How to apply for Estonian citizenship?
How to apply for Estonian citizenship and what does it mean to be an Estonian citizen? Estonian citizenship is the legal relationship between the citizen and the state, which means that both parties have rights and responsibilities. Citizenship is mostly acquired by birth, but non-citizens who would like to become citizens can also apply for it, and the process is called naturalisation.
Consequently, Estonian citizenship:
- is acquired by birth in case at least one of the parents is an Estonian citizen;
- can be acquired through naturalisation;
- can be restored if the person lost Estonian citizenship while remaining a minor;
- can be revoked due to deprivation of citizenship or the person accepting another country’s citizenship.
Why is citizenship needed and useful?
In most cases, a person who has no citizenship by birth would like to acquire the citizenship of the state they consider their home. Living in a country as its full-fledged citizen allows one to make one’s voice heard in the life of society and make important decisions (for example, vote in elections).
Acquiring citizenship is not an obligation but rather an opportunity for those who consider Estonia their home and want to become citizens. In addition, this gives you an opportunity to become a citizen of the whole European Union, not only Estonia. Among other things, this means visa-free travelling in the Schengen area and other countries. Being a citizen of the European Union means you have the right to live, work, study or establish a business in any of the EU member states (there are 28).
How do you become an Estonian citizen?
As we have already mentioned, in most cases citizenship is acquired by birth. Still, you can apply for Estonian citizenship even if you were born in another country and received its citizenship or if you hold no citizenship.
Acquiring citizenship which is not attributed by birth is referred to as naturalisation, which comprises the following steps:
- moving to Estonia and applying for a residence permit;
- passing the language proficiency exam;
- passing the citizen knowledge exam;
- being released from another country’s citizenship because multiple citizenship is not allowed in Estonia;
- filing the application;
- applying for an Estonian passport and ID card.
To apply for citizenship, please turn to a branch of the Police and Border Guard Board in person, by post or by e-mail.
What should you know about the language proficiency exam?
Those striving for Estonian citizenship might be a bit daunted by the fact that one of the conditions for becoming a citizen is passing the Estonian language proficiency exam. Estonian is a language that sounds nice, but, as far as learning it is concerned, it is considered to be a rather complicated language with 14 grammatical cases. Please also remember that the level of language proficiency for obtaining Estonian citizenship or residence permit for long-term residents must be at least B1, which covers the following skills:
- understanding everything important on a familiar topic, for example, school, work or leisure;
- coping in the country where this language (Estonian in this case) is spoken;
- being able to produce a simple text on the topic of one’s interest;
- being able to describe events, thoughts and goals as well as explain them in brief.
Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent language learning opportunities (various courses and language learning modules); in addition, daily communication to locals is a key to success. Still, you need to start at the very beginning, and reaching level B1 will take some time. What you should start with is level A1, which provides basic skills for daily coping in an Estonian-speaking environment and creates a strong base for further learning.
Read more about the basic language learning module of the Settle in Estonia programme here. Further information about the language exam one has to pass in order to apply for citizenship can be found on the web page of the company called Innove, for instance.
Summary: who can apply for Estonian citizenship?
Let us once again review the important conditions you need to meet in order to apply for Estonian citizenship. You can apply for Estonian citizenship provided that
- you have a permanent residence permit or the right to hold one or the right to permanent residence (people who moved to Estonia or were born in Estonia before 1 July 1990);
- before applying, you have lived in Estonia on the basis of a residence permit or right to residence for at least eight years, five of which permanently (at least);
- you have passed the Estonian language proficiency exam (it is not mandatory if you have completed basic, secondary or higher education in Estonian);
- you have passed the examination on the knowledge of the Estonian Constitution and the Citizenship Act;
- you have sufficient legal income;
- your place of residence is registered in the population register;
- you are loyal to the Estonian state.
Documents necessary for filing the application:
- application form;
- language proficiency certificate;
- citizen knowledge exam certificate;
- certificate about your official and legal income;
- photo (40 × 50 mm);
- receipt proving you have paid the state fee;
- the certificate proving you have been released or will be released from the previous citizenship due to receiving Estonian citizenship or that you are a stateless person.
Conditions for application for citizenship may change with time; updated information can always be found on the web page of the of the Police and Border Guard Board.
If you are interested in living in Estonia and applying for citizenship here, there are numerous other opportunities to learn everything you need. For example, you can read useful information in blog posts of Settle in Estonia. Find out more!