular services.
Most consular services concerned Estonian passports and ID-cards, 20,058 and 13,019 respectively in 2019. The second most frequent group involved registering short-term stays of citizens in other countries.
Last year, 20,869 people registered themselves before traveling abroad, up from 16,743 in 2018 and 26,047 the year before. The spike in registrations is tied to various events in many popular destinations, such as Catalan independence protests in Barcelona, volcano eruptions in Indonesia, unrest in Hong Kong, yellow jacket protests in France.
Honorary consuls' contribution on the rise
Around 8 percent of consular acts (7,174) were handled by honorary consuls last year. The figure was 6,984 for 2018 and 6,877 for 2017.
Consular activities are handled by 40 foreign missions located in 36 countries. Consular services are also offered by Estonia's around 200 honorary consuls in 85 countries.
About one quarter of all consular acts (23,070) are handled at the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tallinn, followed by 11,839 consular acts in Helsinki, 6,644 in London, 3,313 in St. Petersburg, 3,269 in Pskov and 3,167 in Moscow last year. Next came Berlin (2,420), Stockholm (1,961), Dublin (1,767), Paris (1,690) Kyiv (1,661) and New York (1,619).
Consular acts include consular services and aid. Services include receiving passport and ID-card applications and issuing IDs; registering citizens in foreign countries; issuing e-resident cards; forwarding residency permits applications; issuing residency permit cards; legalization of documents, etc.
Editor: Marcus Turovski, Aili Vahtla