1.1 Has any guidance already been issued in relation to Brexit, for example on residence or work permits in the event of a no-deal Brexit?
Estonia has not yet issued contingency rules that would apply in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
2.1 When UK employees become third-country nationals will they require a business visa?
No, Regulation (EU) 2019/592 of 10 April 2019 exempts UK citizens from the requirement for a Schengen visa. It will apply from the day the UK is no longer subject to EU law. When it takes effect, UK citizens will be able to enter and stay in the Schengen area for a maximum of 90 days in any rolling 180-day period.
The Schengen exemption will apply:
- from Brexit date in the event of no deal;
- from 1 January 2012 if the Withdrawal Agreement (‘WA’) is ratified (under the WA, UK nationals keep their EU free movement rights until 31 December 2020).
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 documentation will be required for business travel on arrival at the border once UK citizens are considered third-country nationals?
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.
3.1 When UK citizens become third-country nationals will they need permission to work?
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.
3.2 If permission to work is needed do any quotas apply for employing third-country nationals?
Yes, Estonia applies an immigration quota (which was already filled on the first working day of the year in 2019). Top specialists (qualified in any field and earning a salary that is at least double the Estonian national average), employees of startups, employees working in the field of information and communication technology and a few other specific categories are exempted for the quota.
3.3 If permission to work is needed, as of when will it be needed?
- from 1 November 2019 in the event of no deal;
- from 1 January 2021 if the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified before 31 October 2019.
3.4 If permission to work is needed, what are the most common categories?
- top specialists;
- employees coming to Estonia for up to 365 days (exempted from the residence permit for work, but required to register short-term employment in Estonia).
3.5 If permission to stay or work is needed, 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 ten working days from the employer’s application.
- After registration of short-term employment, the employee can apply for a visa for short-term work in Estonia and this application is processed within 30 days.
3.6 If permission to work or stay is needed, what Government fees would be due for this permission?
- 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 From when can third-country nationals obtain permanent residence?
Five years of legal stay in Estonia (subject to conditions).
5.1 What steps could UK nationals still take to secure their residence status?
Currently (in the absence of any specific contingency rules):
- Applying for Estonian/EEA or Swiss citizenship if conditions are met, but individuals should consider consequences before doing so.
- Preparing documents for family reunification with an EU national if relevant.