Government to allow visa refusals to be challenged in court

Harju County Court interior.
Harju County Court interior. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The government on Thursday gave its nod to a bill to amend the Aliens Act, which would allow a visa refusal to be referred to the administrative court in the future, after completing the two-tier challenge procedure set forth under current law.

Amendments concerning the contestation of decisions made relating to a Schengen visa must be introduced in Estonian law on the basis of a decision of the European Court of Justice, which means member states must allow negative visa decisions to be challenged in a court of law. 

The amendments will bring Estonia's legislation into line with EU law, spokespeople for the Ministry of the Interior said.

"The legislative amendment concerns aliens who file a contestation of a decision on the refusal to issue a visa, annulment of a visa, revocation of a visa, refusal to extend the period of stay and premature termination of the period of stay. Although European Union law obliges to enable judicial control only over decisions concerning a Schengen visa, for the purpose of the clarity and uniformness of the legislative environment we intend to expand the same system also to decisions concerning long-term Estonian visas and visa-free stay," Ruth Annus, head of the citizenship and migration policy department of the Ministry of the Interior, said. 

As things stand, an alien can contest decisions related to the temporary base of stay twice. On the first occasion, the decision will be reviewed by the institution which made it, meaning the Police and Border Guard Board or the mission of Estonia abroad, and on the second occasion by the Ministry of the Interior or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

"In the future, it will be possible to file a challenge with the administrative court after going through the mandatory two-tier challenge procedure. It is important to note, however, that the amendment will not entitle the alien to get a visa, not will the submission of a challenge with a court or the court holding a sitting for a review of the challenge authorize the alien to arrive in Estonia or stay in Estonia," Annus said.

The preparation of the relevant regulation was a long process, which started in January 2018. The enabling of judicial control of visa-related decisions is not expected to significantly increase the workload of Estonian courts. 

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Editor: Helen Wright

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