Most non-EU IT specialists who wish to move to Estonia are well-versed in the standard algorithm of steps needed to first obtain a temporary residence permit with an invitation from an employer, and later a permanent residence permit. Should you belong to the less knowledgeable minority, we recommend you first read this article, which explains how to proceed as a highly qualified IT specialist already working in Estonia who wants to change their employer or disassociate their residence permit from employment.

If you happen to be both a highly qualified and a highly educated specialist (read: have a PhD or equivalent degree) who wishes to live and work in Estonia, we have great news for you: you have every opportunity to obtain a permanent residence permit based on a simplified procedure.

In 2017, amendments to the Aliens Act entered into force, which aim to assist and facilitate with the temporary stay, residence and employment of sensible and entrepreneurial people in Estonia. This wording opens the way to the country for you, my dear PhD holders, and all but rolls out the red carpet! You see, highly qualified IT specialists are, by definition, savvy, and your entrepreneurial nature is demonstrated by your desire to move to Estonia in order to develop this essential branch of the economy.

Coming back to the Aliens Act, we need to rely on one of the amendments, which states the following: “Whereas usually an alien must have resided in Estonia for at least three consecutive years in a five-year period in order to apply for a permanent residence permit, the requirement does not apply to aliens who have a PhD.”

This means that should your relationship with your employer break down, you will not find yourself in a limbo-like situation where you have 90 days to find a new job; you do not need to notify the police of each new job, and also, should you wish to settle in the country for a longer time, there is no need to jump through all the bureaucratical hoops again, re-submitting all the necessary paperwork and waiting for three years of residency to accumulate. With such a residency permit you will certainly feel more confident about the future!

Recently, this theoretical way of obtaining a residence permit faster was tested in practice by Ivan Ponomarev from the «Понаехали» в Эстонию community, who generously shared his experience. We, however, offer a step-by-step guide on how to get a residence permit on simplified terms if you have a doctoral degree recognised by the Estonian Academic Recognition Information Centre ENIC/NARIC.

NB! Please note that the website of the Police and Border guard Board of Estonia only provides that information in Estonian and English (the latter being a shorter version). For this reason we recommend you follow our instruction, and if you know someone who might need it, feel free to share it!

Step 1
Recognition procedure

Get to know the requirements of the ENIC/NARIC centre, and submit the following documents to [email protected]:

1. Completed application

2. Your ID

3. Original diploma/certificate or a certified copy of the highest academic degree you have (PhD or equivalent) 

4. Original official transcript, Diploma Supplement and/or other additional documents or their certified copies

5. Copies of your previous higher education diplomas with official transcripts, certified at the higher education institution.

All documents must be scanned in colour and submitted in PDF format.
If you are already in Estonia, you can also submit the documents in person - the address and opening hours and all details about the application process can be found here.

The recognition procedure is free of charge. The response is delivered in writing within 30 days.

Step 2
Applying for a residence permit

Booking a time at a serviced office of the Police and Border Guard Board of Estonia is obligatory in order to obtain a residence permit. There are two things to keep in mind.

1) The booking must include the correct data of the person for whom the application is submitted, as they cannot be changed later.

2) The booking calendar is open 3 months ahead, and the waiting lists are long. This means that it is wise to book a visit to Police and Border Guard Board in parallel with Step 1.

 You can click here to select a service office and book a time.

Step 3
Filling out and submitting documents

You have already booked your visit, now is the time to prepare for it. You can read more on the Police and Border Guard Board’s website.

List of required documents:

1. A filled out and printed application for a residence permit

2. A filled out and printed application form detailing information about close relatives and family members.

3. Employment history with a thorough list of places and periods of employment, as well as the positions held. The more detailed it is the better. Your employment history may be submitted on a separate sheet.

4. A certificate confirming that ENIC/NARIC recognizes your degree.

5. You will take a colour photograph on-site (at the office) and pay the state fee.


·       At the time of submitting the document, pay attention to which type of residency you will get. The “speedy” version is not the most common one, so check to make sure the official is on the right track.

·       If, by this time, you already have a contract with your employer and know your future address, provide a copy of your employment contract and lease agreement with the documents.

·       Documents are reviewed for up to 3 months. Keep in mind that during this time, the police may contact you for additional questions and request for additional documents. There is no reason to be apprehensive of that! Give some thought to your answers and formulate them as clearly as possible.

Step 4
Obtaining a residence permit

Keep in mind that there may easily be a month between the time you receive a positive answer offering you a residence permit and the moment of actually receiving the permit. You decide how to make use of it. In any case, we trust that you will use it wisely, after all, getting a doctorate is no child’s play! Most importantly, do not forget to celebrate this auspicious occasion and check out our Instagram to see that you will live and work in a comfortable and beautiful country.

Should you need a bank account to start with or to transfer money to your home country, get an account with Wise! Check our famous Estonian Unicorn homepage.

PS. If you still have some questions after reading our step-by-step guide, feel free to ask for clarifications. For example, you could do that via  International House of Estonia, the one-stop-shop for migrant workers. You can ask your question by phone, e-mail or receive thorough information by signing up for a personal consultation.


Last updated at: 27.12.2022