• Rank: 22 out of 38
  • MIPEX Score: 46
  • HEALTH 27

Key Findings

Changes in context

  • Larger country of emigration than immigration, with around just 2000-3000 non-EU newcomers per year from 2010-2013
  • Most of the newcomers and the long-settled foreign-born (around 15% of population) come from CIS countries 
  • Non-EU-born in EE have higher levels of education (40% with university degrees) than those in most other European countries
  • Centre-right government since 2011
  • Slight majority with anti-immigrant attitudes in EE, higher than in most developed countries: around half do not believe that EE is a welcoming country for immigrants

Key Common Statistics

Country of net migration since:% Non-EU citizens% Foreign-born% Non-EU of foreign-born% Non-EU university-educated % from low or medium-developed (HDI) country
UN 2010 data in 2013Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013Note: Adults aged 18-64, Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013

Changes in policy

Non-EU citizens benefit from slightly more targeted support to pursue jobs and training in EE, which boosted EE's MIPEX score by +1 point since 2012. Targeted support has continuously improved over the years, culminating in December 2014 with the new Strategy of Integration and Social Cohesion in Estonia "Lõimuv Eesti 2020". Looking further back to 2007, EE has made the greatest progress by adopting the basic EU-required protections against discrimination under 2009's Equal Treatment Law. Looking forward, the 2015 amendments to the Citizenship Act—to be assessed in the next MIPEX—is an important step to reduce statelessness among non-citizens, but a missed opportunity to include new immigrants and their children.

Conclusions and recommendations

EE's integration policies lead the Baltics and Central Europe, ranking 22nd out of 38, just above CZ, HU, RO and several points ahead of LV and LT. EE's policies can be seen as halfway favourable, with clear strengths and weaknesses for immigrants to fully participate in different areas of public life. EE's ambitious employment and education policies are trying to respond to the specific needs of both newcomers and the long-settled non-EU-born. More could be done to respond to the specific problems of victims of discrimination to take even the 1st step to access justice. The major challenge now is to create the inclusive conditions for all residents to participate, trust and interact with each other in democratic life. While long-term residents are secure in their status and enfranchised in local elections, they face more restrictive opportunities to participate in national public life or to become citizens in EE than in nearly all developed democracies. The increasing use of data such as MIPEX and EE's Integration Monitoring can help to design new policies and reach out to the non-EU citizens who could benefit.


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Labour Market Mobility

Key Findings

Like most European countries, EE still has a lot to do for its ambitious and equitable policies to reach the 1/3 of working-age non-EU citizens not in employment, education or training and to address those high- and low-educated workers in lower-quality jobs

Potential Beneficiaries

How many immigrants could be employed?

In 2011/2, 1/3 of working-age non-EU citizens are not in employment, education or training in EE, similar to the average European country (similar in LT, PL and slightly higher in LV). This is less common among men & high-educated in EE as elsewhere.

Policy Indicators

Do immigrants have equal rights and opportunities to access jobs and improve their skills?

Non-EU newcomers have slightly favourable rights and support to advance in EE's labour market, although EE delays this process more than most countries. Immigrants benefit from a more developed set of employment rights in EE than in most countries, with EE ranking 8th out of 38 and leading Central Europe. They can use the same general support and rights that EE citizens enjoy, as well as expanding targeted support (EE integration strategy boosted these policies by +8 points from 2007-2014). The major weakness is that EE delays full access to the labour market for non-EU citizens and temporary residents through a few restrictions based on nationality and permits.

Dimension 1: Access to labour market

  • Labour market access delayed more in EE than most countries, with access ranked 30th, far below average for Western or Central Europe (just as weak as IE, LV, SI)
  • Non-EU citizens can only work in the public sector as support or non-staff, with additional restrictions for certain activities 
  • Non-EU citizens with the right to work in EE must fulfil additional conditions to open a business or work in some private sector jobs
  • Many temporary labour migrants must wait several years to change jobs/sectors, which is also the case in most countries
  • These restrictions may put some non-EU citizens on the wrong footing, as they get started in careers below their qualifications or give up on looking for work. This position may have long-term negative consequences for labour market integration

Dimension 2: Access to general support

  • Non-EU citizens can improve their skills and chances to find the right job through favourable access to general support in EE, 2nd alongside BE and NO (also favourable access in 10 others including LV)
  • All legal residents can access employment services and programmes, vocational education and training
  • Only temporary labour migrants are denied equal access to public study loans (see 2010 changes in LV)
  • All residents with foreign degrees and skills have equal access to EE's ENIC/NARIC 

