An amendment to the Aliens Act entered into force on Monday allowing foreign workers who were staying in Estonia as of March 17 to be granted the option of extending their short-term work permit in agriculture until July 31.
Pursuant to the decision passed in the Riigikogu on Monday, foreign workers who have been legally staying in Estonia as of March 17 and whose short-term work permit has expired or is about to expire will be able to continue working in agriculture, spokespeople for the Ministry of the Interior told BNS.
Minister of the Interior Mart Helme said: "This decision has been made in order to ensure the smooth functioning of agriculture, which is obviously an important area for the Estonian society. The amendment will allow for foreign workers to continue working in Estonia until July 31 if their employer who engaged in agriculture wishes to rehire them and registers their short-term employment with the Police and Border Guard Board.
"This will provide [employers] with a reasonable transition period for switching from foreign labor to a workforce comprising of Estonian residents. Support must be provided to our own people at a time when they are increasingly losing their jobs. There are definitely people among our tens of thousands of unemployed people who are able and willing to contribute to one of the sectors that is currently experiencing a labor shortage."
After July 31, foreign workers will have until August 31 to organize their departure from Estonia.
Foreigners whose short-term work permit has expired or is about to expire and who are not working in agriculture will not be able to extend their work permit in Estonia and will need to leave the state at the earliest opportunity.
If leaving is not an option due to present border closures due to the emergency situation, these people are allowed to stay in Estonia and leave within 10 days after the emergency situation has been terminated.
Foreign workers who are unable to have their short-time work permit extended are advised to turn to their embassy with regard to options for repatriation. The Ministry of the Interior also requests for employers to assist their foreign workers in returning to their home country after their employment has been concluded.
Pursuant to the Aliens Act, foreigners from third states legally staying in Estonia are allowed to work in the country for up to 12 months during a 15-month period, and in case of seasonal workers for nine months during a 12-month period on the condition that the employer registers the employee's short-term employment with the Police and Border Guard Board.
Due to restrictions imposed as part of the emergency situation, the police are currently only handling applications employers have filed in relation to their foreign employees already staying in Estonia.
The police are currently not handling applications of aliens staying abroad and seeking to obtain a short-term work permit in Estonia as they would not be allowed in the country due to the emergency situation even if they already have a visa or the right for visa-free stay in the state.
Editor: Helen Wright