Estonian start-up visa rules

This note sets out the rules and law on the Estonian start-up visa. You can also check out my note explaining the process.

The main provisions governing the start-up visa are here:

Section 62(4) Foreigners Act

“Issue of visa related to start-up business

(1)  A visa for engagement in start-up business may be issued if the stay of an foreigner in Estonia is related to foundation or development of a start-up company in Estonia. An foreigner may be issued a short-stay or long-stay visa for engagement in start-up business .

(2) A start-up company for the purposes of this Act is a business entity belonging to a company registered in Estonia, which is starting activity with the purpose to develop and launch such a business model with high global growth potential, innovative and replicable that shall significantly contribute to the development of the Estonian business environment.

(3) If an foreigner is issued a visa for engagement in start-up business, a visa may be issued to the spouse, a minor child or an adult child who due to his or her health status or disability is unable to cope independently, under the same conditions as to the specified foreigner.

(4) ) If an foreigner is issued a visa for engagement in start-up business, a short-stay or long-stay visa may be issued to the spouse, a minor child or an adult child who due to his or her health status or disability is unable to cope independently.”

There are also other provisions relating to the visa conditions and the requirement for you to have enough money available to support yourself and your family:

Section 117 Foreigners Act

“Conditions of issue of temporary residence permit

(1) The general conditions of the issue of a temporary residence permit to an foreigner are the following:
1) the purpose of application for the Estonian temporary residence permit is justified;
[RT I, 03.01.2017, 1 – entry into force 18.01.2017] 2) the actual place of residence is Estonia;
3)  sufficient legal income which would enable an foreigner and the family members of an foreigner the subsistence in Estonia  and;
4) a medical expenses insurance contract in compliance with the requirements provided for in § 120 of this Act unless otherwise provided for in this Act.
[RT I, 23.03.2015, 1 – entry into force 01.01.2016]

(2) The general conditions for the issue of a temporary residence permit must be met for the issue of a residence permit on any basis.

(3) The supplementary conditions for the issue of a temporary residence permit on a specific basis have been provided for in this Act separately.

(4) If the issue of a temporary residence permit on a specific basis does not require that some of the general conditions of the issue of a temporary”

The other conditions relate to the business itself:

Section 192 Foreigners Act

“Requirements for business activity

(1) A temporary residence permit for enterprise may be issued if the settling of an foreigner in Estonia shall significantly contribute to the achievement of the purpose of the residence permit granted for enterprise and the following conditions are met:
 1) an foreigner has a holding in a company or he or she operates as a sole proprietor;
2) the company or the sole proprietor is entered into the commercial register of Estonia;
3) an foreigner has sufficient monetary resources for engaging in enterprise in Estonia 

(2) An foreigner who has a holding in a company shall have invested at least 65,000 euros in the share capital of an Estonian company, for which real estate, machinery or equipment has been acquired and registered as fixed assets in Estonia.
[RT I, 17.06.2020, 2 – entry into force 01.07.2020]

(21) The requirement for the amount of investment specified in subsection (2) of this section shall not be applied if:
1) the company has been registered in Estonia for less than 12 months and commences operation with the support of the state or private investments, having received investment or loan from the state or a private management company licenced by the Financial Supervision Authority or a support from a public support measure;
2) in the case of a start-up company.
[RT I, 03.01.2017, 1 – entry into force 18.01.2017]

(3) An foreigner who is applying for a temporary residence permit for enterprise as a sole proprietor is required to have the capital in the amount of at least 16,000 euros invested in Estonia.

(31) The requirement for the amount of investment specified in subsection (3) of this section shall not be applied to a start-up company.
[RT I, 03.01.2017, 1 – entry into force 18.01.2017]

(4) [Repealed – RT I, 17.06.2020, 2 – entry into force 01.07.2020]

(5) An foreigner shall submit the description of the business plan on the basis of which it is possible to assess if the grant of a residence permit to him or her shall be in compliance with the purpose of the grant of the residence permit for enterprise and provide evidence, in addition to other facts which are relevant in the proceeding, that there are no circumstances which would preclude his or her nomination as a member of the management body, procurator or the acquisition of a major holding or prohibit to be an actual beneficiary.