Dimension 3: Targeted support

  • Ranked 10th, EE stands out among most new destinations by targeting the needs of its many foreign-language and foreign-trained workers (see box, also JP, KR, PT, Nordics, DE)
  • The non-EU trained apply for recognitions with EE's one-stop-shop ENIC/NARIC, with procedures free, relatively short and clearly-regulated
  • Foreign-language speakers who want to improve their job prospects can take job-specific EE training since 2008 (e.g. in vocational schools, workplace exchanges, public sector)
  • Specific programmes target vulnerable groups, mostly youth
  • Since 2012, newcomers can be informed in EN and RU of job and training opportunities through adaptation programmes and support persons provided by the state 'Our People' Integration and Migration foundation

Dimension 4: Workers' rights

  • EE and non-EU workers are supposed to be treated equally in EE, with the same working conditions, access to trade unions and social/housing benefits 
  • Equal rights as workers are also the norm in 6 other countries (CA, DE, NL, NO, PT, SE)

Real beneficiaries

Are immigrants acquiring new skills?

Hardly any non-EU adults (7.6%) are accessing education and training in EE, according to 2011/2 Labour Force Survey estimates. The rate of lifelong learning is just as low in most parts of Central and Southern Europe (e.g. LV, HU, SI, CY, GR, IT). Uptake was lower among high- and low-educated men, rising to just 13.5% for high-educated women. In comparison, non-EU adults are slightly more likely to access education and training on average in Europe (around 17%), especially in the Nordic countries. Moreover, most unemployed non-EU citizens in EE must find a new job without the support of unemployment benefits. Only around 1/4 of non-EU citizen men and women who were unemployed last year received any unemployment benefit, as opposed to 1/3 on average in European countries.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants find skilled and well-paid jobs?

  • Most working-age non-EU-born in EE have their highest degree from EE, a major asset for labour market integration
  • High employment rate (≥70%) and ≥2% average GDP growth since 2010 in EE
  • More rigid employment protection legislation in EE than on average in developed countries 
  • Hardly any recent migrants coming with temporary work or study permits 

Outcome indicators

Are immigrants employed in qualified and well-paid jobs?

Labour market integration happens very differently over time for the high vs. low-educated non-EU-born in EE, according to 2011/2 estimates. Among the long-settled (10+ years stay), working-age non-EU-born men and women with tertiary education are only 10% less likely to have a job than the EE-born with tertiary education. The employment rates for the high-educated rise to 3/4 for long-settled non-EU-born men and women and to 90% for EE-born men and women. Despite their high employment rates over time, these high-educated workers are more often working in jobs below their qualifications, with over-qualification rates twice the rate as for the high-educated EE-born (a similar gap as on average in Europe). Employment gaps are much greater for the low-educated. Only 1/3 of the low-educated non-EU-born are employed after 10+ years in EE, while 1/2 of the low-educated EE-born are employed in EE. These workers are also disadvantaged at work, three times as likely to suffer from in-work poverty as low-educated EE-born workers. 

EE's labour market integration outcomes are explained by many factors: its flexible & growing labour market, the prevalence of local degrees, the role of the EE language, the ageing of the long-settled population and the low levels of naturalisation. International research also suggests that employment outcomes are better for immigrants who get legal access to the labour market, a formal recognition of their foreign degree, a new domestic degree and/or domestic work experience. Current targeted policies may not be too new, small-scale or general to achieve these objectives. 

Family Reunion

Key Findings

For the very few number of transnational families, EE's policies may delay or restrict family reunion for some, but generally guarantees equal treatment for EE and non-EU families

Potential Beneficiaries

How many immigrants are potentially living in transnational couples?

Very small numbers of non-EU citizen adults in EE seem to be living in transnational couples, according to 2011/2 estimates. MIPEX monitors the number of non-EU adult residents who are married/partnered but not living together with their partner in the country, as they likely represent one of the main potential beneficiaries for family reunion. Only an estimated 1.6% of non-EU citizen adults in EE are likely living in internationally separated couples. These numbers were also relatively low in countries with relatively large long-settled non-EU-born communities, both in Western Europe (LU, NL, UK) and Central Europe (HR, HU, PL, much higher in LT and LV).

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants reunite with family?

Non-EU citizens who want to be reunited with their families can make use of policies that are slightly favourable for their integration in EE, ranking 11th like other new destination countries (e.g. RO, PL). The conditions that families must comply with to benefit from family reunion in EE are generally accessible, particularly when compared with restrictive countries of immigration, such as AT, DK, FR, DE. This relatively positive finding is mirrored in many countries in Central Europe (HU, LT, LV) and in leading new countries of immigration such as ES and PT. However, EE delays family reunion more than most countries, as the major stumbling block is immigrants' eligibility.

