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4 min read

Moving to Estonia: A Guide for Expats and Digital Nomads

Worker experience

Author

Gabriele Culot

Published

February 21, 2024

Last Update

July 01, 2024

Table of Contents

Step 1: Prepare your documents

Step 2: Manage your finances

Step 3: Arrange housing and accommodation

Step 4: Consider career opportunities and working arrangements

Step 5: Organize healthcare and education

Step 6: Ensure your safety

Step 7: Immerse yourself in Estonian culture

Kickstart your new life in Estonia

Key takeaways
  1. With its relatively low costs and high quality of life, Estonia has emerged as a popular choice for expats.
  2. Applying for one of the many Estonian visas and finding jobs calls for thorough research and careful planning.
  3. Deel’s step-by-step guide shows you how to effortlessly navigate the Estonian visa process and settle into your new home.

In recent years, the increasing popularity of remote work has prompted more expats and digital nomads to move to Estonia - a dynamic, tech-savvy, and beautiful small country known for its digital society advancements. 

Being one of the most digitally advanced countries in Europe, and the birthplace of Skype, has made it very easy and attractive for individuals around the globe to consider Estonia as their new home. Besides being a member of the EU, Estonia offers an E-Residency program and the Estonia Digital Nomad Visa, designed to attract expats and digital nomads

Moving to Estonia promises an exciting adventure but can be challenging when managing the paperwork and acclimating to new traditions. Before you pack your bags for the Baltic Sea, plan carefully to avoid potential pitfalls. This guide helps you understand the steps required for a successful start in Estonia. 

Step 1: Prepare your documents

Before considering moving to Estonia, ensure you’re eligible to stay and apply for a visa if required. Below are the key points to consider.

EU countries

Thanks to the Schengen agreement, you won't need a visa to move to Estonia if you’re a citizen from another EU/EEA country or Switzerland. You’re free to live, work, and study wherever you desire.

According to Brexit agreements, British citizens residing in Estonia before 1 January 2021 can continue to live and work there.

However, no matter where you’re from, you must obtain a residence permit should you plan to stay for over 90 days.

Visa Types

The Estonian government offers a variety of visas to non-EU citizens:

  • Tourist visa: Explore Estonia for a maximum of 90 days over a year
  • Job seeker visa: A work visa that enables you to seek employment for up to nine months
  • Seasonal work visa: This a temporary residence permit valid for up to nine months or the length of your work contract, relevant to specific industries
  • Startup visa: Designed for foreigners willing to start a tech-based business in Estonia
  • Estonia Digital Nomad Visa: Allows digital nomads to work for their foreign employer or as a freelancer
  • Estonia E-Residency: Although it’s not a residential status or visa, this digital identity issued by Estonia allows entrepreneurs to launch and manage an EU-based company online

Visa Sponsorship

Applicants outside the EU may need a legal sponsor (a company or individual) in Estonia to support your visa application beyond other visa requirements.

Essential Document Checklist

Handling the necessary paperwork before applying for a visa can ensure timely and smooth sailing. Depending on your visa type, these documents may include:

✅ Passport (plus copies): The passport should be valid for at least six months longer than your planned stay, and should contain at least two blank pages. An ID card is sufficient for EU citizens.

✅ Passport-sized photos: Standard size is 35mm by 45mm, and the photo should be recent

✅ Visa application form: Download, fill, and sign the application form as per your visa type

✅ Proof of outbound travel: Such as your flight tickets or other travel documents

✅ Insurance documents: Proof of medical insurance coverage

✅ Accommodation details: The address where you plan to stay

✅ Proof of employment: If you’re applying for a work visa, an offer or signed contract is required

✅ Criminal record check: Required for some visas

✅ Educational certificates: Sometimes necessary to prove you’re qualified in your field

✅ Financial records: Proof of sufficient funds for your stay

✅ Marriage and birth certificates: If you’re moving with family members or considering family reunification, these documents are needed for dependent visas

Importance of Authenticating and Translating Documents

Authorities in Estonia require you to authenticate certain documents. If your country isn’t under the Apostille Convention, you might need your local Estonian embassy to authenticate your documents. 

Also, depending on your country of origin, you may need translations of important documents like birth and marriage certificates. Use a professional service to ensure accurate translation.

Step 2: Manage your finances

Estonia offers a unique blend of modern living and rich history with a reasonable cost of living compared to other European countries. Efficient financial management can allow expats to enjoy Estonia's tech-savvy society and natural beauty. Here’s what to account for:

Cost of living in Estonia

Here are the expected costs while living in Estonia:

  • Renting: A one-bedroom apartment in city centers like Tallinn might cost around €500-700, while in smaller cities or outside city centers, it can be around €300-500.
  • Buying property: The real estate market in Estonia is accessible to foreigners with no major restrictions. Prices are lower than in most Western European countries but vary widely between urban and rural areas.
  • Food and drink: Grocery shopping is affordable, and dining at local restaurants offers good value, with a meal for two at a mid-range restaurant costing around €30-50.
  • Transport: Public transportation is efficient and economical, with a monthly pass costing around €23 in Tallinn (free for registered residents). Owning and maintaining a car is relatively affordable compared to other EU countries.
  • Utilities: For an 85m2 apartment, monthly utilities (heating, electricity, cooling, water, garbage) might cost around €100-180, depending on usage and the season.

Taxation

Estonia has a straightforward and favorable tax system, with a flat income tax rate of 20% for individuals. 

Residents pay taxes on their worldwide income, while non-residents are taxed only on their Estonian-sourced income. Understanding how Estonia's tax and labor laws interact with your home country's is advisable to avoid double taxation.

Estonia is also known for its E-Residency program, offering digital entrepreneurship opportunities, though it doesn't affect tax residency status.