(6) An foreigner is required to submit the business plan in the Estonian or English language.

(61) The requirement for the description of the business plan specified in subsection (5) of this section shall not be applied to a start-up company.
[RT I, 03.01.2017, 1 – entry into force 18.01.2017]

(7) After one year has passed from the issue of a residence permit, one of the following conditions may be met during the period of validity of a temporary residence permit for enterprise instead of the possession condition of a residence permit provided for in subsection (2) of this Section:
1) the sales revenue of the company shall be at least 200,000 euros per year or
2) the social tax paid in Estonia monthly for the persons employed by the company shall be at least equal with the social tax paid in Estonia monthly on the remuneration equalling fivefold Estonian annual average gross wages.

(8) At the request of the Police and Border Guard Board the Tax and Customs Board shall submit the data of the remuneration on which the company has paid social tax.”

The further provisions of which you should be aware are those relating to the supporting documents, particularly in relation to the business:

Section 16 Procedure for Application for Temporary Residence Permit and its Extension and Long-Term Resident’s Residence Permit and Its Restoration and Rates of Legal Income

“Documents submitted for business upon application for temporary residence permit

(1) Upon application for a temporary residence permit for entrepreneurship on the basis of clause 118 5) of the foreigners Act, the following shall be submitted:
1) an application;
2) photo;
3) information concerning the capital of the foreigner invested in Estonia and the amount of capital under the control of the foreigner;
4)  a description of the business plan showing at least the name and registry code of the company or self-employed person, the business idea, including proposed activities, potential customers and suppliers, development plans, fixed assets, working capital, available manpower and financial forecasts for the next two financial years, including a cash flow forecast, as well as the curricula vitae of the persons performing the management and supervisory function and the applicant’s justification why his or her establishment in Estonia is important for business. 

(2) In the case provided for in clause 192 (2 1 ) 1 ) of the foreigners Act , instead of the document specified in clause (1) 3) of this section, the foreigner submits documents or information concerning investment or loans from the state or a private management company including the time and sources of the investment, loan or grant.

(3) In the case provided for in clause 192 (2 1 ) 2 ) and subsections 3 1 and 6 1 of the foreigners Act, instead of the information and documents specified in clauses (1) 3) and 4) of this section, the foreigner shall submit to the Police and Border Guard including the application number of the committee of experts.

(4) The document or information specified in subsection (3) of this section need not be submitted if the Minister of the Interior has specified the relevant economic unit belonging to the company as a start-up company by a directive.”

The conditions of permanent residence are those here, and include 5 years’ residence:

Section 122 Foreigners Act

“Requirements for extension of temporary residence permit

A temporary residence permit may be extended if the conditions of the extension of the residence permit are met and there is no basis for refusal to extend the residence permit.”

Section 232 Foreigners Act

“Conditions of issue of residence permit for long-term resident

(1) A residence permit for a long-term resident may be issued to an foreigner who corresponds to the following conditions:
1) he or she has resided in Estonia on the basis of a residence permit for at least last  five years  before the submission of the application for a residence permit for a long-term resident;
[RT I, 03.01.2017, 1 – entry into force 18.01.2017] 2) he or she has a valid temporary residence permit;
3) he or she has a permanent legal income which ensures his or her own subsistence in Estonia;
4) he or she is deemed to be an insured person for the purposes of the Health Insurance Act or a treaty of the Republic of Estonia;
5) he or she has met the integration requirement;
6) the information of his or her place of residence has been registered in the Population Register;
7) no facts which are the basis for the refusal to issue a residence permit for a long-term resident exist in respect of him or her.