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • EE's major area of weakness is eligibility, ranking 28th alongside LT and restrictive AT, FR, NL
  • The law keeps families apart for two years, and then only lets them apply for their nuclear family
  • Sponsors who meet the requirements are forced to wait to apply for 2 years, which is much longer than normal (after 1 year in 10 countries or immediately in 14; 2 years goes against the 2014 guidelines of the European Commission)
  • Certain families (e.g. of high-skilled workers) are 'fast-tracked' and reunite immediately since 2013's Aliens Act
  • Non-EU citizens who can meet their family's basic needs can apply for their dependents: spouse, minor children and, under certain conditions of dependency, their parents/grandparents and adult children 
  • Non-EU citizens in registered or long-term partnerships are not treated the same as married couples in EE (see 26 countries for same-sex arrangements and 17 for long-term partners)

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • Family reunion is possible when sponsors can meet the same basic conditions expected of all families living in EE (favourable conditions tied for 2nd with LT, FI, HR, ES)
  • Minimum legal income and accommodation
  • Applicants must pay a basic fee comparable to others in EE (as in LT and a near-majority of countries)

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • Once sponsors meet the requirements, they and their families can be relatively secure about their status in EE, ranked 6th alongside countries such as SI, SE, DE
  • The procedure should be short and straightforward
  • Families have good access to legal guarantees in cases of refusal and withdrawal
  • The spouse’s permit can be refused or withdrawn if the relationship breaks up and they cannot get an autonomous permit, even in particularly difficult circumstances

Dimension 4: Rights associated

  • The rights of family members are slightly favourable for their integration
  • Reunited families experience similar rights and obstacles in EE as in most countries (e.g. LT, LV, FI)
  • Adult family members benefit from the same socio-economic rights as their sponsor (e.g. to work, education/training, social/housing benefits)
  • Since 2014 welcoming programmes, free voluntary courses and materials should help newcomers learn basic EE and prepare for their life in the country
  • Adult family members can only become autonomous residents after a long period (5 years for long-term residence permit), without clear legal entitlements for all types of vulnerable families (see instead Nordics, PT, ES)

Real beneficiaries

Are families reuniting?

653 family members reunited with a non-EU sponsor in EE in 2013. These small numbers made up about 1/4 of all new arrivals in that year, similar to the EU average. These numbers have remained stable, below 1000 per year in recent years. Among this small number of family members, the majority are children, followed by spouses. Also a small but important number (45-60) are other family members (e.g. parents/grandparents). The nationalities of these families reflect EE's major countries of origin (RU, UA).

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants reunite with family?

  • Mostly long-settled and ageing families, with relatively few newcomers likely living in transnational families 
  • Most with the eligible or permanent permits to sponsor 
  • Many from developed/neighbouring countries and thus less likely to reunite in Baltics

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants reunite with family?

Non-EU family reunion is relatively rare in the EU and even rarer in EE. Out of every 100 non-EU residents in the average EU country, only 2.2 are newly arrived non-EU family members. In EE, that rate drops to 0.3-0.4 newly arrived non-EU family members every year from 2011-2013. A family's choice to reunite is certainly driven by individual and contextual factors, such as lower needs for family reunion among EE's long-settled non-EU-born population. Still, policies can quickly function as obstacles to the right to family reunion, with disproportionate effects on the most vulnerable groups. Delays and restrictions can significantly delay or deter both family's reunion and their integration in the country. 


Key Findings

EE leading Baltics and Central Europe to respond to the diverse needs and opportunities of pupils speaking different languages

Potential Beneficiaries

How many pupils have immigrant parents?

The diversity of EE's school population reflects the Baltics' unique history of immigration and settlement. As in most Central European countries, EE receives relatively few foreign-born pupils, comprising just 0.7% of 15-year-old pupils, according to the 2012 PISA study. Instead, most pupils with immigrant parents in EE are 2nd generation born in the country, accounting for 7.5%, on par with more established countries of immigration in Europe. Due to its history, EE has relatively few pupils attending schools where the language of instruction is different from their language at home. Only 20% of these 1st and 2nd generation pupils do not speak at home their school's language of instruction. 

Policy Indicators

Is the education system responsive to the needs of the children of immigrants?

The EE education system has more developed integration policies for newcomers than other Central European countries. These policies are halfway favourable for targeting the new needs and opportunities that newcomers bring to schools in EE, ranking 10th ahead of other neighbouring countries and most new destination countries except PT.

