How I got the Estonian start-up visa

Kashef and Genia both got the start-up visa for Estonia, and share their stories here.

The Estonian start up visa is for foreign entrepreneurs residing outside of the EEA. It allows you to enter Estonia for the purpose of setting up a technology-based start-up business. It does lead to permanent residence (PR) and Estonian citizenship if you wish to apply.

In this video, Kashef talks about his experience successfully applying for the Estonian start-up visa with a mobile analytics app business idea:


 

 

In this video, Genia shares her tips and experience on how to easily apply for an Estonian start-up visa, and her business idea of a travel market place:


 

Start-up visa course

Eligibility for the Estonian start-up visa

You will need to prove that you will be able to set up a start-up company registered in Estonia:

  1. with global growth potential;
  2. that is innovative and replicable; and
  3. which shall significantly contribute to the development of the Estonian business environment (section 62(4) Aliens Act).

There is no requirement for you to show evidence of business funds or provide a formal business plan (section 192(2)(1)(2), 192(3)(1) & 192(6)(1) Aliens Act). However, you do need to include information about your business plan in the endorsement application itself. This covers the same areas as a business plan (market research, etc), so is really closer to a business plan than a simple pitch deck.

Also, whilst not formally acknowledged in the legislation, the business must produce a product or provide a service which utilises cutting edge technology at some stage of the business i.e. in developing the product or in delivering the service.

To get the visa, you will need to first submit an application to the Estonian Startup Committee (“the Startup Committee”) (section 16(3) & 16(4) 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). The application requires you to enter information about the business profile, team, product/service you intend to provide, the intended market and strategy for the product/service. Once approved, you will receive an expert committee “opinion” / approval, that you will have to submit with your application.

You will also need to prove that you have sufficient income and comprehensive health insurance for yourself and any dependents (section 117(3) & 117(4)). The subsistence level for you as the main applicant will be €150 per month, the subsistence level for each minor family member (i.e. a child under the age of 18) is €180 per month and the subsistence level for each subsequent adult member of your family (i.e. your spouse/civil partner) is €120 per month.


Application Process

There are three different ways in which you can apply for an Estonian start-up visa. You can either:

  1. apply directly for a residence permit (this route is for applicants who have already set up their start-up business in Estonia prior to submitting their application). This residence permit is granted for a period of 1-5 years and can be extended; or
  2. apply for a short-term Schengen Visa, which would allow you to travel to Estonia for a period of 90 days the purpose of setting up your start-up business. Prior to the expiry of the 90 day period you would then apply for the residence permit in-country; or
  3. apply for a long-term visa, which would allow you to travel to Estonia for a period of 12 months for the purpose of setting up your business. Prior to the expiry of the 12-month period, you would then apply for the residence permit in-country.


Process if you are applying for a temporary residence permit as a start-up founder:

STEP 1 – Set up a company in Estonia and set up an Estonian company bank account online (if you have not done so already);

STEP 2 – Complete and submit your application to the Startup Committee. The Startup Committee will review the application and make a decision within 10 working days. If successful, you will receive a verification letter with a unique application code which you will require for the visa application;

STEP 3 – Schedule an appointment at the Estonian embassy or consulate in your country of origin;

STEP 3 – Attend your appointment and submit your application for a temporary residence permit, along with your supporting documents and your unique code from the Startup Committee; and

STEP 4 – Receive your residence permit and travel to Estonia.


Process if you are applying for a short-term (Schengen) visa as a start-up founder:

STEP 1 – Complete the Schengen Visa (C) application form and submit your visa application online and gather your supporting documents;

STEP 2 – Schedule an appointment with your local Estonian embassy or consulate online;

STEP 3 – Attend your appointment and submit your supporting documents; and

STEP 4 – Receive your 90 day visa and travel to Estonia.


Process if you are applying for a long-term (national) visa as a start-up founder:

STEP 1 – Complete the Long-Stay (D) Visa form and gather your supporting documents;

STEP 2 – Schedule an appointment with your local Estonian embassy or consulate;

STEP 3 – Attend your appointment and submit your application and supporting documents; and

STEP 4 – Receive your Long Stay Visa and travel to Estonia.


Required documents if you are applying for the temporary residence permit as a start-up entrepreneur:

  1. a completed temporary residence permit application;
  2. 1 colour photo (40 x 50mm);
  3. a document certifying payment of the application fee;
  4. passport or other travel identity document;
  5. copy of the Startup Committee opinion;
  6. bank statements showing that you have sufficient legal income;
  7. evidence regarding your planned accommodation in Estonia; and
  8. a medical insurance policy with coverage of at least €30,000.


Required documents if you are applying for the short-term (Schengen) visa or long-term (national visa) as a start-up entrepreneur:

  1. a completed Schengen Visa (C) application form/Long-Stay (D) Visa form;
  2. 1 colour photograph (40 x 50mm);
  3. passport or other travel identity document;
  4. copy of the Startup Committee opinion;
  5. return flight tickets;
  6. a medical insurance policy with coverage for your period of stay of at least €30,000;
  7. evidence of your planned accommodation in Estonia; and
  8. evidence of sufficient means of subsistence for you and your dependents.


Can I bring my family members?

Yes, your spouse or minor child (aged under 18) may apply at the same time as you and receive a visa on the same terms (Section 64(4)(3) & 64(4)(4) Aliens Act).


Pathway to Estonian citizenship as a start-up visa applicant:

STAGE 1 – If you have applied for the Short-Term or Long-Term Visas (see above) you will need to apply for the residence permit in-country before the end of the 90 day/12 month term.

STAGE 2 – If your initial temporary residence permit was granted for a period of less than 5 years then you will need to apply for an extension (it is recommended that you do this at least 2 months before the end of your current residence permit term). An extension will be granted so long as you continue to comply with the criteria set out for the grant of the initial residence permit (Section 122 Aliens Act).

STAGE 3 – After you have resided in Estonia for 5 years on a temporary residence permit, you may apply for permanent residence (PR) (Section 232(1) Aliens Act). To be eligible for PR, you will have to continue to comply with the criteria for the grant of the residence permit and meet the required maintenance levels for you and your dependents (discussed above). You will also need to have knowledge of the Estonian language at least at level B1 (Section 234 (1) Aliens Act).

STAGE 4 – After 5 years with PR, you can apply for Estonian citizenship. In addition to the requirement for PR (above), you will need to provide a certificate on passing the examination on the knowledge of the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia and the Citizenship Act (Section 6 Citizenship Act). You may not hold dual citizenship (Section 1(2) Citizenship Act), so you will have to renounce any other citizenship upon applying.

N.B. You must be 15 years of age to apply for Estonian citizenship (Section 6(1) Citizenship Act).

The extension applications and PR application for your spouse and children may be processed at the same time which you process your applications for the same.


The cost of the Estonian start-up visa (visa fees):

Main Applicant for the start-up visa applicant:

  1. The fee for a temporary resident permit is €190 (when applying out of country) and €160 (when applying in country);
  2. The fee for an extension of a temporary residence permit is €64;
  3. The fee for a long term visa is €100;
  4. The fee for a short-term (Schengen) visa is €80; and
  5. The fee for applying for Estonian citizenship is €13.

Spouse of the start-up visa applicant:

  1. The fee for a temporary resident permit is €95 (if applying out of country) and €64 (if applying in country);
  2. The fee for extension of a temporary residence permit is €64;
  3. The fee for a long term visa is €100;
  4. The fee for a short-term (Schengen) visa is €80;
  5. The fee for applying for PR is €64; and
  6. The fee for applying for Estonian citizenship is €13.

Child of the start-up visa applicant:

  1. The fee for a temporary resident permit is €95 (if applying out of country) and €64 (if applying in country);
  2. The fee for extension of a temporary residence permit is €24;
  3. The fee for a long-term visa is €40 for a child between 6-11 years of age;
  4. The fee for a short-term (Schengen) visa is €40 for a child between 6-11 years of age; and
  5. The fee for applying for PR is €24 for a child under the age of 15.

These fees are also set out here on the Estonian government website.


How start up visas are issued:

The issuance of start-up visas in Estonia is governed by section 62(4) of the Aliens 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 alien in Estonia is related to foundation or development of a start-up company in Estonia. An alien 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 alien 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 alien.

(4) ) If an alien 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.”


Your start-up visa conditions: 

The conditions of the temporary residence permit you get with the start up visa are explained in section 117 of the Aliens Act:

Conditions of issue of temporary residence permit

(1) The general conditions of the issue of a temporary residence permit to an alien are the following:
1) the purpose of application for the Estonian temporary residence permit is justified;
2) the actual place of residence is Estonia;
3) sufficient legal income which would enable an alien and the family members of an alien 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.

(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 legal requirements for your business activity as a start-up founder: 

The requirements for your business activity in Estonia are governed by section 192 of the Aliens Act:

Requirements for business activity

(1) A temporary residence permit for enterprise may be issued if the settling of an alien 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 alien 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 alien has sufficient monetary resources for engaging in enterprise in Estonia

(2) An alien 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.

(2.1) 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 licensed by the Financial Supervision Authority or a support from a public support measure;
2) in the case of a start-up company.

(3) An alien 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.

(3.1) The requirement for the amount of investment specified in subsection (3) of this section shall not be applied to a start-up company […]

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

(6.1) 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.

(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.”

Document requirements for the original visa application and also for extending your visa as a as a start-up founder:

This is governed by section 16:

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 Aliens Act, the following shall be submitted:
1) an application;
2) photo;
3) information concerning the capital of the alien invested in Estonia and the amount of capital under the control of the alien;
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 Aliens Act , instead of the document specified in clause (1) 3) of this section, the alien 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 Aliens Act, instead of the information and documents specified in clauses (1) 3) and 4) of this section, the alien 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.”


Extending your start up visa:

The basic provision on start-up visa extensions is in section 122 of the Aliens 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.”

Requirements for applying for the long-term residence visa as a start-up founder: 

These are set out in section 232 of the Aliens 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 alien 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;
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 alien residing in Estonia and holding a long-term resident’s residence permit of Estonia.

(21) The requirement for prior residence of an alien 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 alien 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

(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.

(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 alien 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 alien 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 alien 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.”


Language requirements for the start-up visa

This is governed by section 234 of the Aliens Act:

Integration requirement

(1) An alien 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 alien under 15 years of age;
2) an alien over 65 years of age and
3) an adult alien 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 alien who has acquired the basic, secondary and higher education in the Estonian language is not required to take the Estonian language examination


Applying for Estonian citizenship after completing your start-up visa term: 

If you wish to naturalise as an Estonian citizen, this is governed by section 1 of the Estonian ‘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.”

The conditions for citizenship are set out in section 6 of the Citizenship Act:

Conditions for acquiring Estonian citizenship by naturalisation

An alien 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;
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]


Estonian start up visa resources

You can find my full course on how to apply for the Estonian start-up visa here:

https://visa-academy.com/p/estonia-startup-visa

The documents you need for the Temporary Residence Permit, Short-Term and Long-Term Visas are set out here:

https://startupestonia.ee/visa/eligibility-foreign-founder

https://vm.ee/en/applying-visa-schengen-area

https://www.vm.ee/en/long-stay-d-visa

https://www2.politsei.ee/en/teenused/residence-permit/tahtajaline-elamisluba/ettevotluseks/index.dot

The documents you need for applying to naturalise as an Estonian citizen are here:

https://www2.politsei.ee/en/teenused/eesti-kodakondsus/taiskasvanule/index.dot

The documents you need for applying for permanent residence after completing the start up visa term are here:

https://www2.politsei.ee/en/teenused/residence-permit/pikaajalise-elaniku-elamisluba/

You need to check that you can meet the minimum Estonian Subsistence Level. For the latest figure on what this is, check here:

https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1108&langId=en&intPageId=5055

Start-up visa course
WhatsApp chat