According to a bill approved by the Estonian government, amendments are to be made to the Aliens Act translating an EU directive from May 2016 into Estonian law on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research, studies and training in the EU.
Under the new directive, researchers and university students will be able to travel between EU member states without having to apply for residency in their host country.
According to current Estonian law, individuals who have been granted a residence permit or visa by another Schengen state can reside in Estonia for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. After that, researchers are permitted to remain in Estonia through the expiration date of the visa or residence permit obtained from another member state, and students may study at an Estonian institution of higher education for a period of up to 360 days.
Another change will be made which will allow researchers, students and teaching staff to remain in Estonia up to 270 days after the expiration date of their residence permit to work or start a business, up from the currently allowed 183 days.
Ülle Tensing, director of the University of Tartu's Study Abroad Centre, told ERR that these changes will certainly expand students' opportunities as well as grant them more time.
According to Tensing, this directive can also aid in the creation of jointly conducted curricula and would lighten students' loads when it comes to applying for residence permits in two member states.
The university official noted that the change will also mean additional responsibilities for Estonian universities, as the schools will be responsible for verifying that the residency permits of foreign students issued by other EU member states meet established criteria, thus qualifying them to study in Estonia for a period longer than 90 days.
These amendments are expected to enter into force on May 23, 2018, the deadline prescribed by the EU directive.
Easier for researchers to come
Approximately one in three foreign students studying in Estonia attends Tallinn University of Technology (TTÜ). TTÜ believes that the adoption of the EU the directive into Estonian law could increase foreign students' interests in their school, but acceptance criteria will remain equal for all, regardless of an applicant's country of origin, reported ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera."
"If six years ago we had around 500 foreign students, then in 2017, approximately 1,500 foreign students were studying at TTÜ," said TTÜ Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs Hendrik Voll. "Last year, 25 percent of doctoral students to enroll or begin their research were foreigners. One in six teaching staff have an international background. TTÜ chooses researchers not based on their nationality, but their quality."
According to Margus Haidak, director of the Higher Education Department of the Ministry of Education and Research, the change in legislation will mean it will be easier to attract researchers to Estonia, and that for researchers this will mean the opportunity to bring their families with them.
"When a researcher comes to our country under an agreement, their family can come along under the same agreement without having to apply for a separate residence permit," Haidak explained. "This may simplify researchers' decision to come to Estonia to work for a short time."
Editor: Aili Vahtla