Estonia planning to ease third-country work permit restrictions from 2023

The so-called ''super ministry'' buildings in central Tallinn.
The so-called ''super ministry'' buildings in central Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Estonia is planning to ease restrictions on third-country workers from 2023 by extending the length of work permits from one year to three.

The rules are changing as Estonian companies need to be globally competitive, ERR's Estonian portal reported.

Under the current rules, an employer is allowed to hire a worker who earns the average salary on a one-year working visa. This will likely be extended to three years in the future and divided as one year on a short-stay visa and two years on a residence and work permit.

The state issues long-term, five-year work permits, but these are capped at 1,300 each year which does not meet demand.

Employers have long wanted the cap to be lifted or certain groups of workers removed from the quota.

Minister of Enterprise and Information Technology Andres Sutt (Reform) said: "Today, we have an exception only for the IT sector, but all manufacturing companies, which are increasingly becoming technology companies, need the same kind of skilled labor which we can't find on the ground for various reasons [in Estonia]."

But it is not just high-skilled IT workers that are needed, he said.

"For example, in the transport sector, the unions estimate that 1,500 drivers will be missing by the end of this year," the minister added.

Sutt stressed migrants would not be allowed into Estonia all at once and background checks would be carefully carried out.

CEO of the Estonian Employers' Confederation Arto Aas said every year there are approximately 6,000 fewer taxpayers as people leave the labor market. This puts huge pressure on businesses.

"It is difficult to find a foreign worker, it is expensive to bring them here, it is expensive to train then, and if they really have to leave here within a year, it will be a huge administrative and financial cost," said Aas.

The company has approximately 100 migrant workers from more than 30 countries. It is hoped that engineers will be removed from the quota.

Negotiations between the ministries are still ongoing, but the proposals should reach consultations in December and the changes could enter into force in 2023, Andres Sutt said.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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