Dimension 1: Access

  • EE goes halfway to guarantee equal access to all types of schools for newcomers, ranking 10th on access, which is an area of weakness across countries (see KR, Nordics, traditional countries of immigration)
  • All children, regardless of status, have the right to an education, from pre-school to university
  • Extra EE language courses mean that language skills should not become an obstacle for foreign-language pupils to access pre-primary and university education

Dimension 2: Targeting needs

  • EE (alongside the Nordics and US) have the strongest measures to target newcomers' specific needs in the classroom
  • Through pre- or in-service training, all teachers must be able to solve problems in multicultural learning environments 
  • Some schools organise induction programmes for newcomers and their parents, but they are not required
  • Newcomers receive compulsory, continuous and high-quality support to learn the EE language
  • Newcomer pupils are assisted by support persons and extra teachers, with schools receiving extra funding to cover the expenses per pupil

Dimension 3: New opportunities

  • Schools seize a few of the opportunities that non-EE pupils bring to the classroom in EE, ranked 9th alongside other leading new destinations (KR, PT)
  • In addition to learning the EE language, pupils speaking another language at home have the right to learn their own language and culture either in school, sometimes open to all pupils, or outside school, with state funding
  • ‘Our People’ foundation programmes help schools organise social integration programmes and support staff for newcomer parents


Dimension 4: Intercultural education

  • EE education system goes halfway to make intercultural education a reality in all schools
  • The approach in EE ranked 12th behind PT, Northern European countries and traditional countries of immigration
  • Basic and Secondary Education National Curriculum states that the culture of mankind, the culture of Europe and the culture of EE including that of the ethnic minorities residing in EE has to be represented in education content
  • Trainings on the topic are provided but not required, while schools have the discretion to adjust a few hours of the curriculum to reflect the specificities of the school or region
  • Our People Foundation's media work tries helping the public appreciate cultural diversity and ethnic minorities in EE 

Policy Box

The 2011/2012 school year was an important year for the reform of RU-language upper secondary schools. All pupils entering that year must take 60% of their subjects in the EE language. 5 subjects are set by the state, with the remaining subjects selected by schools themselves. Applications to extend this 2011/2 deadline were declined.

Real beneficiaries

Are pupils with limited literacy getting remedial courses?

Around half of low-literacy pupils in the Baltics are reportedly enrolled in extra out-of-school literacy courses, according to 2012 PISA data on 15-year-olds. Data on low-literacy 2nd generation pupils in EE (data missing for LV and LT) suggests that these pupils are less likely to be enrolled in these types of courses than low-literacy non-immigrant pupils (only observed in EE and SI).

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether the children of immigrants excel at school?

  • 80% of 1st/2nd generation also speak the school's language at home with parents in EE as in other Baltic and Central European countries
  • Few foreign-born pupils arrive after age 12 
  • Student-teacher ratios relatively low in EE and Baltics

Outcome indicators

How well are the children of immigrants achieving at school?

Performance on PISA math tests do not seem to be significantly different for pupils with EE-born or non-EE born parents. More detailed data is missing to compare the different generations and pupils with parents of the same education level.


Key Findings

Migrant patients benefit from limited entitlements and some basic information in EE, a problem across the Baltics and Central Europe

Policy Indicators

Is the health system responsive to immigrants' needs?

EE's health system is slightly unfavourable at responding to migrant patients, which is a common problem in the Baltics and Central European countries with few newcomers. EE's policies rank 32nd, alongside GR, LT and PL but slightly more advanced than LV's. Migrant patients in EE receive uneven entitlements and information to access the general health services. These services receive hardly any support to become more responsive to migrant patients' specific health needs or barriers.

Click here to learn more about how MIPEX health was developed with IOM and EU’s COST/ADAPT network through ‘Equi-Health’ project and co-funded by European Commission’s DG SANTE. 

Dimension 1: Entitlements

  • Entitlements nearly halfway to cover all relevant migrant patients from a health perspective
  • The same compulsory health insurance covers EE citizens, permanent residents, beneficiaries of international protection, pensioners and treaty-based migrants and, under the immigration conditions, temporary residents
  • Asylum-seekers are equally covered when living in collective centres, but not when living on their own or able to pay 
  • Undocumented migrants only have equal right to emergency care
  • Some exceptions exist for at-risk health groups, children and victims of torture/trafficking
  • These requirements can create problems of documentation and discretion for all to access their entitlements in practice

Dimension 2: Access policies

  • Support is halfway favourable to help migrant patients access services in EE, with more developed policies than in the other Baltics and Central European countries 
  • Basic booklets in EN and RU are provided to legal migrants and asylum-seekers on their entitlements and to asylum-seekers about specific health issues (see stronger policies in Southern and Western Europe)
  • Cultural mediators are rarely available even for beneficiaries of international protection (see most examples in Western Europe)

