Living in Estonia
This guide sets out essential information for British national residing in or thinking of moving to Estonia including advice on health, education, benefits, residence requirements and more.
We are unable to provide any guidance on general lifestyle enquiries apart from the information and links listed below. See our ‘Our services’ section for information on what consulates can and cannot do for British nationals
If you are a British citizen or British subject with right of abode in the UK, you do not require a visa to enter Estonia. Other British nationals should confirm the current entry requirements with their nearest Estonian embassy.
A valid British passport must be held for entry to and exit from Estonia as a visitor. There is no minimum passport validity requirement but you should ensure that your passport is valid for the duration of your visit.
You must carry proof of identity on you at all times. For British nationals, this is a valid original British passport. This is a legal requirement. Copies of passports cannot be carried.
Moving to Estonia
A citizen of the European Union or a member state of the European Economic Area and Swiss Confederation (hereinafter an EU citizen) has the right to stay in Estonia on the basis of a valid travel document or identity card for up to three months without having to obtain a right of residence.
An EU citizen shall obtain the right of residence upon registration of his/her place of residence located in Estonia in the population register of Estonia. The document certifying the right of residence of an EU citizen in Estonia is the ID card. When applying for the ID card, fingerprints are captured from a family member of an EU citizen starting from age 6, and entered on the ID card.
For registration in your place of residence please visit the local government authority closest to your place of residence. More information about registering at your place of residence can be obtained at your nearest local government authority or on the home page of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The right of temporary residence is granted for a period of five years. The right of temporary residence shall be extended automatically for a period of five years, if your registered place of residence is in Estonia on a continual basis. For more information please visit the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board.
An EU citizen does not need to apply for a separate work permit for employment in Estonia.
Health insurance and social security
Healthcare in Estonia
Health insurance in Estonia is organised by the Estonian Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa) and its 4 local departments. The Estonian Health Insurance Fund is the only organisation in Estonia dealing with compulsory health insurance. Estonian health insurance is a social insurance and it relies on the principle of solidarity: the Health Insurance Fund covers the cost of health services required by the person in case of illness regardless of the amount of tax paid by the person concerned.
Estonian health insurance is normally arranged through a person’s employer, however you may have to contact a Haigekassa yourself if your employer does not do this for you. If you are self-employed, you will have to do this yourself.
More information on the Estonian Heath System: http://www.haigekassa.ee/eng/service.
Other health care benefits in Estonia at http://www.haigekassa.ee/eng/benefits Family Benefits http://www.sm.ee/eng/activity/benefits-and-support/family-benefits.html
Information on UK European Health Insurance Card ( EHIC) is available at http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/Pages/about-the-ehic.aspx
It is useful to have an EHIC card in addition to Travel Insurance, not instead of it.
For information on moving to Estonia, and healthcare, visit the EHIC Estonia website For more information on the Estonian Social Security system, please visit the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs website.
Health cover while studying abroad
If you are going to Estonia to study as part of your UK degree, your UK EHIC card will cover you for the duration of your course. If you are going to study in Estonia, and your course is not part of a UK degree (for example, postgraduate studies), your EHIC will be valid for 12 months. For more information on healthcare in Estonia while studying, please visit the Studying abroad as part of a UK recognised course website.
Schools in Estonia
Estonia has a good standard of education for all ages. For information on the school system in Estonia and schools in Estonia, please visit the Estonian Ministry of Education website.
Driving licences and vehicles
For general regulations on driving and vehicles in Estonia, visit the Estonian Road Administration website.
Importing your UK-registered vehicle from the UK to Estonia
If you spend longer than 6 months of the year in Estonia with your UK-registered car, you may register your vehicle with the Estonian authorities. You will need to produce full documentation for your car, as well as your latest MOT certificate.
UK-registered vehicles being driven in Estonia must comply with all UK requirements for road tax, MOT and third party insurance covering the full time period the vehicle is used in Estonia, up to the 12 month limit.
Once the car is registered in Estonia, it must pass the required Estonia MOT.
Driving in Estonia
- right to drive in Estonia – explained at the website of Estonian Road Administration
- it is not mandatory to swap your British Driving licence for an Estonian driving licence. For information on the validity of your driving licence in Estonia, visit the Estonian Road Administration website for information on how to exchange a driving licence issued in a foreign country. You may also contact Road Administration customer service point (Maanteeamet, Liiklusregistri Tallinna büroo) located at Mäepealse 19 in Tallinn, tel: 00372 6201200
- if you ever need proof of your entitlement to drive you will need to apply for a ‘Certificate of Entitlement’ from the DVLA.
