The Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center) said the government's decision to limit issuing residence permits to foreign students and their families does not affect students currently studying in Estonian universities.
Reps said on Vikerraadio's news show "Uudis+" that the government has made three decisions regarding foreign students' future, but these will not play much of a role. The first and most influential decision is to limit students taking their families with them.
Reps said: "Bringing or not bringing their families is one of the subjects of security that we, along with rectors and universities, have turned our attention to. It is known that some communities in Estonia have developed not through students, but instead their extended families."
The education minister explained that the problem is not students' husbands and wives, but rather their grandparents, uncles, and aunts.
Reps added that an automatic issuance of residence permits to families will be stopped, with there being an exception the government agreed to. A residence permit can be issued to an under-age child if they were born during a single parent's time in university or if they have a disability.
Reps noted: "Of course, I have to emphasize that this restriction does not affect doctoral students, as they are in a different age group where bringing their families is allowed."
She added that these restrictions will not largely affect anything because they do not make Estonian education any less attractive.
The third amendment is to terminate residence permits after studies are prematurely stopped. The minister said that if a student is exmatriculated, they have 30 days until their residence permit expires. Reps did not however rule out that the student could find employment and acquire a residence permit that way.
She added that partners in the coalition have many ideas, but a common solution has to be found when working out a bill. Reps said for example that the Ministry of the Interior's idea to limit working hours of foreign students to 16 hours a week is unreasonable.
The education minister said: "We do not plan on limiting student working hours, until it does not affect their studies, of course. Because if they drop out, they have to leave the country."
Reps added that the bill will be developed on July 16: "We, along with students, will also find a solution quickly so that Estonian taxpayers do not subsidize foreign students."
The government opened the borders to foreign students coming from third countries with the decision on Monday, July 6.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste