Bill passed imposing new obligations on sponsors of foreign workers

Construction site.
Construction site. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Amendments to the Aliens Act passed by the Riigikogu on Wednesday will impose on employers registering the short-term employment of a foreigner the responsibilities of a sponsor in relation to employees from third states who are temporarily staying in Estonia as well.

To date, the obligation only applied to employers for the purposes of whose employment a residence permit had been issued to an alien, spokespeople for the Ministry of the Interior said.

"This means that an employer who invites an alien to work in Estonia now also has the obligation, among other things, to receive the alien in Estonia, guarantee their accommodation if needed, and cover the costs of their stay in an departure from Estonia if the alien does not have the funds for it," Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE) said in a press release.

The amendments will also grant the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA)  the right to categorize as unreliable an employer or educational establishment inviting an alien to Estonia, and to use this assessment as the basis for future proceedings relating to the enabling of aliens to enter Estonia through them.

"Declaring the sponsor unreliable is a preventive measure for protecting Estonia's economy from unfair competition achieved by scheming with employment conditions, and also to protect foreign workers and students from employers or educational establishments that are breaking the law," Helme said.

The minister added that the number of misdemeanor proceedings against employers had increased 170 percent over the past seven years to 134 cases in 2019.

"The most numerous breaches involving aliens regard employers hiring foreigners who are staying in Estonia legally, but do not register their employment with the PPA, or fail to pay them at least the average Estonian wage and labor taxes as is required by law," he said.

When assessing the reliability of an employer or an educational institution, the PPA will take into account violations of obligations arising from the Aliens Act as well as other factors that are important from the perspective of reducing the misuse of foreign labor.

One-off irregularities may be regarded as having been caused by error. Multiples violations, however, will serve as grounds to assume that breaches have been intentional and that the sponsor may be unreliable.

The PPA will conduct assessments as necessary, for instance upon discovering major repeat violations in the course of proceedings. If a sponsor is assessed as being unreliable, the assessment will remain valid for one year and will be taken into account during the handling of the sponsor's applications for entry permits for aliens. For instance, this would affect applications for short-term employment registration and residence permit applications.

An employer or educational establishment being categorized as unreliable would directly affect aliens who have or are planning to come to work or study in Estonia. If a sponsor is declared unreliable, the PPA may refuse granting a long-term visa or residence permit to an alien or declare their long-term visa invalid, making the PPA's assessments of a sponsor's reliability important information for foreigners as well.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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