Tyres in Estonia
There is an obligation in Estonia that you have tyres which match to the weather that you are driving through. Information on winter tyres.
Estonia motor insurance regulations
It is important to check carefully what cover your car insurance policy provides.
You should carry these documents with you in case you are stopped by the police:
- driving licence
- car papers
- insurance paper
- MOT paper
- high visibility vest (also obligatory in countries around Estonia)
- warning triangle
- first aid kit
- your ID document (ie passport) and those of your passengers
Pension security comprises of state pensions, old-age pension under favorable conditions, superannuated pension, special pensions. For detailed information on each pension type please visit Estonian Government portal page related to Estonian pension system.
Information and contact details are also provided on the website of Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs.
If you wish to claim Estonian retirement pension when you have left Estonia, but still plan to live in Europe, visit your local pension office where they will tell you what you are able to claim back when you leave Estonia.
Moving to Estonia once in receipt of a UK state pension
Information and advice on retiring abroad is available at from the gov.uk website at UK retiring abroad advice pages.
If you are moving to Estonia from the UK you should inform the IPC of the changes to your circumstances. This will prevent any problems with your pension payments. It will also help you to get the right access to healthcare in Estonia.
UK pension credit is not payable in Estonia. If you decide to move to Estonia permanently you must inform the office that pays your benefits before you leave.
You may also be thinking about paying voluntary contributions to top up your pension entitlement in either country. For further information on paying voluntary contributions in the UK, contact HM Revenues & Customs. For Estonia, contact the company who is providing your social security/health cover.
If you have received a life certificate from the UK Pension Service it is important that you reply as quickly as possible otherwise your benefit may be stopped. Call the IPC on +44 (0) 191 218 7777 for any queries you might have.
There are 3 options available for signing the certificate:
a solicitor or notary can witness the declaration, but they may charge you for this service. To search for one, please visit the Chamber of Notaries in Estonia or take a look at our Lawyer List for Estonia.
a member of the local police force can witness the declaration.
if you are housebound and unable to get to any of the places mentioned above, then your doctor can witness the form. If this is the case, he/she must also include a note explaining exactly why you are not able to complete the form using the other methods
Benefits in Estonia
Estonian contribution-based benefits
Working and paying contributions in Estonia gives you entitlement to a number of Estonian social security benefits. These benefits include unemployment benefit, and permanent and temporary incapacity benefit. Note that paying contributions as a self-employed worker does give you entitlement to unemployment benefit in Estonia.
If you have worked in Estonia but have been told that you do not have entitlement to Estonian social security benefits as you have not paid enough national insurance contributions, you must make sure you declare the contributions you have made in the UK. They can be used to make up any entitlement as though they were paid in Estonia. Also make sure that, as for any benefit application, you apply in writing.
For more information on social security, please visit the Estonia Government website.
Estonian Contribution based benefits
- Allowances for temporary incapacity for work
- Alimony assistance
- Receiving sickness benefit
- Compensation of damage for crime victims
- Family and children’s allowances
- Social benefits for disabled persons
- Childbirth allowance
- Benefits for the victims of persecution by totalitarian regimes
- Benefits for the unemployed
- Subsistence level and subsistence benefit
- Unemployment insurance
- Parental benefit
- Financial aid for studies and education allowance
You should also state any previous periods of contributions in the UK. You can prove previous periods of contribution in the UK by filling out a CA3916 and applying for a statement of National Insurance contributions from HM Revenue & Customs to assist sickness benefit claims.
For information on UK Benefits which you may be entitled to if living abroad please visit https://www.gov.uk/benefits-if-you-are-abroad.
Taxation is a complex issue and it is strongly recommended that professional advice is sought. Severe penalties for incorrect, incomplete or late reporting can be incurred and the legislation also means that criminal charges can be brought in the case of non-compliance. The requirement and potential penalties are in line with standard international tax practice.
For information on income tax, VAT, international agreements, taxpayer rights and obligations, inheritance, property tax etc, please visit the Estonian Tax and customs Board website.
Embassy events and updates
We would also recommend you follow us on Facebook and Twitter (Ambassador Chris Holtby) for important consular announcements or information affecting British nationals in Estonia. In the event of a crisis, we will update you via Twitter.
This information is provided as a general guide and is based upon information provided to the embassy by the relevant local authorities and may be subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The FCO and the British Embassy will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information. British nationals wishing to obtain any further information must contact the relevant local authority.
Published: 11 November 2013
Related guides: Notarial and documentary services guide for Estonia