Startup Visa

The startup visa gives foreign entrepreneurs the opportunity to settle in Estonia for up to 18 months to establish their startup. A visa for startup entrepreneurship may be issued for up to 12 months and extended for up to 6 months days. For prospective startup entrepreneurs who have established their startup in Estonia and wish to stay longer, it is possible to apply for a temporary residence permit for entrepreneurship. For startups, the general investment requirement (65 000 EUR) to apply for a residence permit for entrepreneurship does not apply. A temporary residence permit for entrepreneurship may be issued for up to five years.

What is the Estonia startup visa?

  • The Estonia startup visa is available to eligible entrepreneurs from outside the EU who are willing to relocate to Estonia in order to start a business or work at an extant Estonian start up firm. 
  • You can apply for the visa yourself, as a foreign visa founder (i.e. someone who is attempting to come from outside the EU to start a business in Estonia), or you can apply as an Estonian employer (i.e. an Estonian who has a startup and is looking to bring someone from outside the EU to work at it). 
  • Startup visas are available in two periods of stay: 3 months (short term) or 1 year (long-term), with the opportunity to extend it for an additional 183 days. 
  • For example, if you have spent 12 months in the Estonian capital Tallinn and want to stay longer, you can apply to extend your startup visa, for a total visa-duration of 18 months.
  • In return for starting up or working at a business in Estonia, startup visa holders are able to legally remain employed in the country and also have access to the surrounding EU and Schengen area.   
  • The startup visa therefore provides individuals who do not have visa-free access to the Schengen area with the opportunity to travel and reside in Europe on a more stable basis. 
  • After their 18 months are up, startup visa holders may seek to pursue a more permanent form of Estonia immigration, such as residency, which could ultimately lead to them applying for Estonian citizenship.

Startup visa program

  • The startup visa program is a way for Estonia to attract vibrant young talent who might otherwise not consider relocating to the country, or who might face barriers to general European immigration due to their nationality.
  • Estonia is happy to welcome bright, industrious individuals to the country via the startup visa, and supports the initiative with the ultimate goal of enriching the Estonian economy and maintaining and expanding the small country’s identity as a European hub for business, tech, and other forms of innovation. 

Start-up visa conditions

  • For visa founders seeking startup visa eligibility, a company must satisfy the following start-up visa conditions: 
  • Be an innovative tech-based business with growth potential. 
  • Is approved by the Official Estonian Startup Committee (which must certify that your business indeed qualifies as a startup under the terms of the program). 
  • Estonia start-up visa terms for startup visa holders include the requirement that they spend a minimum of €160 EUR per month while in the country. Therefore, in order for your startup visa application to be approved, you must demonstrate that you possess (or are capable of possessing) a minimum of €1920 EUR (a year’s worth of monthly “payments”). 

Startup visa vs. Schengen visa

  • Please note that the Estonian startup visa is not a Schengen visa. 
  • There are a number of differences between the Estonian start up and the Schengen visa. 
  • First and most fundamentally, the Estonian start up is a national visa which is offered exclusively by the Estonian government. When you apply for the Estonian visa, you are applying to Estonia, through an Estonian consulate/embassy. Additionally, at a minimum duration of 365 days, the Estonian startup is a long stay (Type-D) visa. 
  • In contrast, the Schengen visa is offered by all 26 countries in the Schengen area. You can therefore apply for a Schengen visa to any of the 26 Schengen countries, and your Schengen visa is valid for entry to the entire Schengen area. Finally, Schengen visa holders are limited to up to 90 days in the Schengen area; a significantly less amount of time than that available to those on a long-term Estonian startup visa.  
  • If you are looking to start a company in Estonia, you could apply for a business Schengen visa to Estonia, which would give you 90 days in the country, without the opportunity to extend.

Estonian start-up visa fees

  • Estonian start-up visa fees are €80 EUR per application, the same price as a basic Schengen visa. 

Estonian startups

  • Although it’s just getting started, the Estonian startup ecosystem is already rich, diverse, and growing: there are 1000 startups currently operating in Estonia. 
  • TransferWise, Bolt, and Pipedrive are just three popular Estonian startups that continue to benefit from the startup visa program. 
  • In addition to the 1000 current startups based in Estonia, there are a number of companies that began as startups that are now over 10 years old. Now called “matured startups,” they include companies like Skype, one of the most popular messaging apps in the world. Skype was launched in Estonia and is grounded in software developed by four young Estonians. Today, the majority of Skype employees still live and work in Estonia. 

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