Number of foreign workers in Estonia at 28,000

Construction. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

As of September 1, there are 19,000 foreign workers in Estonia on short-term working permits in addition to the 9,000 foreigners who have received a long-term residence permit. About 75 percent of the foreign workers are Ukrainians.

"As of September 1, short-term work permits have been issued to 19,242 people," Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) identity and status bureau adviser-expert Liis Valk told ERR on Monday.

She explained that there have been more than 25,000 applications presented this year, but since the short-term permits can also be very short or up to a year, some issued permits have already expired. "20,422 applications have gotten a positive response this year," Valk noted.

"As of September 1, there have been over 9,000 residence permits for employment issued and 2,726 applications have been issued," the PPA spokesperson said. She added that Estonia's valid immigration quota does not allow for that number to grow significantly.

"We do have some sectors that have been released from the immigration quota - someone can come work in IT without the quota stopping them. And we have noticed that the number of applications in that sector has increased over the years," Valk noted.

As of Estonian law, a person can enter the country for employment for a longer or shorter period - either with a residence permit or by registering short-term employment. A work permit is required for citizens of non-EU countries, the restrictions are not valid for EU citizens.

Less than a fifth of applications are refused

Valk also said the PPA refuses less than a fifth of the applications to work in Estonia. "The majority of applications receive a positive decision - some 18 percent of residence permits receive a negative decision and some 12 percent of short-term employment gets a negative decision," the PPA specialist said.

Valk added that the rate of refusals for residence permits is higher because there is a immigration quota, which is met faster. "Therefore many get a negative decision because the quota is filled for the year," she noted.

Estonia's immigration quota is 0.1 percent of Estonia's population and the government and in December, the government endorsed 1,315 to be the immigration quota for 2021, 25 of which were residence permits for creative workers in entertainment establishments, 24 were residence permits for athletes, referees and trainers invited by a sports suborganization. The remaining 1,261 residence permits were left for free distribution.

75 percent of foreign workers are Ukrainian

Speaking about the countries foreign workers come to Estonia and what sectors they tend to enter, Valk pointed out Ukrainians and the construction sector.

"If we look at the rights of short-term employment, construction is the first sector, followed by the manufacturing industry. There are fewer [foreign workers] in agriculture, transport and service," Valk said, adding that the manufacturing industry is first for residence permits and information and communication is second.

Of the currently valid short-term employment permits, 6,617 are in construction and there have been 331 permits given for the construction sector this year, the PPA specialist said.

14,936 Ukrainians have received a permit for short-term employment, followed by residents of Belarus and Russia, both around 1,000 workers. There are also residents of Moldova and Uzbekistan.

"Applicants and recipients of residence permits differ somewhat. Ukraine is still first, followed by Russia and Belarus and then it is India and Brazil," Valk told ERR.

The PPA specialist noted that the number of permits issued last year dropped because of the coronavirus, but as travel became more open in the fall, the number of applications increased again and reached regular levels.

"The situation in terms of immigration applications is restoring to its pre-coronavirus level," Valk said.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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