Estonia has been revealed as the best country in Europe to find a job.
The recent study found that the small northern European nation had major advantages over the rest of the continent for job seekers, including a low cost of living, an advanced digital infrastructure, and a government that strongly backs business.
As a result, there are now more startups per person in Estonia than any other European country – and even more than in Silicon Valley.
This all started in 2003 with the birth of one particularly successful Estonian company we all know: Skype. It then spawned a thriving entrepreneurial scene that is now hailed as Europe’s hottest startup hub.
The dominance of Estonian companies is now so notorious, particularly in digital services, that firms are collectively called the #EstonianMafia and are famous for their track record in disrupting traditional industries.
There’s an opportunity for you:
Because of its steady growth, Estonia has a skills shortage across industries from engineering to IT and communications.
The business community has responded by rolling out the red carpet for new talent from abroad. At the same, the government has made attracting job seekers a high priority.
Why Get a Job in Estonia?
Estonia has a favorable business environment and a rising standard of living. And there are plenty more reasons to make this land your home. Its medieval capital Tallinn is charmingly beautiful and beyond that is Europe’s wildest countryside.
Estonia combines the best of both Nordic and Baltic culture, although it’s also pretty unique.
These are just some of the reasons why jobs in Estonia are looking more and more attractive.
Now, after 25 years of demographic decline, the national statistics office has just revealed that Estonia’s population is growing for the very first time in a quarter of a century.
Economic immigration into Estonia jumped by one third in just the past year. A record 1,659 residence permits for employment were issued to foreign nationals in 2015 with Ukrainians leading the way.
Estonia is today ranked as one of the world’s most open economies, but new economic migrants still have a few challenges. We know settling in a new country is never easy so we’ve rounded up everything you need to know to join the #EstonianMafia.
The 9 Tips You Need to Know to Get Your Dream Job in Estonia
1. Getting Registered
There are no longer separate work visas for Estonia so you’ll just need a residence permit to work.
If you are a citizen of the EU, EEA or Switzerland then you don’t need to apply immediately though as you get three months’ reprieve and can start working straight away.
You can apply for a residency permit inside Estonia at police stations or border guard offices, or outside Estonia at any of the country’s embassies. They’ll take your fingerprints and photo at the same time and this will help them produce your digital ID card, which will allow you to access the digital society. This gives you the same benefits as the card carried by citizens, as well as e-Residents who want access to Estonia’s digital services without necessarily visiting the country.
2. Finding an Employer
If you’re looking for job opportunities in Estonia, then you should start the search before jumping on a plane.
“Those visa free days inside the country are valuable,” advises Ramil Pärdi from Triniti Law Firm in Estonia, which has been helping new arrivals. “Job seekers should find a job or at least a couple of potential jobs before they come here, which will save time and money.”
It’s also never been easier as jobs are clearly advertised online and employers in Estonia regularly conduct interviews and business meetings using Estonia’s most successful startup, Skype.
Due to increased demand, you can now find an internship in Estonia at WorkinEstonia.
There’s also Jobbatical, an Estonian startup that helps ambitious people find a job abroad. They work with great companies around the world. Since they’re Estonian, they have a great selection of roles in Estonia. The job board is constantly being updated.
If you’d like to see a list of the 8 top job boards in Estonia, you can take a look here.
Like in most countries however, the majority of jobs are not directly listed. Be proactive and get in touch with the companies that you’d like to join. Here are some companies in Estonia that regularly hire foreigners.
3. Accessing the Digital Society
Estonia is very proud to call itself a digital society, which makes doing business and accessing government services simpler, faster, and more transparent.
The new ID card you get as an Estonian resident is more advanced than any issued in the world. It’s at the heart of the digital infrastructure that has made Estonia famous. There are 1.2 million active ID cards in Estonia, which is an impressive take up for a country of 1.3 million people.
You’ll need your card for everything from accessing government services to picking up prescriptions. It also provides you with a secure digital signature so you can sign legal documents from anywhere in the world. Recent changes in EU law means that this digital signature will soon be accepted across the continent as legally equivalent to handwritten signatures.
Your card will arrive with three codes. Pin1 is used to identify you online, Pin2 is specifically for putting your digital signature to a document and then the PUK code is there to unlock the pins in case they are entered incorrectly three times.
