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Applying for an Estonian residence permit after the immigration quota is full

Estonian immigration policy is quite strict and one of the aspects of this is a small immigration quota (1303 for the year 2024). At the time of writing this article there is already very small chance of applying to get into the quota. The quota fills up by every positive residence permit decision until the quota is reached so there is no way of actually knowing how many places are still left - it is a prediction and based on previous years you would need to make your application in December of the previous year or January latest.

Some basis for a residence permit can be used outside the quota and there are quite a number of these.

Let us look at some of the most common options (there are others which are not so practical):

1. Citizens of Japan, UK and USA

Immigration for Americans, UK citizens and Japanese into Estonia is easier.

2. Start-up founders or start-up employment

Estonia is implementing a start-up programme ( under which if your business idea is approved by a special start-up committee, you and your business partners can apply for a residence permit with the purpose of developing the business idea in Estonia (for this you also need an Estonian company registered). Employees for this business can also be hired outside of the quota which provides further support. Startup life in Estonia is quite vibrant.

 All information can be accessed here:

3. Employment in the IT-sector

Information technology sector does not go under the quota either. In addition to searching employment from various resources like and , you can also start your own business (easy to do with our e-residency programme) and employ yourself. You would need Estonian Unemployment Fund approval prior to the TRP application but we also help with that.

4. Studying

 Yes, studying is quota free as well. You are also allowed to work with a residence permit for studying as long as you follow the necessary educational programme.

5. Family members

You also can settle with your spouse or a parent, also with your child under certain conditions.

6. Existing residence permit holders

If you already have a residence permit and apply for a new one (for example when changing employers), you also need not worry about the quota. PS! If you have an existing residence permit issued outside the quota and are applying for a new one that would fall under the quota then the quota will apply to you.

7. Employment as a top specialist

Who is a top specialist? It is actually defined by certain criteria of the employer:

Residence permit for employment as a top specialist can be granted to an alien, provided that the company where an alien shall be employed has been registered in Estonia at least 12 months and the company complies with at least one of the following requirements:

  • The company has at least 65,000 euros of equity capital, which has been used for purchasing in Estonia and classing as fixed assets immovable property, machines or devices or used for making an investment into a company registered in another commercial register of Estonia, which has real economic activities in Estonia or into an investment fund created or established according to the Investment Funds Act

  • the sales revenue of the company shall be at least 200,000 euros per year

  • the social tax paid in Estonia monthly for the persons employed by the company shall be at least equal with the social tax paid in Estonia monthly on the remuneration equalling fivefold Estonian annual average gross wages

The salary requirement is also higher - 1,5 times the average gross salary of Estonia.

8. As a major investor

Requires an investment of at least 1 million euros to the Estonian economy among other requirements. In practice a lot of scrutiny is used by the Police and Border Guard when using this basis.

9. Employment based on short-term employment registration

Short-term employment registration used to be a condition to apply for a long-term visa for working but from now it can be changed into a residence permit after 9 months of working with a maximum duration of 2 years.


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