The Estonian Ministry of the Interior will make a proposal to set the immigration quota for 2020 at 1,314 aliens, one person fewer than the quota for this year.
In addition, a division of the quota by time period and by purpose would be introduced, a spokesperson for the ministry said. The division by time period means that 657 residence permits can be issued in the first half-year and the same number in the second half-year.
Under the current law, the annual immigration quota is the quota for aliens immigrating to Estonia, which must not exceed 0.1 percent of the permanent population of Estonia annually.
Ruth Annus, head of the department for citizenship and migration policy at the Ministry of the Interior, said that division of the quota by time period allows ensures a fairer and more even distribution over the year.
"With this measure, the development of the economy can be taken into account and migration managed in the most effective manner. The division by time period allows to avoid a situation where the immigration quota is exhausted already in the first months of the year and it is not possible to issue more residence permits based on the immigration quota during the rest of the year," Annus said.
Interior Minister Mart Helme said that for years the application for residence permits on the basis of the immigration quota has relied on luck and experience.
"Residence permits are obtained by those who can push the button first at the right moment," Helme said. He said the aim of the new regulation is to ensure that residence permits are issued over a time which takes into account the needs of Estonia's economic development, the state and the society.
"Since the residence permits issued for the purpose of employment have been divided between the five fields with the biggest workforce shortage - healthcare, education, information and communications, manufacturing, transport and storage - it helps to bring in doctors, teachers, engineers and other specialists that are needed here the most," Helme said.
Helme also spoke about the possibility of fixed-term residence permits to be issued next year on the grounds of substantial national interest. He said the division would take into account the needs of each individual ministry and the state.
Substantial national interest means migrants who create "added-value". With the endorsement of the relevant minister, it will be possible to issue a residence permit to a foreigner who would be connected with the national interest, such as members of the clergy, creative professionals, and specialists of the aviation sector, Helme said.
At present a restriction concerning employment in Estonia applies to people holding a residence permit on the basis of substantial national interest. That restriction is to be lifted with a legislative amendment.
In December 2018, the government endorsed the immigration quota for 2019 at 1,315 people.
Editor: Helen Wright