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Estonia – Refusing to issue a residence permit to the registered same-sex partner of an Estonian citizen is unconstitutional

Written by
COBALT, Chambers Europe’s Baltic-wide Law Firm of the Year 2020.
The Estonian Supreme Court has ruled that the provision in the Aliens Act which does not allow the grant temporary residence permits to the same-sex partners of Estonian citizens is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court of Estonia declared on 21 June 2019 (resolution No. 5-18-5) that the part of the Aliens Act that precludes granting temporary residence permits to same-sex registered partners of Estonian citizens to live their family life in Estonia is invalid and unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court stated that the current Aliens Act treats foreigners differently by allowing residence permits for same sex spouses of Estonian citizens but precluding the grant of a residence permit to a registered partner.

Since the foreign national cannot settle in Estonia without a residence permit the part of the Aliens Act which does not allow the grant of a permit to registered partners disproportionately infringes the fundamental family rights of both the applicant for a residence permit and his or her Estonian partner. Although a registered same sex partner of an Estonian citizen can apply for a residence permit on another basis (for example to work), this does not give the person sufficient assurance that he or she will be able to live family life in Estonia.

The Supreme Court found that based on the principles of human dignity and equal treatment guaranteed by the Estonian Constitution, the fundamental right to a family life extends to the right of same-sex partners to live in Estonia as a family.

Karina Paatsi
Partner - Estonia
COBALT (Estonia)