Dimension 3: Responsive services

  • No support to make services more responsive in EE, also missing in 6 other countries (LV, PL) and a general weakness across Central Europe
  • Interpreters available on ad hoc basis for asylum-seekers in collective centres
  • As a start, healthcare providers are encouraged to follow 2005 World Medical Association ethical guidelines, including the use of culturally competent services
  • A small majority of countries provide training, interpreters and some way to involve migrants themselves in information/service delivery

Dimension 4: Mechanisms for change

  • Authorities are starting to discuss a few issues around migrant health
  • Basic research on migrant health, with limited data 
  • Ad hoc discussions of access to information for RU-speakers (e.g. information on medicines in RU)
  • A few stakeholders have started to raise these issues (e.g. EE Refugee Council on information and language problems)
  • No policy yet to structurally address migrants in health policy, health in integration policy or migrant health stakeholders, with EE ranking 26th alongside LT on its measures to achieve change


Political Participation

Key Findings

A country of 'second-class citizenship', EE's large share of non-EU citizens use their local right to vote but seem discouraged from broader participation by a few restrictive policies

Potential Beneficiaries

Who are disenfranchised from voting?

The number of disenfranchised non-EU citizen adults (aged 15+) is small in local elections (9.4% of non-EU citizen adults or around 16,000 adults, according to 2011/2 estimates). Whereas the numbers disenfranchised is comparatively large in national elections (174,104 in 2014 or 16% of the total population aged 15+).

Policy Indicators

Do immigrants have comparable rights and opportunities to participate in political life?

Besides the local right to vote, EE's large share of non-EU citizens within the population are largely excluded from participating in democratic life. EE's many restricted opportunities for political participation may discourage rather encourage mutual trust and interaction in EE. These policies are generally weak in the Baltics and Central European countries.

Dimension 1: Electoral rights

  • The current right to vote in EE is an important but limited channel for non-EU citizens to become part of EE democracy
  • Long-term residents were granted the vote in local elections in 2002 during negotiations about membership in the EU
  • They cannot stand as candidates in these elections, unlike in 14 countries (e.g. LT)
  • Non-EU citizens enjoy more expansive voting rights 17 of the 38 countries

Dimension 2: Political liberties

  • Although non-EU citizens can vote in local elections, they are denied the same basic political liberties as citizens, a problem in EE and, to varying degrees, across Central Europe
  • They face fewer restrictions on their political liberties in 31 out of the 38 countries
  • In EE, non-EU citizens are banned from political parties
  • Restrictions are also placed on non-EU citizens who want to form, run or receive funding for their associations
  • Non-EU citizens face fewer restrictions on their basic political liberties in 31 out of 38 countries

Dimension 3: Consultative bodies

  • Consultation structures give civically active non-EU citizens and ethnic minorities the capacity, information and platform to better inform and improve all policies that affect them daily (see local structures in 24 other countries and national ones in 12)
  • The civically active can be consulted on an ad hoc basis and through other structures (see box)
  • At local level, consultation structures are also missing in cities across EE (see local models in AT, CZ, FR, DE, IE, IT, PT, ES)

Dimension 4: Implementation policies

  • Ethnic minorities' organisations are more likely to receive national or local support in EE than in most Central European countries, but often for cultural and not civic or democratic activities
  • Information and outreach is rarely used to get non-EU citizens to participate in democratic life in EE, a weakness in most countries (see instead NW Europe, CA, NR, NZ, PT)

Policy Box

EE consults non-EU citizens and ethnic minorities on an ad hoc basis when designing new national plans, as is required in law. 150 non-EU citizens were consulted through 6 citizens' panels meetings all over EE as part of the preparation of the new national integration strategy. Non-EU citizens were also consulted in the design of new integration courses and services for high-skilled immigrants. The 2010 revival of the Nationalities Roundtable was the 2nd attempt to consult EE's ethnic, national and linguistic minorities, including newcomers and an increasing diversity of groups. 

Real beneficiaries

How many non-EU immigrants are eligible to vote?

Looking at both enfranchised and naturalised non-EU citizens in 2011/2, EE qualifies as a country of 'second-class' citizenship because democracy is inclusive at local level but not at national level. An estimated 91% of non-EU citizen adults are eligible to vote in local elections, but the share of non-EU-born with EE citizenship is only estimated at 37%. The situation is similar in other 'second-class' citizenship countries such as DK, FI, IE, LU, although all four are working to boost the naturalisation rate through reform of the citizenship law or procedure. In contrast, LT is politically inclusive of its small long-settled communities, while LV emerges as one of the most exclusive democracies in the developed world. 