There are two things you’ll need to sort out yourself. The first is an ID-card reader that plugs into the USB slot on your computer, which you can pick up at banks or electronic stores in Estonia, or order online. Then you’ll need to download the ID-card software from here.
4. Setting up Your Bank Account
Banking in Estonia is easy, secure and relatively low cost. There are currently three banks compatible with your ID card for online banking, which are Swedbank, SEB and the Estonian bank LHV.
At present, Estonian bank accounts have to be opened in person, which can be problematic if you’re not yet in the country so there are plans underway to change this.
Until then, you’ll need to walk into a branch in Estonia and make an application. The approval process may take a few days, but there’s no need to return as you can sign the contract digitally and start banking straight away.
And if you’re from a country that is in the eurozone, you’re a lucky one. The Estonian currency is the euro. This will make the process much easier for you.
5. Paying Your Taxes
Estonia is no tax heaven, but it does stand out as having a tax system that is innovative, competitive and incredibly straightforward. You’ll just need to visit the Estonian Tax and Customs Board in order to get yourself set up for tax residency.
Personal income tax is 20% and there are many deductible expenses on top of that from pension contributions and training to children. Employers also pay a 33% social tax on your gross income so it’s not subtracted from your salary, but will entitle you to social and health insurance coverage in Estonia.
6. Finding Your Estonian Home
Your residence permit entitles you to live in Estonia, but you must then stay in the country for a minimum of 183 days per year. “This is a very strict requirement,” says Triniti Law advisor Ramil Pärdi, “And it is checked by the police very often.”
Once you have a place to live, you’ll need to register your location through the digital portal. This is a legal requirement, but if you live in Tallinn then it also brings the huge added benefit of being able to use public transport there without paying! The local authority decided that keeping its residents moving was essential to keeping its economy growing.
7. Bringing your Children to Estonia
Settling children in Estonia has been a hot issue in the #EstonianMafia community. It’s due to the concern that a lack of school places could put off new talent from coming to the country.
As a result, the government is treating the issue as a high priority with positive solutions expected this autumn in 2016.
That said, many foreign nationals do bring their children to Estonia and find the country to be an enriching experience and very safe environment for their children. They can explore a new culture and enjoy great access to wilderness.
8. Meeting the Estonian Mafia
The Estonian mafia is a very proud and close-knit community. Their success is largely due to how open they are to embrace new people, new ideas, and new ways of working so there are plenty of networking opportunities where you are sure to get a warm welcome.
The spiritual home of the #EstonianMafia is Garage48, which has thriving hubs in Tallinn and Tartu, but also organizes events around Estonia and abroad. Other organizations that are active in encouraging networking are UK-Estonia Techlink and foreign chambers of commerce.
The #EstonianMafia also have their own flagship technology conference each year in May, which attracts entrepreneurs and innovators from around the world. It’s called Latitude59 and over 1,500 people joined in 2016, including the Duke of York and Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas as guest speakers.
And sTARTUp Day, another flagship event, will take place in Tartu on 9th December 2016.
Don’t wait until you get to Estonia though. Start using the hashtag #EstonianMafia to join the online conversation today and to keep informed about what’s happening in the community.
9. Learning the Estonian Language
The official language of Estonia is Estonian unsurprisingly, but multilingualism is almost universal.
But like its Nordic neighbours, Estonia ranks among the highest in the world for English language proficiency and this especially true among the younger generation under the age of 30.
If you work at a startup, there’s no need to speak the Estonian language.
English dominates the #EstonianMafia scene, particularly as most of Estonia’s startups are focused on the international market. Garage48 for example holds all its events in English.
The bottom line—there are plenty of jobs in Estonia for English speakers.
If you do learn Estonian however then your efforts will be greatly appreciated and it could go some way to getting people’s attention and opening new doors. As with many other European languages, Estonian proficiency is categorized in levels from A1 for beginner to C2 for fluency in business and professional life so look out for these if they are requested on job adverts.
There are many options for learning Estonian in either groups or with one-on-one tutoring, but many foreign residences wait for the summer or winter in order to take a course at either Tallinn or Tartu universities. The government has also set up a fantastic new online portal for learning Estonian called Keeleklikk, which is completely free and will get you from complete beginner to A2 level using English or Russian as a base language.