Banking and currency exchange

Opening a bank account in Estonia is straightforward, with major banks offering services in English. You'll typically need your passport, proof of address, and sometimes an Estonian personal identification code. Estonia is part of the Eurozone, which simplifies banking and currency exchange for those already holding euros.

Step 3: Arrange housing and accommodation

Finding the right place to live is crucial for settling into Estonian life. The country's blend of medieval charm and modern efficiency is reflected in its housing market.

Renting vs. buying

For expats, renting is often the most flexible option, particularly if your stay in Estonia is temporary. The rental market is competitive, especially in Tallinn and Tartu, so start your search early. Websites like City24 and Kinnisvara24 are popular among locals and expats.

Foreigners can buy property in Estonia relatively easily compared to other countries, making purchasing a viable option for those planning a longer stay.

Finding suitable housing

From sleek urban apartments to more spacious options in suburban or rural areas, Estonia offers a variety of living spaces. Note that it's common for rental apartments to come unfurnished or partially furnished.

When agreeing on a rental, ensure the contract clearly specifies:

  • The property's address and a detailed description
  • The rental price and acceptable payment methods
  • Security deposit amount (typically equivalent to one to three months’ rent)
  • Lease duration, often one year with the possibility of extension
  • Tenant and landlord responsibilities
  • And specifications on pets and any possible renovations or alterations

Estonia's fast internet speeds and widespread e-government services make managing utility bills and other services exceptionally user-friendly, fitting perfectly with the country’s tech-forward image.

Step 4: Consider career opportunities and working arrangements

Navigating the job market in Estonia offers a unique blend of opportunities, especially in the tech and digital sectors. Known for its digital innovation, Estonia is the birthplace of several successful global startups, including Skype and TransferWise (now Wise), making it an attractive destination for professionals involved in IT, cybersecurity, and entrepreneurship.

In this section, we’ll explore how you can find job opportunities and adapt to the professional environment in Estonia.

Job market overview

Estonia’s work market highly values tech-savviness and innovation. The country boasts a thriving IT sector, and there is an increasing demand for skilled professionals in software development, digital marketing, and technology research. Additionally, Estonia’s startup culture offers numerous opportunities for entrepreneurs and those interested in working with emerging technologies.

For job seekers, platforms like CV.eeWorkinEstonia.com, and LinkedIn are valuable resources. Estonia's E-Residency program also provides digital access to the country’s business environment, allowing international entrepreneurs to easily start and manage an Estonian business from anywhere in the world.

While proficiency in the Estonian language is advantageous for integrating into the country and broader job market, many tech companies and startups operate in English, making it easier for international professionals to adapt.

Understanding work culture in Estonia

Work culture in Estonia is characterized by a pragmatic approach, flexibility, and a high degree of digital integration. Estonians value direct communication, efficiency, and independence in the workplace. The standard workweek is 40 hours, with a growing emphasis on work-life balance, reflected in the widespread adoption of remote and flexible working arrangements.

Estonia's flat organizational structures foster an environment of equality where initiative and innovation are encouraged. Despite the formal appearance, the workplace atmosphere is generally relaxed, with a casual dress code in many sectors.

Step 5: Organize healthcare and education

Estonia provides high-quality public services in both healthcare and education, accessible to expats who are legal residents.

Healthcare system in Estonia

The Estonian healthcare system offers comprehensive coverage, funded by taxation and governed by the Estonian Health Insurance Fund. Residents covered by health insurance have access to a wide range of medical services with minimal fees. Registering with a family doctor is the first step in accessing healthcare services.

For additional coverage, some opt for private health insurance, which can provide quicker access to specialists and additional services not fully covered by the public system.

Education options in Estonia

The Estonian education system is recognized for its quality and innovation, particularly in integrating technology into learning. Public education is free and conducted in Estonian, though there are also Russian-speaking schools. For expat families, international schools offer programs in English and other languages, providing an easy transition for expat children.

Estonia also has reputable higher education institutions, many of which offer programs in English. Tuition fees are competitive, and numerous scholarships are available for international students.

Step 6: Ensure your safety

Estonia is one of the safest countries on the planet, with low crime rates and a high standard of living. As with any country, it's wise to take standard precautions, especially in tourist areas, to guard against petty theft.

In case of emergency, dial 112 for comprehensive emergency services. Expats should also keep the contact information of their embassy or consulate accessible for any consular assistance required.

Step 7: Immerse yourself in Estonian culture

Acclimatizing to Estonian life entails appreciating its rich culture, marked by a deep reverence for nature, a vibrant digital society, and traditional customs.

Social norms: Estonians are known for their reserved demeanor and love of personal space, but they are friendly and helpful once acquainted. Punctuality is highly valued in both social and professional settings.

Outdoor and digital lifestyle: With vast forests, parks, and a love for outdoor activities, Estonians balance their digital lives with a strong connection to nature.

Cuisine: Estonian cuisine features a variety of meats, fish, and dairy, often accompanied by potatoes and black bread. The country also has a burgeoning food scene that includes modern and international cuisines.

Kickstart your new life in Estonia

From the welcoming streets of Tallinn's old town to the proximity to Latvia’s capital city, Riga, and Helsinki in Finland, Estonia is an exceptional destination for expats and digital nomads. Benefit from a high quality of life, accessible healthcare, diverse employment opportunities, rich culture, and cutting-edge digital modernization.

Thorough research and planning can ensure a smooth transition if you're contemplating a move to Estonia. For additional support, Deel can navigate organizations and their employees through the work permit or immigration process and assist in finding suitable insurance plans.

Discover how Deel can aid in securing the required work permit or visa, or delve into the Deel blog for more insights on relocating internationally.

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