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants become politically active?

  • Most long-settled in EE and other Baltics
  • A large minority have university degrees, many from EE itself
  • Many from developed countries with generally similar levels of civic engagement 

Outcome indicators

Are immigrants participating in political life?

While the EE-born are not very politically active, the gaps in political participation are among the greatest in Europe between immigrants and non-immigrants in EE, alongside AT, DE, CH and SI. Data collected over the 2000s show that long-settled non-EU-born adults are 50% less likely than EE-born adults to recently taking part in a political party, association, petition, demonstration or contacting a politician. EE's Integration Monitoring report provides more detailed data on the different levels and types of political participation among naturalised vs. other EE citizens, RU citizens and non-citizens. Although good comparable data does not exist on voting, non-EU citizens in EE do seem to use their right to vote, according to data from EE's Integration Monitoring. For example, 68% of naturalised and other EE citizens reportedly voted in the 2013 local elections, with similar levels of intention of voting in the 2015 elections. While the link between political participation policies and rates is usually not direct, it seems clear that non-EU citizens are using the voting rights they have in EE, but are discouraged from greater political participation, with a key role to be played by EE's naturalisation and political participation policies.

Permanent Residence

Key Findings

Nearly all of the non-EU-born are long-settled and secure as EU long-term residents with near-equal rights as 'second-class citizens'

Potential Beneficiaries

Who can become long-term residents?

Nearly all non-EU men and women have lived in EE the 5+ years required to become long-term residents, according to 2011/2 estimates. As in the other Baltics and Central European countries, most non-EU citizens are relatively long-settled in the country. 

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants become long-term residents?

Non-EU citizens enjoy slightly favourable chances to become long-term residents with a secure future and near-equal rights to participate. Their opportunities for long-term residents provide them some of their best chances at integration in EE, whose policies rank 5th alongside the Nordics and ES. 

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • EE's eligibility rules are average for Europe
  • Standard from EU law, newcomers can apply after 5 years with limited absences from EE
  • Most temporary residents can apply while former international students can count half of their time studying

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • Under EE's clear path to become long-term residents, temporary residents prove their willingness to settle long-term after 5 years of stay in EE, securing a basic legal income and mastering the EE language
  • The path to long-term residence in EE is ranked 2nd among the 38 countries, similar to FI, HU, SI
  • While most conditions are basic, the language level is set so explicitly high (B1, only 6 others out of 38) that it may be unrealistic for many willing newcomers, even with free available support and tests (under cost-refund system)
  • In contrast, immigrants in 14 other countries do not need to demonstrate language skills for long-term residence, while only A2-level is required in 8 others (including LT and LV)

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • Non-EU citizens who meet the requirements can be slightly secure that they will become and remain long-term residents in EE, ranked 10th on security alongside FI and PL
  • Successful applicants obtain a permanent secure status (as in 26 other countries) with options to live/work abroad for extended periods
  • Long-term residents can lose their status for several discretionary grounds, including 'intentional crimes against the status' since the 2009 so-called ‘Bronze Soldier Package’
  • The possibility of deportation is always there for long-term residents, even those born in EE or living there for 20+ years 

Dimension 4: Rights Associated

  • Long-term residents can work, study and live in the country with nearly the same social and economic rights as citizens in EE, as in 29 other countries
  • EU long-term residents also secure the right to work and study in other EU countries

Real beneficiaries

How many immigrants are long-term residents?

In 2013, EE was home to 174,840 long-term residents, accounting for 13% of the country's total population. 99% have EU long-term residence, with only 1,560 holding a national form of long-term residence. The number of long-term residents has slowly decreased from 2008-2013 by 9% or 16,595 persons.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants become long-term residents?

  • Nearly all non-EU-citizens are long-settled with <5 years' residence
  • Hardly any residents with <1-year-permits potentially ineligible for long-term residents
  • Only option to secure residence for long-settled residents and 2nd generation in countries with restrictive naturalisation policies (e.g. EE and other Baltics, Central Europe, AT, IT, ES, CH)

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants become long-term residents?

92% of non-EU citizens in EE are long-term residents. These numbers are comparable to the other Baltic and Central European countries. These long-term residents generally reflect the countries of origin composing EE's non-EU-born population. The number of permanent residents strongly reflects a country's path to permanent residence and citizenship. Countries like EE that facilitated long-term residence but restricted naturalisation (as the 'second-class citizenship' alternative) end up with very high numbers of permanent resident foreigners (e.g. Baltics, Central Europe, IT, ES).

