Second Citizenship
April 8, 2024
Reading Time: 7 min

Estonia citizenship: how to secure a future in the EU and live a bureaucracy-free life

Estonia’s digital infrastructure and thriving startup ecosystem make it an attractive destination for expatriates seeking convenience and opportunity.

Individuals can acquire Estonian citizenship through birth or naturalisation. For the latter, a foreigner needs to reside in the country for 10 years. This path is also open to investors looking to establish roots in Estonia.

Elena Ruda
Elena Ruda

Describes the process of getting an Estonian passport

How to become a citizen of Estonia

Estonia citizenship: how to secure a future in the EU and live a bureaucracy-free life

Ways to get Estonia citizenship

There are two main ways to obtain an Estonian passport: by birth and naturalisation.

By birth. The child is eligible for Estonian citizenship if at least one parent was an Estonian citizen at the time of birth. The place of birth does not matter.

Stateless children born in Estonia are also eligible for Estonian citizenship by birth. Children born in Estonia to foreign parents do not become Estonians.

Persons who have lost Estonian citizenship as minors can obtain it once again.

By naturalisation. This option is available to foreigners who moved to the country permanently for work, studies, family, or other reasons. First, they obtain a residence permit in Estonia, then permanent residency, and finally citizenship. Normally, one needs to live in Estonia for 10 years to be eligible to naturalise.

Applicants renounce previous citizenship​​​​ as Estonian law does not allow citizens to have a second one.

Citizenship by investment is not available in Estonia. However, foreign investors can acquire a passport by general naturalisation rules. First, they obtain residency by contributing to the country’s economy or opening a business, and in ten years, they can be eligible for citizenship. 

In some other countries, investors can obtain citizenship faster. For example, one can become a national of Malta by naturalisation for exceptional services by direct investment in 1 or 3 years. The investment required for this procedure starts at €690,000.

In Portugal, Greece, and Cyprus, foreigners can obtain residency by investing at least €250,000. After 5 to 7 years of holding the permit, investors can get naturalised.

5 benefits of Estonia citizenship

1. Freedom of movement. Estonian passport holders enjoy the privilege of visa-free travel to 169 countries, including the EU states, the UK, and the USA. This facilitates hassle-free travel for business, leisure, and study purposes, making it an ideal passport for global citizens.

2. European opportunities for work and education. With Estonia being an EU member state, its citizens have the right to live, work, and study in any other EU country without special permits. This opens up a wide range of opportunities in terms of employment, education, and entrepreneurship across diverse and vibrant economies.

3. Digital society and e-government services. Estonia is a global leader in digital innovation and e-governance. Estonian citizens can get electronic social and administrative services. For example, it is possible to get a prescription, get married, or open a company online.

Additionally, foreigners can get an e-residency in Estonia to start and manage companies online. Due to this advancement, the country has the biggest number of startups in Europe.

4. High quality of life and social security. Estonia offers its citizens a high standard of living. The country ranks 12th in the global Healthcare index and 14th in the rating of the cleanest countries in the world.

The country’s social security system provides comprehensive support, including healthcare benefits, pensions, and unemployment insurance, contributing to a secure and stable life.

5. Safety and political stability. Estonia is known for its political stability, low crime rates, and safe living environment. The country’s commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law ensures a peaceful and secure atmosphere for its citizens. This makes Estonia an attractive place for both living and conducting business.

Estonia citizenship by investment

Estonian capital Tallinn is the best-preserved mediaeval city in Northern Europe

Main requirements for Estonian citizenship by naturalisation

Requirements. To be eligible for Estonian citizenship, applicants must meet the criteria:

  1. Be a resident of the country.

  2. Have resided in Estonia for at least eight years before applying for citizenship. At least the last five years, they should be permanent residents.

  3. Successfully pass the Estonian language examination for a B1 level. This requirement is waived for individuals who have acquired education in the Estonian language or have health limitations.

  4. Pass an examination on the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia and the Citizenship Act.

  5. Demonstrate a permanent legal income.

  6. Have their place of residence registered in the Estonian population register.

  7. Take an oath to the Estonian state.

Foreigners over 15 submit their applications themselves. In other cases, a guardian or parents of an applicant do it. Minors under 15 obtain citizenship if:

  • one or both of their parents acquired Estonian citizenship after the child was born​​;

  • their parents apply for Estonian citizenship simultaneously with the child;

  • their legal guardian is an Estonian citizen;

Dual citizenship. Estonia does not allow dual citizenship. According to Estonian law, individuals who naturalise as citizens must renounce their previous nationality.

There is more flexibility for minors. They must renounce one of their citizenships within three years after they turn 18. The obligation to renounce citizenship to obtain Estonian nationality also does not apply to refugees.

