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Employers now responsible for short term workers' costs, departure, housing

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme.
Minister of the Interior Mart Helme. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Employers who sponsor short-term employees in Estonia are now responsible for accommodation, costs during their stay and their departure from the country after an amendment passed in the Riigikogu on Wednesday.

The amendment to the Aliens Act establishes the obligations of a sponsor for employers who register the short-term employment of foreigners also with regard to workers temporarily staying in Estonia from third countries.

Until now, obligations only applied to sponsors relating to foreigners with a residence permit.

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE) said: "This means an employer who invites a foreigner to Estonia to work shall among other things also be responsible for receiving the foreigner in Estonia, ensuring his or her accommodation and covering the costs of his or her stay in Estonia and his or her departure from Estonia, if the foreigner lacks the funds for it."

The amendment also grants the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) the right to rate an employer or educational establishment inviting a foreigner to Estonia as untrustworthy and to use that rating as the basis in future proceedings related to admitting foreigners to Estonia.

"Declaring a sponsor untrustworthy is a preventive measure aimed at protecting the Estonian economy from unfair competition which is achieved by juggling the employment requirements, as well as at protecting foreign workers and students from employers or educational establishments that violate the law," Helme said.

"Over the past seven years, the number of misdemeanour proceedings carried out with regard to employers has grown considerably, even by 170 percent, reaching 134 cases in 2019. The most common violations concerning foreigners are those where an employer employs a foreigner who is lawfully staying in Estonia, but does not register his or her employment with the PPA or does not pay at least the Estonian average salary and labour taxes required by law."

Pursuant to the amendment, the PPA has the right to assess the untrustworthiness of an employer or educational establishment inviting a foreigner to Estonia.

Upon providing an assessment on the untrustworthiness of a sponsor, consideration will be given to violations of the obligations arising from the Aliens Act as well as to other factors of importance from the point of view of misuse.

A one-time violation may be due to an unintentional disregard for requirements. However, a recurring violation gives grounds to assume that the requirements and obligations set forth by law have been violated intentionally, which gives reason to doubt the trustworthiness of the sponsor.

The PPA shall give assessments as necessary – if significant and recurring violations have been discovered in the course of proceedings. When a sponsor is assessed as untrustworthy, the assessment will apply to it for up to one year. The assessment shall be taken into account upon processing foreigner-related applications for permits of arrival to Estonia. For instance, this will have an effect on deciding on short-term employment registration applications and residence permit applications.

The untrustworthiness of an employer or educational establishment will have a direct effect on the foreigner who intends to come to Estonia or is already working or studying in Estonia. If it turns out that the employer or educational establishment is untrustworthy, the PPA's assessment may be used as the basis for refusal to issue a long-term visa or residence permit to a foreigner or for revoking a foreigner's long-term visa.

The PPA's assessment on the untrustworthiness of Estonian sponsors therefore gives important information also to foreigners. The amendments help protect both the Estonian society and foreigners in not getting engaged in working with employers and educational establishments that systematically violate the rules.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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