Aug 02 2018

New Law Benefits Specialists and Short-Term Workers, Increases Company Penalties


At a Glance

Effective July 15, 2018, a new immigration law in Estonia exempts specialists from the national work permit quota and allows a longer short-term work authorization period, among other changes.  In addition, the law increases the fine for companies found violating immigration laws tenfold and introduces other new penalties.

The situation

A new immigration law came in effect in Estonia on July 15, 2018 that affects specialists, short-term workers, and company penalties, among other topics. The changes aim to increase the flexibility in the Estonian labor market and alleviate labor shortages for project-based work.

Benefits for foreign workers

The new law benefits the following categories of foreign workers:

  • Top-level specialists. Top-level specialists are excluded from the national work permit quota, which is currently filled for 2018. Qualifying specialists were already exempt from labor market testing and benefited from one-day processing times, so this new exemption adds to the benefits for top specialists in Estonia.

  • Short-term status. Under the new law, short-term employees can register to work in Estonia for up to 12 months, up from nine months.

  • Journalists. Accredited foreign journalists are now work permit exempt for up to one year. Visa national journalists still require a visa, while visa-exempt national journalists are subject to allowable stay limits, depending on their nationality.

  • Impact. Employers may want to consider employing specialists or short-term workers due to the streamlined immigration process in both cases, as compared to regular work permits, which require eligibility through the quota, longer processing times and at times shorter allowable stay periods.

Company penalties

In addition, the new law significantly increases the fines for companies violating immigration and employment law as follows:

  • Tenfold increase in maximum fine. The maximum fine for companies violating immigration laws increased to EUR 32,000, up from EUR 3,200.

  • New sanctions. The law introduces new sanctions such as a prohibition from bidding on government-sponsored work and a ban on economic activities for companies involved in systematic violations of immigration and employment laws.

  • Impact. Companies should consider how the significantly increased penalties may affect their immigration compliance plans.

Looking ahead

A new law is expected to be implemented August 15, 2018 that will introduce a work permit waiver for service providers from another EU country under the Van der Elst waiver. Under the law, work permit holders employed in an EU country should be able to temporarily provide services in Estonia after completing a simple registration process. Fragomen will issue an update when more information is available on this change.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to