Five-year statistics: More Estonians returning to country than leaving

Classic wooden houses lining a street in Põhja-Tallinn's popular Kalamaja neighborhood.
Classic wooden houses lining a street in Põhja-Tallinn's popular Kalamaja neighborhood. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Net migration was positive in 2021, with 19,524 people moving to Estonia and 12,481 people leaving, newly published data shows. The country's net migration has been positive for the last five years.

In 2021, Estonians emigrated in the highest numbers to Finland (2,690), Russia (340) and the UK (219). They returned in the highest numbers from the same three countries: Finland (2,425), the United Kingdom (528) and Russia (410).

Last year, more men emigrated than women, 3,695 and 2,955, respectively. The trend was similar for those returning. In total, 4,034 men moved back to Estonia and 3,022 women.

Over the last five years, 35,033 Estonians emigrated while 36,606 returned. Data patterns show people emigrate in their early 20s while those returning tend to be in their 50s.

Last year, Estonia issued 39,383 short-term Schengen type-C visas and the top 5 nationalities they were issued to were Russia, Belarus, Turkey, Kazakstan and India. In 2020, 25,764 visas were issued.

Looking at long-term D-visas, they were mostly issued to Ukrainians, Russians, Belarusians, Moldovans and Uzbekistanis. In total, Estonia issued 26,030 long-term visas, almost 7,000 more than in 2020.

Published for the fourth time, Estonia's overview of migration statistics for 2017-2021 provides insight into various migration indicators, including who moved to Estonia during the past five years and why, and what parts of the country they moved to, as well as information regarding the acquisition of Estonian citizenship, e-residency and international protection.

"Migration statistics help us better understand what is going on in Estonian migration policy," Minister of Culture Piret Hartman (SDE) said in a press release on Tuesday. "The 2021 overview indicates that more and more people are moving to Estonia to live, work or study than are leaving. Among these arrivals are plenty of returning Estonian citizens as well."

From the Ministry of Culture's perspective, it is vital that Estonia pay attention to various types of migration and help those intending to remain here for longer adapt quickly and get on their feet, Hartman added.

Return to Estonia of Estonian citizens living abroad, 2017-2021. Source: Settle in Estonia

"The migration statistics overview clearly reflects how migration is impacted by changes taking place in society," said Eike Luik, expert at the Estonian Contact Point of the European Migration Network (EMN). "Among the most significant influencing factors have been travel restrictions implemented in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, or migration crises in third countries. But our own legislative changes have been influencing factors as well, such as changes to labor migration regulations."

Luik noted that periodically published migration statistics allows for changing migration trends to be analyzed and new policy changes to be planned as well if needed.

The migration overview also acts as a tool to help develop and better target services in adaptation and integration, the ministry highlighted, adding that it helps provide a better understanding of factors impacting migration and generate a more complete picture of the actual situation as well.

How Estonian citizenship is acquired. Source: Settle in Estonia

The migration statistics overview was compiled in cooperation with the Estonian Contact Point of the European Migration Network using data from Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), Statistics Estonia and the population register.

Available in Estonian, English and Russian, the overview of Estonia's migration statistics for 2017-2021 can be read online in full here.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla, Helen Wright

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