Students union wants visa exception for Russian, Belarusian students

A student in Tartu library.
A student in Tartu library. Source: ERR

A student union wants the government to grant an exemption for Russian students already studying at Estonian universities after new rules were introduced which will no longer grant resident permits and visas for study.

Last month, the government said it will no longer issue resident permits and visas for the purpose of studying to Russian students as a reaction to Russia's war in Ukraine.

The Federation of Estonian Student Unions (Eesti Üliõpilaskondade Liit) wants the government to make an exception for students already studying in Estonia.

"In reality, we see that this is a bit of an overreaction at the moment. We could actually let them finish their studies in Estonia and then, if the conflict still persists and there are no other options, then ask them to return to their homeland," said union head Marcus Ehasoo.

Ehasoo said hundreds of students will have to leave Estonia. Universities are trying to solve the problem and may be able to move classes online.

Monday's "Akuaalne kaamera" spoke to several students who will be affected by the new rules.

Under the new rules, University of Tartu art history student Renata will not be able to graduate next spring.

"Because I went abroad with the Erasmus program, I could not take these subjects this year. Next year, if I don't have a visa, I won't be able to take them either. And now it seems that I will not be able to graduate," she said.

Renata has contacted the university and the chancellor of justice to try and find a solution.

Anastassia, who is studying Russian and Slavic philology at the University of Tartu, said her only option is to try and cram her studies into a smaller time frame.

"The only option offered to me at the moment is to be here in Estonia for 270 days and finish university during that time. But during this period I cannot leave the country and I must be in Estonia. I also have to somehow fit in the second semester, and there is very little time to finish the thesis," she told AK.

But Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) does not agree with an exemption.

"My conviction as foreign minister is that I do not consider it reasonable to construct these exceptions separately. Building in exceptions is actually a sign that our stance on these issues, the goal we want to achieve with these restrictions, is not consistent," he said.

PPA: Almost 350 Russians with student permits

The Police and Border Guard Board told ERR News on Tuesday that there are 348 Russian citizens in Estonia who have been granted a visa for studying.

"Most often the permits are given for the nominal time of studies (for example: 3 years for BA) so they can finish the studies with current permits. However, there is no possibility to obtain new permit now (or for example starting MA after finishing BA)," a spokesperson said.

This sanction does not affect students from Belarus, the PPA said.

Editor's note: This article was updated to add a comment from the PPA and to state that the rules related to studying do not affect Belarusian citizens.


Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!

Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

Hea lugeja, näeme et kasutate vanemat brauseri versiooni või vähelevinud brauserit.

Parema ja terviklikuma kasutajakogemuse tagamiseks soovitame alla laadida uusim versioon mõnest meie toetatud brauserist: