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Citizenship and Migration

In the field of migration and citizenship, the Ministry of the Interior develops and implements policies in connection with temporary stay and settlement in Estonia, citizenship policy, adaptation policy and asylum policy.

The objectives of the Ministry of the Interior in the field of migration and citizenship are:

  • the facilitation of the migration of people who contribute to the development of the Estonian state and society, and development of legal and administration solutions to support such migration;
  • the formation of the support system to facilitate adaptation of new immigrants in cooperation with private, third and public sectors and to create support services that would allow immigrants to merge better into Estonian society as well as create preconditions for their further independent working and living;
  • the creation of conditions for the reception of persons under international protection and providing adaptation services on the basis of their cultural, gender, religious, linguistic and other peculiarities;
  • a balanced citizenship policy that is based on the constitution and generally recognised principles of international law and ensures preservation of the national state, public order and national security.

 

Citizenship

 

Estonian citizenship is a legal relationship that brings rights and responsibilities to both citizens and the state.

 

Acquisition of Estonian citizenship by birth, acquisition of Estonian citizenship by naturalisation, resumption and loss of citizenship:

  • Estonian citizenship is acquired at birth by a child, where at the moment of his/her birth at least one of the child’s parents is an Estonian citizen.
  • Estonian citizenship can be acquired by naturalisation and can be restored to persons who have lost their Estonian citizenship while being minor.
  • Estonian citizenship is lost, where he/she is released from or deprived of Estonian citizenship, or where he/she adopts citizenship of another state.

Rights and obligations of Estonian citizens

Citizenship is a legal relationship between the person and the state, which brings rights and responsibilities to both sides. Every Estonian citizen also has citizenship of the European Union.

Terms and conditions of the acquisition by birth and by naturalisation, resumption and loss of Estonian citizenship are provided for in the Citizenship Act.

Rights of an Estonian citizen:

  • vote in Riigikogu (parliamentary) elections and referendums (if a person is 18 years old and is not declared a person without active legal capacity by the court of law);

  • belong to political parties;

  • become a candidate in Riigikogu elections, if a person is at least 21 years old;

  • become a candidate in presidential elections, if a person is at least 40 years old and has acquired citizenship by birth.

No Estonian citizen can be expelled from Estonia or prevented from settling in Estonia. When staying abroad, Estonian citizens have the right to diplomatic protection of the Estonian state.

In addition, Estonian citizens have all the rights of the citizens of the European Union, including visa-free travel within the European Union and to many other countries, the right to work anywhere in the European Union without a work permit, more favourable learning opportunities in the European Union, and so on.

Obligations of an Estonian citizen:

  • be loyal to the constitutional order and defend the independence of Estonia (duty of loyalty);

  • male citizens of Estonia are liable to service in the Defence Forces from the age of 16 to 60 (duty of national defence);

  • respect the constitutional order of Estonia (citizens of foreign states during their stay in Estonia and stateless persons are also obliged to respect the constitutional order of Estonia).

The Police and Border Guard Board deals with the determination of citizenship and issuing of respective documents.

In order to guarantee the statehood of Estonia and to secure cohesion of the population, it is important to continue measures that promote the activeness of persons with undetermined citizenship with regard to deliberate and weighted application for citizenship. A number of measures aimed at raising the interest of persons with undetermined citizenship towards applying for Estonian citizenship have been implemented, including campaigns on raising awareness of the terms and conditions of the acquisition of Estonian citizenship and its necessity.

  • As of January 2017, 79,438 persons with undetermined citizenship were resident in Estonia (compared to 82,561 persons in 2016).
  • In 2016, 1746 persons acquired Estonian citizenship by naturalisation. 1450 of them were persons with undetermined citizenship.
 

Legal migration

 

As a member state of the European Union, Estonia shares European values, respect for human rights and applies common European Union immigration policy.

 

Immigration policy

The entry of aliens into Estonia, their temporary stay in the country as well as their residence and employment are regulated by the Aliens Act. Estonian immigration policy has historically aimed at facilitating settlement of those aliens in Estonia, whose residence here is consistent with the public interest and preventing the entry of aliens into Estonia who may be a threat to public order or national security. The rights of European Union citizens and their family members with regard to residence and employment in Estonia are set out in the Citizen of the European Union Act.

The Police and Boarder Guard Board deals with the administration of residence permits and issue of documents.

More information on residence permits and right of residence is available on the website of the Police and Border Guard Board.

Facts:

  • As of January 2017, 190,585 persons possessed valid residence permits (165,934 of them with long-term permits and 24,651 with fixed-term permits).
  • In 2016, the Police and Border Guard Board issued to citizens of third countries 1,513 temporary residence permits for family relocation, 1,808 residence permits for work and 1,297 residence permits for study in Estonia.
 

In addition to organising matters of temporary stay or permanent settlement in the country, an effective migration policy embraces adaptation of foreigners after their arrival in the country and their involvement in local life.

In order to support newly arrived immigrants who have migrated to Estonia to settle in and to acquire knowledge, skills and primary proficiency in the Estonian language, Estonia offers all newly arrived immigrants the opportunity to participate in an introductory welcoming programme.

Additionally, the Ministry of the Interior supports and empowers public, private and third sector organizations that on daily basis are in contact with newly arrived immigrants through support network and developing public services.

Broader aim of the Ministry of the Interior in the field of adaptation is to form a system of support services for new immigrants that is comprehensive, flexible and timely.

New immigrants are all aliens legally migrated to Estonia who have stayed in the country for less than five years.

 

International protection

 

The ability to obtain international protection is one of the fundamental human rights. Estonia has undertaken an international obligation to protect those aliens who are not able to live safely in their home countries. Estonia also participates in the development and implementation of the European Union’s common immigration and asylum policy.

In Estonia international protection policy is developed by the Ministry of the Interior, while asylum applications are processed by the Police and Border Guard Board. The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for the reception of asylum seekers and settling of beneficiaries of international protection in local municipalities.

The grounds for granting international protection to aliens, legal status of aliens and grounds for their stay in Estonia are regulated by the Act on Granting International Protection to Aliens, based on international agreements and European Union legislation.

Facts:

  • In 2016, 84 international protection applications were submitted in Estonia (compared to 228 in 2015).
  • Since 1997, 903 aliens have asked for international protection in Estonia and 326 of them received it (as of 31 December 2016).

Visa Information System

 

Last updated: 15 April 2017