Access to Nationality

Key Findings

Naturalisation is rarer and more restrictive in EE than in nearly all other developed democracies; A rights-based procedure and dual nationality for EE-born and foreigners meeting the requirements may build a common sense of belonging and trust and boost integration outcomes

Potential Beneficiaries

Who can become a citizen?

EE and LV have the highest shares of 'potential citizens'. Nearly all non-EU citizens are long-settled and meet the residence requirement to become EE citizens. EE and LV also have the largest shares of 2nd generation without the national citizenship (around 40% of non-EU citizen adults).

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants become citizens?

EE and LV still have serious problems with citizenship. While EE's Integration Strategies encourage people to naturalise, EE citizenship policies are the most restrictive in the developed world—and many applicants see it that way. EE ranks 2nd to last, right behind LV. The 2015 amendments to the Citizenship Act—to be assessed in the next MIPEX—is an important step to reduce statelessness among non-citizens, but a missed opportunity to include new immigrants and their children.

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • As of the end of 2014, eligibility for EE citizenship was still one of the most restrictive and unfavourable from an integration perspective
  • To apply, foreign-born adults must wait 8 years, which is average in MIPEX countries
  • However 5 of these 8 years must be permanent/long-term residence, unlike most other countries
  • EE also has no facilitation for spouses of nationals, as opposed to most other countries
  • While the 2015 Act finally grants EE citizenship at birth to the children of stateless citizens, these provisions do not extend to foreign citizens and new immigrants, unlike in the majority of EU countries and several new countries of immigration (e.g. CZ)

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • Most of the naturalisation requirements are average for Europe
  • The language and citizenship tests are relatively favourable for applicants to learn
  • Although requiring B1-level fluency is relatively high standard to set, vulnerable and Estonian-educated applicants are exempt, while others can prepare with free Estonian and citizenship courses and materials
  • Instead of written tests, some other countries opt for less controversial methods, sometimes conducted by new citizens themselves: courses (e.g. BE, LU, NO) or interviews (FR, NZ, US)

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • These requirements are undermined by EE's discretionary procedure
  • Applicants who meet all the requirements are not entitled to citizenship, unlike in most Northern European countries and recent reformers like PL
  • New citizens also remain insecure in EE
  • Authorities have many grounds to reject their application or later stripped of their citizenship at any time, even if EE would make them stateless

Dimension 4: Dual nationality

  • The renunciation requirement is one of the major obstacles to naturalisation in EE 
  • While the 2015 Act introduced an exception on humanitarian grounds, most non-EU citizens are still not entitled to become dual nationals, unlike in the majority of countries (25 MIPEX countries)
  • The new 'option-model' proposed for the 2nd generation in EE is unique in the developed world, almost entirely abolished in DE in 2014

Policy Box

EE guarantees state-subsidised EE language courses for foreign-language speakers. Costs of courses are refunded for applicants who pass the tests for A2, B1, B2 or C1 fluency. Since 2009, long-term residents can also take free courses to prepare to pass the Constitution and Citizenship Law test. 

Compared to previous surveys, ethnic EE citizens' attitudes towards the simplification of citizenship requirements have become more supportive, with the vast majority (57%) finding that EE citizenship should be given to all children born in EE, regardless of their parents’ citizenship, as well as all other people born in EE.

Real beneficiaries

How many immigrants are becoming citizens?

In 2014, 1,099 adults and 500 children were naturalised as EE citizens. The overwhelming majority were recognised non-citizens, alongside a small number of RU and UA citizens. Over the past decade, the total number of naturalisations in EE has fallen from between 4,000-7,000 between 2003-07 to 1,000-2,000 between 2008-14. The numbers of naturalising adults only slightly increased from 2012/3 to 2014.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain why non-EU immigrants become citizens?

  • Most long-settled and growing 2nd generation 
  • Most from developed countries and thus less likely to naturalise
  • Nearly all from countries allowing dual nationality

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants become citizens?

By 2011/2, only an estimated 37% of non-EU-born adults had naturalised in EE, one of lowest shares in Europe. Men and women from non-EU countries are less likely to naturalise in EE than in any other EU country except CZ in 2012. EE's rate (0.5 naturalisations for every 100 non-EU citizens) was far below the EU average (3.4) and slightly below LV's in that year (1.2). EE's citizenship policies are the strongest factor determining naturalisation rates.


Key Findings

For EE's residents experiencing racial/ethnic, religious or nationality discrimination, the legal protections and support are newer and still weaker in EE than in any other EU country

Potential Beneficiaries

Who said they experienced racial/ethnic or religious discrimination last year?

