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Work, residence and business travel in Estonia after Brexit for UK nationals

Written by
COBALT, Chambers Europe’s Baltic-wide Law Firm of the Year 2020.
The Brexit transition period jas nwo ended and new conditions for UK nationals to live and work in Estonia apply.


1.1 Has any guidance been issued on how UK nationals can obtain settled residence status and permission to work from 1 January 2021 and what proof of residence is needed for current residents to maintain their status?


The residence of UK citizens and their family members who have resided in Estonia under EU law will continue to be regulated by the Citizen of the European Union Act with the specifications set out in the Withdrawal Agreement (‘WA’).

UK citizens who have entered Estonia for the first time can register their place of residence in Estonia until 31 March 2021 and will be able to reside in Estonia without having to apply for a residence permit. In order to prove residence, the UK citizen must visit the office of the local municipality unit where they reside and submit a residence notice together with a copy of a document proving their right to use their residence premises (a tenancy agreement, for example).

UK citizens who come to live, work or study in Estonia from 1 April 2021, must apply for a residence permit at a Police and Border Guard Board service office or in advance at an Estonian representation abroad. More detailed information about applying for a residence permit can be found on the webpage of the Police and Border Guard Board.

No specific guidance is currently available on UK frontier workers other than what arises from the WA.



2.1 Do UK employees need a business visa from 1 January 2021?


Regulation (EU) 2019/592 of 10 April 2019 exempts UK citizens from the requirement for a Schengen visa. It applies from the day the UK is no longer subject to EU law (1 January 2021).  UK citizens can enter and stay in the Schengen area for a maximum of 90 days in any rolling 180-day period.

However, even if allowed to enter and stay visa-free they would only be allowed to work in Estonia for a maximum of five days in any 30-day period under such visa-free arrangement.

2.2 What documents are needed on arrival for business travel from 1 January 2021?

Travel documents (passport) that is valid for at least three months after departure from Estonia and has been issued within the last ten years.

Proof of duration and purpose of stay as border control may ask additional questions concerning duration and purpose of stay.

2.3 Do UK nationals need additional permission to work for business travel from 1 January 2021?

Additional permission is not required for business trips of a maximum of five days. For business trips exceeding five days, the short-term employment of the UK nationals will need to be registered in the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board.



3.1 Do UK nationals need permission to work and stay in Estonia from 1 January 2021?

Yes, unless they can rely on an exemption such as:

  • holders of a permanent Estonian residence permit;
  • holders of a residence permit for studying in Estonia;
  • UK citizens who have registered their place of residence in Estonia until 31 March 2021.

3.2 If permission to work is needed after 1 January 2021, do any quotas apply to the employment of third-country nationals?

Yes, but UK nationals are exempt from the quota.

3.3 If permission to work is needed from 1 January 2021, what categories of permission are commonly granted?

The most common categories are:

  • top specialists;
  • employees coming to Estonia for up to 365 days (who are exempted from the residence permit for work, but required to register short-term employment in Estonia).


3.4 If permission to work or stay is needed from 1 January 2021, how long does the procedure take?

Up to two and a half months for the residence permit for work:

  • Save for certain exceptions, the employer needs to apply for permission from the Unemployment Board, which is granted within seven working days.
  • A residence permit for work is issued or refused within two months of filing of the application.

Up to a month and a half for short-term employment:

  • Short-term employment is registered within 15 working days from the employer’s application.


After registration of short-term employment, the employee can apply for a long-term (type D) visa for work in Estonia and this application is processed within 30 days.

3.5 If permission to work and stay is needed from 1 January 2021, what Government fees are payable?

  • EUR 96-120 for applications for a residence permit for work (depending on whether the applicant applies in Estonia or from a foreign representation);
  • EUR 108 – 128 in total for short term employment registration and a visa (depending on the type of visa applied for).



4.1 What formalities apply to UK frontier workers working in Estonia but living in another country from 1 January 2021?

The WA applies, but no national regulation has been passed in order to implement the regulation of the WA on frontier workers.



5.1 From what date are third-country nationals entitled to apply for permanent residence?

Five years of legal stay in Estonia (subject to conditions).



6.1 What steps could UK nationals take currently to secure their residence and work status?

UK citizens who enter Estonia until 31 March 2021 should register their place of residence in Estonia, as explained above.

UK citizens entering Estonia after this date can (in the absence of any specific contingency rules):

  • apply for Estonian/EEA or Swiss citizenship if conditions are met, but individuals should consider consequences before doing so;
  • prepare documents for family reunification with an EU national if relevant.
Heili Haabu
COBALT (Estonia)