Comparison of citizenship and residency by investment programs

Practical Guide

Comparison of citizenship and residency by investment programs

Documents to apply for an Estonian passport

To apply for citizenship in Estonia, a foreigner collects the documents:

  1. An application form completed in Estonian.

  2. A digital photo not older than 6 months. It should be coloured, unedited, and have a file size of 1—5 Mb. The minimum dimensions are 1,300 × 1,600 pixels.

  3. Proof of legal income.

  4. A certificate on passing the examination on the knowledge of the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia and the Citizenship Act

  5. A payment order of the state fee of €13.

  6. Proof of renouncing citizenship. It can also be a declaration from an applicant that they will renounce their first citizenship once the Estonian citizenship is acquitted.

The documents are submitted to one of the 18 Service Offices in Estonia. An applicant makes an appointment online and visits an office in person.

Normally, a Service Office reviews the application within 6 months and then transmits the documents to the Government for final decision. In case of approval, a new Estonian citizen gets a citizenship certificate and then applies for an ID card and a passport.

Estonia digital citizenship

The application form for Estonian citizenship consists of 5 pages and is filled in in Estonian

Step-by-step procedure to obtain Estonia citizenship by naturalisation

Generally, a foreigner must live in Estonia for 10 years to be able to apply for citizenship: 5 years as a temporary resident and 5 years as a permanent resident. Reviewing applications takes an additional 1—2 years.

Before or after getting a citizenship certificate in Estonia, an applicant must renounce their previous citizenship. It is advisable to check with the lawyer on the nuances of this procedure.

1

Up to 6 weeks

Choosing grounds for a permit and collecting documents

Estonia offers various types of permits for foreigners to reside in the country. A foreigner chooses the grounds such as employment, education, and investment and collects the documents accordingly.

The application and the documents are submitted to the closest Estonian embassy, the Service Office in Estonia. It is also possible to submit them at the service offices of the Police and Border Guard Board.

2

Up to 6 months

Getting a temporary residence permit

The application and the documents are submitted to the closest Estonian embassy or the Service Office in Estonia. Sometimes, it is possible to get a permit online — for example, this option is available to entrepreneurs.

A permit is usually valid for 5 years.

3

After 5 years

Getting permanent residency

In Estonia, a foreigner should comply with the rules of their permit type. It is necessary to have a residing address in the country.

A foreigner has to live in Estonia for 5 years before applying for permanent residency.

4

5 years

Residing in Estonia and learning the language

Future citizens have to prove knowledge of the Estonian language, the Constitution, and the Citizenship Act.

They also must live as permanent residents in the country for 5 years before applying for citizenship.

5

Up to 6 months

Getting a citizenship certificate

Applicants book an appointment at the Service Office in Estonia and submit the documents. The Service Office reviews the application within 6 months. The Government takes the final decision. The state fee is €13.

If the application is approved, a new Estonian citizen gets a citizenship certificate by post. They renounce their previous citizenship.

6

Up to 4 weeks

Getting a passport and an ID

After receiving the certificate, a citizen applies for a passport and an ID. An ID is valid for 5 years.

How to get a residence permit in Estonia with prospects of citizenship

A foreigner needs a permit to become a resident in Estonia with prospects of naturalisation. The general requirements to obtain a residence permit in Estonia are subsistence means, medical insurance, a place to reside, and proof of the grounds to stay in the country.

A foreigner submits the documents at the closest consulate, the Police and Border Guard Board in Estonia, or online. The state fee is €30—60, depending on the place of applying.

The application is usually reviewed within 2 months. A residence card is issued 30 days after approval.

Education. Foreigners intending to pursue studies in Estonia for over three months acquire a residence permit. The educational institutions include high schools, colleges, universities, or others offering secondary or higher education.

Enrolment in a university-organised preparatory course qualifies as a valid reason for obtaining a residence permit.

Work. Skilled and seasonal workers, top managers, researchers, athletes, artists, and other employees obtain a work permit in Estonia. To get a job, they must have the appropriate training, skills, and work experience.

An employee applies on its own. An employer should be registered in Estonia and provide a salary equal to or above the country’s average. In 2024, it is €1,832 per month.

Remote work. Digital nomads can stay in Estonia to work remotely. They get a residency permit for a year and then can apply for a second permit, valid for 6 months.

After residing in Estonia for a maximum of 1.5 years, a digital nomad must leave the country. They cannot apply for permanent residency in the country.

Marriage. There are several cases in which a person can get a residence permit by marriage. A person is eligible to obtain it if their spouse is:

  • an Estonian citizen;

  • an Estonian resident;

  • an applicant for a permit in Estonia by employment, investment, or education.

