Next year, the Ministry of the Interior wants to split the annual immigration quota into two equal, six-month halves, issuing 657 residence permits through 30 June and another 658 residence permits through the end of the year.
The immigration quota affects fewer and fewer people. Last year, for example, startup employees and founders were exempt from the quota; this year, top specialists paid at least double the national average wage were exempt as well.
Nonetheless, recent years have shown that the limit of just over 1,300 is maxed out fairly early on in the year already; this year, the quota was reached by April.
Next year, however, the Ministry of the Interior intends to split the quota into two equal parts. According to Eva Lillemäe, adviser at the ministry's Citizenship and Migration Policy Department, the plan is to issue 657 residence permits from the beginning of the year through 30 June, and another 658 through the end of the year.
"Splitting this into half a year at a time precludes the possibility that the granting of a residence permit for employment purposes is restricted within the first months of the year, because those employers who only later discover that they had the opportunity to book an appointment to submit their application and did not take advantage of it would be deprived of the opportunity," Ms Lillemäe explained. "But if this quota were divided up, timewise, they would have the opportunity in the second half of the year to recruit a foreigner."
PPA, ministries' proposed solutions different
The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) in October suggested further dividing the quota by sector, which would have made it possible to target and control immigration according to the needs of Estonia's economic environment.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, however, did not consider this necessary. Deputy Secretary General for Economic Development Viljar Lubi said that the ministry did not have enough information indicating that such a division would offer any relief to the market.
"We do not have a single very clear analysis indicating that this would in any way contribute to the economy," Mr Lubi said. "As a result, we were in a position where this could be interesting, but we aren't sure this would fix the issues that it is meant to fix."
The ministry official nonetheless stressed that Estonia should still foster working smart, which is why the Ministry of Economic Affairs proposed exempting all engineers and researchers, regardless of whether or not their income is twice the national average wage.
"There likely aren't very many such people, but outside of major cities, for example, the average wage is likely relatively competitive too," he added.
The Ministry of the Interior declined to comment on whether or not it agreed with this proposal by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. According to Ms. Lillemäe, the proposal requires thorough analysis.
Editor: Aili Vahtla