INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO CHANGE YOUR JOB IN ESTONIA AND PREPARE ALL THE DOCUMENTS FROM HOME*
*NB! Our article describes how to change jobs for highly qualified professionals. Who is considered to be a top specialist? You can find the exact definition and criteria here. If you are not an IT specialist and work in another field, the International House of Estonia (please refer to this article) will answer your questions about changing your job.
Foreigners wishing to change their job in Estonia often need to update a package of documents that will allow them not only to work but also to stay in Estonia. There are special procedures and time limits for this. Are you scared and do not know what to do? In brief, we will tell you how, under certain conditions and in some cases, you can change your employer almost from home!
If you got your residence permit on the basis of the employment agreement, a ticking bomb timer is triggered if you quit: you will receive a notification from police how much time do you have for finding a new legal basis for staying in Estonia or leave the country. You can register a marriage of convenience (this is a silly joke), and we certainly don’t advise you to do so, since it is much easier, safer, and more effective to find a new job and apply for a new residence permit.
First of all, a sapper’s lot is clear: he only gets to make one mistake when selecting a profession. In some cases, foreigners can change their job in Estonia and prepare all the documents from home and wasting no time, especially those who are highly qualified IT specialists.
To do this, you should know the procedure and several non-magical words. We will share all of this and other not well-known techniques of bureaucratic kung fu with you. And if you have already made a mistake, we will teach you how to fix it.
Passing through the minefield: algorithms
The uncertainty, lack of understanding of the rules, fear of losing a residence permit often prevent foreigners from deciding to change their employer. Don’t let the fear of a bureaucratic machine stop you from finding a better job. Furthermore, if we omit the details, the correct sequence of actions to change your employer is simple:
You proceed to enter into an employment agreement with your new employer → you apply for a new residence permit → you terminate your relations with your current employer in accordance with your current employment contract → you apply for a new short-term work permit.
If you have worked in Estonia for a total of 3 years over the past 5 years (on the basis of a residence permit only), you can unbind your residence permit from employment and reduce the algorithm to two steps:
You find an employer of your dream → you get a job of your dream
Before we tell you how to switch to a new job most seamlessly and in the shortest time possible, let us describe the correct sequence of actions. Here, as in sports, we first work on the technique, and then we increase the speed.
Case One: I want to switch to a new job – what should I do?
So, your potential employer is interested in you and offered you a new place of work. Congratulations! To avoid misunderstanding, which we will talk about later, we recommend that you follow the pattern:
One: get an offer of employment from a new employer or better enter into an employment agreement.
Two: fill out the Form for a new residence permit for employment, pay the state fee.
Three: submit the necessary data to the police, namely:
- the completed residence permit application Form;
- an offer of employment or an employment agreement signed by the employer;
- state fee payment confirmation;
- the Family Form;
- a copy of your valid ID document;
- permission of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (for highly qualified IT specialists and startup employees it is not required).
You can send your data, booking an appointment at the office of the Police and Boarder Guard Board here. You can also use a self-service portal that is faster and easier, but it is available only in Estonian.
Four: check the current employment agreement, in particular the section on termination of employment, and notify the employer of your decision to change your job.
Five: terminate your current agreement. Even if a new residence permit is still pending and has not yet been issued to you, ask your employer to draw up a short-term work permit application if you are a highly qualified IT specialist or a startup employee. It should be transferred through an authorized representative at the service point, electronically through self-service, or send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Six: believe it or not, but after you have done the previous step, you don’t have to wait for an official response from the police – you can go to work the next day!
As you can see, it’s easy.
Case Two: I want to unbind my residence permit from employment
If you often change jobs and it is such a sap to go through the above procedure or you intend to settle in Estonia in the near future, we recommend that you apply for a temporary residence permit for settling permanently.
First of all, make sure that you have lived and worked in Estonia for 3 years over the past 5 years (on the basis of a residence permit only). Otherwise, it will not work and you will be asked to wait. Pleat note that the “real” period of employment is considered. If, for example, when changing your employer, you waited for some time for the issuance of all the documents, this period of time will not be considered.
It is much easier to get such a residence permit, and you will have to go through fewer steps.
Step 1: fill out the form and pay the state fee.
Step 2: submit the necessary data to the police. Namely:
- state fee payment confirmation;
- a color photo, requirements for the photo are here.
Step 3: wait for the response of the police and receive new documents. Your application will be processed within 30 days.
Step 4: celebrate your success.
Please note that in order to obtain this type of residence permit you must meet some unofficial additional criteria. In particular, the police officer shall see that you have adapted well, and you shall explain your relationship with Estonia.
The main criterion is your decency and respect for local laws. Thus, even fines for such violations as minor speeding, jaywalking, or fine for no ticket can play tricks on you. Also, make sure that you have had valid insurance during your entire stay in Estonia.
If you would like to change your job during the process of getting this type of residence permit, take into account the following: strictly speaking, you cannot work until you have a positive police decision. However, if you are a highly qualified IT specialist or a startup employee, ask your new employer to fill out a short-term work permit application and proceed.
Using shortcut: how to prepare documents from home
Now, when you know the correct sequence of actions to change your job and there should be no misunderstandings, it is time to think about how to save time and avoid downtime.
First. It takes 3 to 4 months to switch to a new job under the general procedure. It is long. Therefore, to make it faster, the first step is not to visit the institutions personally and submit the documents from home while having a cup of aromatic coffee.
In this case, the police database shall contain your recently taken fingerprints. If they are taken less than 5 years ago, well done! You can sign documents digitally using your ID card and send them by e-mail. Otherwise, update your fingerprints at the nearest police bureau.
Second. It usually takes time for officials to process your application. However, there is an exception for highly qualified specialists and startup employees, when the short-term work permit application is considered most urgent. Furthermore, you can start working on the day after applying for a work permit: it is preliminary assumed that everything is good with your documents.
Who are highly qualified specialists? If a new employer is ready to pay you more than two average gross salaries in Estonia and confirm it on the basis of the offer of employment or the employment agreement, you a highly qualified specialist. Since this is a variable, you can check whether you meet this criterion here.
If you are going to switch to a startup, the amount of your salary is not important. Take a note that in Estonia a startup is an adjustable term, and if the company is not on this list, whatever the employer does, the privileges of prompt paperwork do not apply in this case.
Third. Police officials receive hundreds of letters every day. To ensure that your letter is not lost and your application is handled on the same day, whether you are applying for a new residence permit or work permit, use the following simple phrases.
When applying for a new residence permit and a short-term work permit, advise your employer to use one of these key phrases in English or Russian in the email subject:
Top IT specialist residence permit for employment
If you are a startup employee, amend the “phrase” accordingly.
Bonus. If you meet the criteria and would like to unbind the residence permit from employment, use the following phrases:
Top IT specialist – TPR, Top IT specialist – temporary residence permit for settling permanently, Top IT specialist settlement
As a result, using these tricks, you will save your time and will be able to seamlessly switch to a new job, with no wait and downtime. Of course, if you are not a highly qualified specialist or a startup employee, you should not use these tricks – believe us, it will be worse.
Something went wrong: mistake analysis
Despite the fact that the procedure for changing jobs is actually quite simple, foreigners often make accidental mistakes, which can cause unforeseen troubles. This is usually about the wrong sequence of actions, and there are two typical mistakes. But don’t worry: if you run into difficulties, we will help you overcome them.
Mistake No.1: no work permit
If you switched to a new job while your application for a new residence permit for employment is pending, then, strictly speaking, you are breaking the law. Generally, you should wait for an official reply. However, if you find yourself in such a situation, it is easy to eliminate it:
Step 1: do not panic and ask your employer to prepare a short-term work permit application in full compliance with the above recommendations.
Step 2: relax, now everything is ok.
Mistake No.2: new residence permit is required
Let’s assume that your residence permit has not expired and you switched to a new job, being confident that you can do this. However, after the termination of your employment agreement, you only have 90 days to either leave Estonia or apply for a new residence permit.
Your mistake will be surely identified and scrutinized. Of course, they will not put you under arrest, but they will ask questions in order to unfold the situation. However, it does not mean that it is time to pack your bags.
All you can do while the police holds an inquiry is to try to fix the mistake as follows:
Step 1: start the procedure for getting a new residence permit in compliance with our recommendations.
Step 2: ask your employer to prepare a short-term work permit application in full compliance with the above recommendations.
Step 3: keep working and wait for a police decision. May the Universe help you!
It is likely that if you made the mistake accidentally, the police will show understanding for your situation and forgive you. This time. Especially if you are a highly qualified IT specialist or a startup employee. However, we do not recommend trying things out and urge you to respect Estonian laws – this will help you prevent gray hair.
After all, it is not so difficult to do everything right.
You still don’t know what to do?
However, if after reading our step-by-step instructions you still have questions and are unsure how to proceed, do not hesitate to ask for clarification. In particular, you can do this via the International House of Estonia, a multi-purpose information center for labor migrants. You can ask your question by phone, e-mail or get comprehensive information by making an appointment for getting a piece of personal advice. Please refer to our previous blog to get to know how to promptly receive answers.
It may happen that you need to get an answer urgently, even yesterday. In this case, if this is a matter of the police, you can also email your request to email@example.com or call 612 35 00 (Monday to Friday, 09:00-15:00). It may also happen that they will not answer you right away if the advisor is busy. Please call back sometime later.
Now you know how to change your job in Estonia without fear of being deported! Do not repeat the mistakes of others: we highly recommend that you respect Estonian laws and regulations. In this case, the authorities will always show a friendly attitude and will always be ready to help you.
Mutual respect is the foundation for creating a relaxed and home-like environment to live and work. Take a look around – it’s so cool and beautiful in Estonia! Follow our Instagram channel, specially developed for beautiful people, to realize it once again.
Have a look around or check our Instagram channel to grasp that you are lucky to live and work in this beautiful country!
This article was updated in September 2021.