Racial, ethnic and religious discrimination is reportedly as common in EE as in the average European country. 2012 data suggested that 4.3% of people in EE felt that last year they had been discriminated against or harassed based on their ethnic origin (2.9%) and/or religion/beliefs (1.8%), compared to 4.2% on average in the EU.

Policy Indicators

Is everyone effectively protected from racial/ethnic, religious, and nationality discrimination in all areas of life?

One of the last countries to implement EU anti-discrimination law, EE introduced basic EU-required protections with its 2009 Equal Treatment law (+15 from 17-to-32). Now residents of EE enjoy a basic but relatively weak access to justice in cases of racial, ethnic or religious discrimination. The protections are weaker in EE and LV than in 32 other countries around the globe, including all other EU Member States. Ranking 34th, EE only scores above countries without dedicated laws to fight discrimination (e.g. IS, JP, CH, TU). Now that standards are in place, they may be strengthened over time. Indeed, when anti-discrimination laws change in countries, it is generally for the better. Central European countries such as EE are making the greatest progress.

Dimension 1: Definitions

  • EE's basic protections are halfway favourable for non-EU citizens to access justice
  • These protections are very few (+38 points since 2009); Residents can now expect equal treatment in both the private and public sectors, including from the police force
  • The definitions are stronger in 31 other countries 
  • Discrimination is not explicitly prohibited on the grounds of nationality/citizenship (see 22 other countries), associated/assumed characteristics (also 22 countries) or multiple grounds (see 8 countries)

Dimension 2: Fields of application

  • EE and the other Baltics are the only EU countries doing the minimum required to fight discrimination under EU law
  • Religious and nationality discrimination are still tolerated in many areas of life
  • Residents are protected in all areas of life from racial/ethnic discrimination by only in employment/training from religious discrimination
  • Protections are stronger in 35 other countries (even LV and LT)

Dimension 3: Enforcement mechanisms

  • Potential victims of discrimination in EE face procedures that are halfway favourable for them to access justice, weaker than in 30 other countries 
  • Mechanisms to enforce the law are slightly weaker in LV and LT
  • Since 2009, victims enjoy basic protections against victimisation while bringing forward their case (+13 points)
  • Victims may have to bring forward a case without the support of equality NGOs and interpreters, without the use of class actions, situation testing or statistical evidence and ultimately with limited court sanctions 

Dimension 4: Equality policies

  • Residents can turn for help to a relatively weak equality body and weak state equality policies, with EE's policies ranked 26th tied with LV (see instead Nordics, LT, HU, SK, BG, RO)
  • Since 2009 (+16), residents can receive independent advice from the Equality Commission and binding conciliation decisions from the Chancellor of Justice
  • These equality bodies has limited powers to support victims in court
  • Public authorities have few commitments to promote equality in society and the public sector; The State has not committed to key equality policies, like awareness-raising campaigns about discrimination and victims’ rights (see instead Nordics, SI, PT, ES)
  • Public equality duties and mechanisms may improve, based on the 2013 guidelines on cross-cutting issues in development plans

Real beneficiaries

How many racial/ethnic and religious discrimination complaints were made to equality bodies?

Discrimination cases are not collected and reported by national courts or other such institutions. The Commissioner for Gender Equality and Equal Treatment received 403 applications, including around 60 related to gender and 56 related to other 'possible cases of discrimination.' More specifically, 7 complaints were made on ethnic/racial discrimination and 2 on religious discrimination.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether potential victims report discrimination cases

  • Only 30% of general public in EE know their rights as discrimination victims, one of the lowest levels in Europe
  • Slightly higher levels of trust in police and justice system in EE than in other Baltics and Central Europe
  • Most are not naturalised in Baltics and thus less likely to report complaints of discrimination

Outcome indicators

How many complaints were made last year for every person who said they experienced racial/ethnic and religious discrimination?

Hardly any complaints are made to equality bodies compared to the sizeable number of people reportedly experiencing incidents of racial/ethnic or religious discrimination. These numbers are even lower in the countries with new and sometimes weak anti-discrimination laws and bodies: around 1 for every 5,000-6,000 potential victims in EE, BG, CZ, DE, GR, PL. Better data for more countries will confirm whether potential victims are more likely to report discrimination in the countries with stronger anti-discrimination laws, equality policies and bodies. What is clear is that most countries have not even taken the first steps to properly enforce and resource their anti-discrimination laws in order to guarantee the same access to justice for potential discrimination victims as they do for victims of other crimes and illegal acts.



New results of MIPEX

We are pleased to announce that the new results of MIPEX (2014-2020) will be published by the end of 2020. MIPEX 2020 will include 52 European and non-European countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, EU28, India, Japan, Mexico, US and much more. Stay tuned!