Family reunification. Family members of Estonian citizens or residents may apply for a permit. This is available to minor children, children over 18 who cannot financially support themselves due to disability or health issues, and financially dependent parents and grandparents.

To apply, they need an invitation from a family member who is an Estonian citizen or resident.

Enterprise. A foreigner may get a residence permit to start a business in Estonia. There are two ways to do so. The first is to become a sole proprietor of a company and invest at least €16,000 in business activity. A foreigner either establishes a new business or buys an existing one.

Another way is to open a startup. There is no investment requirement, but a startup needs to be innovative and have global growth potential. These characteristics are evaluated by the expert committee.

Investment. Foreigners have two investment options. They may purchase shares of an Estonian company worth at least €65,000. Another option is to contribute at least €1 million to an Estonian company or the country’s economy.

How to obtain a residence permit in Europe?

Practical Guide

How to obtain a residence permit in Europe?

Residency by investment in other European countries for faster naturalisation

In some European countries, foreigners can obtain citizenship faster than in Estonia, and get naturalised in 5—7 years.Golden Visa programs in Europe offer investors a pathway to residency and then citizenship in the EU through real estate or other investments. Golden Visa program participants get to travel within the Schengen Area visa-free, with opportunities for living, working, and studying in Europe.

The investment requirement starts at €250,000. The obtaining period is 3+ months, depending on the country.

Comparison of European Golden Visas

Country

Minimum investment

€250,000

Obtaining period

6+ months

Initial permit validity

10 years

Permit extension

Once for 10 years

Country

Minimum investment

€250,000

Obtaining period

8+ months

Initial permit validity

2 years

Permit extension

For 2 years

Country

Minimum investment

€250,000

Obtaining period

3+ months

Initial permit validity

2 years

Permit extension

For 3 years

Country

Minimum investment

€250,000

Obtaining period

6+ months

Initial permit validity

5 years

Permit extension

For 5 years

Country

Minimum investment

€300,000

Obtaining period

6+ months

Initial permit validity

Unlimited

Permit extension

Country

Minimum investment

€500,000

Obtaining period

5+ months

Initial permit validity

3 years

Permit extension

For 5 years

Key points about an Estonia passport

  1. Estonia offers two ways to get citizenship: by descent and by naturalisation.

  2. To obtain Estonian citizenship by naturalisation, a foreigner has to live in the country for 5 years as a permanent resident. Including residing with a temporary status, the path to citizenship will take 10 years.

  3. A foreigner first gets a residence permit in Estonia. There are various grounds to get it: employment, marriage, family reunification, investment, and education.

  4. Another way to settle in the EU is to get a Golden Visa by investing at least €250,000. Such programs work in Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for citizenship and residence by investment programs in the EU, the Caribbean, Asia, and the Middle East. Take advantage of our global 15-year expertise — schedule a meeting with our investment programs experts.

Ultimate comparison of Golden Visa programs

Practical Guide

Ultimate comparison of Golden Visa programs

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I get citizenship in Estonia?

    If you do not have Estonian parents, then you can get Estonian citizenship by naturalisation. To obtain it, you must live in the country for 5 years as a permanent resident. The permanent status is granted after 5 years of residing in the country. To get a temporary permit, a foreigner has to have grounds for staying in Estonia for more than 3 months.

  • Is dual citizenship allowed in Estonia?

    No, dual citizenship is not allowed in Estonia. The foreigners who naturalise in Estonia must renounce their previous citizenship.

  • Can you buy citizenship in Estonia?

    No, you cannot buy citizenship in Estonia. To become an Estonian citizen, you first obtain a residence permit and then permanent residency. There are various ways to get a permit. One of them is investment. Foreigners purchase shares of an Estonian company worth €65,000+ or contribute €1+ million to an Estonian company or the country’s economy.

  • Is Estonia easy to get citizenship?

    Estonian requirements for naturalisation are similar to those of other EU countries. However, the naturalisation period before getting a passport is normally 10 years, which is longer than in many other European countries. For example, it is 7 years in Finland, 8 years in Germany and Hungary.

    However, government processes in Estonia are digitalised, and bureaucracy is almost non-existent. Therefore, it is unlikely that applicants will have to wait years for their applications to be processed, which might be the case in other EU countries.

  • Which country is easy to get citizenship?

    Several EU countries have comparatively quick processes when it comes to obtaining citizenship by naturalisation. For example, the residency requirement before applying for citizenship is 5 years in France, Luxembourg, and Portugal.

    Malta offers citizenship for exceptional service by direct investment. An investor obtains citizenship by naturalisation. The obtaining period depends on the investment amount. There are two options:

    • invest €690,000 and naturalise in 3 years;

    • invest €1,310,000 and naturalise in 1 year.