Employers union: Amending Aliens Act will not help economic recovery

Estonian Employers' Confederation (ETTK) managing director Arto Aas.
Estonian Employers' Confederation (ETTK) managing director Arto Aas. Source: ERR

Introducing restrictions stopping third country students and foreign workers from bring their families to Esonia will not help with the country's economic recovery, the head of the employers union has said.

Arto Aas, manager of the Estonian Employers' Confederation (Tööandjate Keskliit), told ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" employers were not involved in drafting the law. According to him, the law may lead to a decrease in the number of international students and the proposed changes will not contribute to economic recovery.

"If we make it more difficult to recruit and attract people to Estonia, in the long run Estonia's attractiveness will decrease, jobs will move out of Estonia, investments will decrease, the state will lose paid income and in some ways we will all be poorer," Aas said.

On Thursday, the government approved the amendment which also stipulates how much workers must be paid in each sector. The bill has not yet been approved by the Riigikogu.

Vice-Rector for Studies of Tallinn University of Technology Hendrik Voll said the changes concerning foreign students should not be made constantly and unexpectedly.

"We have a general request or message that public policy should be stable and longer-term. It is very difficult for universities to make their plans if the priorities change every five years," he said.

"For a long time it has been a priority and the message is there is a need for a highly skilled workforce in the IT sector - building curricula is a time consuming process, we have done and developed it for a long time - but now there is a message that there are enough highly qualified people in the IT sector and it comes at very short notice, then the university has a pretty hard time responding."

How will the Aliens Act change?

The bill would amend three key acts, the Aliens Act, the Higher Education Act and the Study Allowances and Study Loans Act.

The planned changes to the act are laid our below.


  •  A third country national who has obtained a residence permit for study in Estonia would not be able to invite a spouse to reside in Estonia until two years after the study had commenced.
  • Those holding temporary residence permits who dropped out of their studies or did not complete them for some other reason would see their temporary permit expire 30 days after discontinuing studies.
  • Any family member of a foreign national whose temporary permit expired due to non-completion of studies would also see their residence permit expire within 30 days.
  • Family members will be able to apply for a visa on their own terms if necessary and can visit the family member working or studying in Estonia in the meantime.
  • A temporary residence permit granted for study would not count as part of the residency period required for applying for a permanent residence permit; instead, only temporary residence permits issued for work or business would count.
  • An exception to the above is those who have completed doctoral studies in Estonia; their temporary residence permit time-frame would count towards the permanent residence application, for the period they were engaged in the doctorate.


  • The seasonal work period for the purposes of temporary residence permit has been reduced to 183 days (i.e. six months) within a 365-day period, from the earlier figure of 270 days in a year.
  • Long-term visas would not be issued to family members of foreign nationals in short-term employment in Estonia on the same terms they had been to the individuals who came to Estonia for the purpose of employment.
  • An exception to the above concerns single parents and family members of those working in research and development areas.
  • Foreign nationals engaged in seasonal work must receive a wage corresponding to at least the average gross monthly wage over a 12 month period in that sector, as based on state agency Statistics Estonia's data, or, in the case of unskilled seasonal work, 80 percent of the average gross monthly wage for that sector.
  • As noted, regardless of employment contract length, third country nationals can only work full-time and not part-time.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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