(2) Clauses (1) 1)-3) of this section shall not be applied with regard to a child under fifteen years of age, who is a child of a citizen of Estonia residing in Estonia or of an foreigner residing in Estonia and holding a long-term resident’s residence permit of Estonia.
[RT I, 03.01.2017, 1 – entry into force 01.10.2017]

(21) The requirement for prior residence of an foreigner in the member states of the European Union on the basis of the EU Blue Card for at least five years immediately before the lodging of an application for a residence permit for a long-term resident, including the last two years in Estonia on the basis of the EU Blue Card, may be applied with regard to an foreigner who holds the EU Blue Card in Estonia instead of the requirement for residence on the basis of a residence permit provided for in clause (1) 1) of this section
[RT I, 03.01.2017, 1 – entry into force 18.01.2017]

(22) Upon meeting the requirement provided for in clause (1) 1) of this section the period of residence as an applicant for international protection immediately before the grant of international protection and the period of residence in Estonia as a person enjoying international protection shall be included into the period of residence in Estonia prior to the lodging of an application for a residence permit for a long-term resident.
[RT I, 03.01.2017, 1 – entry into force 18.01.2017]

(3) The requirement of residence on the basis of a residence permit provided for in clause (1) 1) of this section and clause 2) shall not apply with regard to an foreigner who has lost the citizenship of Estonia or who has been issued a personal identification document of the citizen of Estonia by mistake within six months as of the loss of the Estonian citizenship or the revocation of the document certifying the identity of an Estonian citizen.

(4) Subsection (3) of this section shall not be applied with regard to an foreigner who, upon application for the Estonian citizenship or for a document certifying the identity of the Estonian citizen, has submitted false information or falsified documents regarding the facts which are relevant to the proceedings.

(5) The conditions provided for in clauses (1) 1), 2) and 4)-6) of this section shall not be applied with regard to an foreigner who has settled in Estonia before 1 July in the year 1990 and who has factually resided and resides in Estonia and has not left to reside in another state and whose residence in Estonia does not pose a threat to the interests of the Estonian state.”

It is a condition of permanent residence that you have B1 proficiency in Estonian:

Section 234 Foreigners Act

“Integration requirement

(1)  An foreigner who is applying for a residence permit for long-term residents is required to have the Estonian language proficiency at least at the elementary level – language proficiency level B1 or a corresponding level .

(2) The integration requirement need not be complied with by:
1) an foreigner under 15 years of age;
2) an foreigner over 65 years of age and
3) an adult foreigner who has restricted active legal capacity.

(3) The Estonian language proficiency is evaluated at the Estonian language proficiency level exam under the conditions provided for in the Language Act.

(4) An foreigner who has acquired the basic, secondary and higher education in the Estonian language is not required to take the Estonian language examination”

It is the Citizenship Act that sets out the requirements for citizenship. Eight years’ residence is required if you are looking to take the start-up visa route through to citizenship:

Section 1 Citizenship Act

“Estonian citizen

(1) An Estonian citizen is a person who holds Estonian citizenship at the time of entry into force of this Act or a person who acquires or restores his or her Estonian citizenship in accordance with this Act.

(2) An Estonian citizen may not simultaneously hold the citizenship of another state.”

Section 6 Citizenship Act

“Conditions for acquiring Estonian citizenship by naturalisation

An foreigner who wishes to acquire Estonian citizenship by naturalisation must:
1) be at least 15 years of age;
2) hold a long-term residence permit or the right of permanent residence;
2) 1) prior to the date on which he or she submits the application for Estonian citizenship, have lived in Estonia for at least  eight years  on the ground of a residence permit or by right of residence, of which at least the last five years on a permanent basis;
2) 2) have lawfully and on a permanent basis resided in Estonia on the ground of a long-term residence permit or by right of permanent residence for six months from the day following the date of registration of the application for Estonian citizenship;
2)3) have a registered place of residence in Estonia;
3) be proficient in the Estonian language in accordance with the requirements provided in section 8 of this Act;
4) know the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia and the Citizenship Act in accordance with the requirements provided in section 9 of this Act;
5) have a permanent legal income;
[RT I, 03.02.2015, 1 – entry into force 13.02.2015] 6) be loyal to the Estonian state;
7) take an oath: ” Taotledes Eesti kodakondsust, tõotan olla ustav Eesti põhiseaduslikule korrale. ” [In applying for Estonian citizenship, I swear to be loyal to the constitutional order of Estonia.]”

Check out my full explanation of the process for applying for the Estonian start-up visa.

You can also see the latest required Estonian Subsistence Level and the most recent State Fees for the visa.

 

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