Amendments to Aliens Act would give more power to interior minister and PPA

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme and Chief of Police Elmar Vaher.
Minister of the Interior Mart Helme and Chief of Police Elmar Vaher. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Ministry of the Interior has finished drafting amendments to the Aliens Act which would regulate the issuance of residence permits to foreign students' family members.

Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center) said on July 7 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 bringing their families with them.

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 still 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.

The Ministry of the Interior has now finished designing the amendments which would reflect these decisions and will define the working hours of foreign students.

Foreign students only allowed to work up to 20 hours a week

The explanatory memorandum of the proposed bill states that in order to protect the labor market of Estonia and direct employers to prefer local workforce, requirements for foreigners' working hours have to be set and conditions have to be created where the meeting of those requirements can be effectively monitored.

Mailis Reps told ERR on July 7 that she thinks the Ministry of the Interior's idea to limit working hours of foreign students to 16 hours a week is unreasonable.

The draft law now states that foreign students can only be allowed to work part-time, up to 20 hours a week. At the same time, workers who have entered the country with a work permit should be hired full-time.

An average wage requirement is also set in the draft law, with the basis being a multiplication of the average gross wage in Estonia multiplied with a coefficient of 1,5.

The Police and Border Guard Board to gain access to salary information

The draft law would also allow the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) access to sensitive banking information regarding a foreign student's wages and if the wages are transfered directly to their bank account.

The explanatory memorandum states that a student who chooses to remain in Estonia after their studies might have to accept a lower position, which could lead to them taking offense and being disappointed. It is also written in the memorandum that this could lead to closed communities and parallel societies, where the customs and norms of Estonia are ignored.

The explanatory memorandum explains: "Segregation and the related social and economic vulnerability in turn create favorable conditions for radicalization and terrorism."

Issuance of residence permits affects family members of foreign students

The explanatory memorandum reads: "The student can return to living their family life when in their home country, with the exception being if the student is a single parent who is raising an under-age child. In that case, the family consists of a parent and a child with no other parent in their home country who the child could live with."

It is however noted that family members can still apply for a residence permit but not on the conditions extended to the student.

The Minister of the Interior would gain decision-making power

The issuance of residence permits is also changed when it comes to greater national interest.

The explanatory memorandum reads: "It is also planned that the restriction on migration will be removed in regards to greater national interest. Workers, whose tasks are necessary to the country can travel to Estonia to perform those tasks."

Instead of the Government of the Republic (Vabariigi Valitsus) and government agencies, ministers who are responsible for the field workers are employed in will have to coordinate the travel of foreign workers, as they are most aware of national interest in the particular field.

It is also noted that as migration policy and internal security is the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior, ministers responsible for deciding the sectors of national interest will have to coordinate with the Ministry of the Interior.

ERR News wrote on July 6 that third country nationals in Estonia will be permitted to enter or remain in the country for work or study. Due to the restrictions around coronavirus, ministers had previously said students may not be allowed to enter Estonia at the start of the school year in September.

Amendments to the Aliens Act about students' working hours and family were discussed for the first time at the end of 2019.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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