training day participants

Impressions of the training day of the family-related module

Dozens of people from different countries came together for the family-related module of the Settle in Estonia programme one Saturday in November to obtain useful knowledge about what to do and how to do it if one’s family has recently relocated to Estonia. This time, the Minister of Population, Riina Solman, was there to greet the course participants.

In her speech before the beginning of the course, the minister said that foreign nationals interested in smooth integration into Estonian society are always welcome in our country. “I am glad to see that so many people from various countries who would like to adapt to living in Estonian society have come to the training course of the programme Settle in Estonia created by the Ministry of the Interior. This is a sign of wishing to participate in local matters as fully realised residents. Our training programme is a good example of how the state and immigrants can take small steps to become closer to each other,” Riina Solman said.

Among the participants, there were people from a number of different countries: Russia, Ukraine, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Iran, Brazil and Sri Lanka. The family-related module is mean for the foreign nationals who have come to Estonia via the process of family immigration and have already received a residence permit. But how does family immigration actually work? In simpler words, family immigration is a situation in which a foreign national has obtained the residence permit and is relocating to live with the spouse or other close relative who lives in Estonia.

Here are some real-life examples of family immigration: a man from Russia who has married an Estonian woman; a woman from Egypt whose husband is already living in Estonia and has a residence permit issued for studying here; an American who married an Estonian and also found a job in an Estonian start-up company after graduating from university; a woman from India with two children, whose husband is living in Estonia and has a residence permit for running a business in the country; a designer from Great Britain who came to Estonia for an apprenticeship programme, got a job offer from the employer after the apprenticeship period ended, found the future spouse in Estonia and applied for a residence permit as an employee of a local company.

There is a great number of examples; foreign nationals come to live in Estonia for a variety of reasons and in various ways. What is important is the state-provided opportunity for those who have received a residence permit to take part in training courses which will help them adapt in Estonia faster.

There are many various reasons for and ways of family immigration, which also often involves children for whom Estonia will become a new home. Helping the people who have received an Estonian permit to adapt to living here is exactly what the programme does.

First of all, the foreign nationals relocating to Estonia have to understand legal bases for living in Estonia and learn where to obtain additional information should they need it. This family-related module course of the programme also paid special attention to Estonian government institutions, showing their web pages and providing tips. For example, the participants received guidelines on how to interact with the Police and Border Guard Board, Tax and Customs Board or the national Health Insurance Fund.

When a family decides to relocate to a new country, it faces a range of questions which need prompt answers. If the family has children, a number of issues related to the children also arises, and the family needs support in the process because it does not know the country’s official procedures and systems. During the course of the family-related module of the programme, foreigners can receive answers to their questions about children’s day-care options, kindergartens, schools and hobby clubs as well as parental benefits, parental leave, the retirement benefit system, the education system and many other topics.

The participants of the training course were divided into three groups: one with instruction in English, another with instruction in Russian, and the children’s group that had a specially designed module for children and teenagers, during which teachers used various activities both in English and Russian to describe Estonia to the kids. Some of the participants who had already been in Estonia for a while knew very well how to organise things here and shared their experience with others. Those who had just come to live here still had plenty of questions, all of which were tackled one at a time.

People from all walks of life took part in the training course. For example, one man from India, who had been living and working in Estonia for a year, had decided to relocate his wife and two little children here. They came to take part in the programme all together to learn how to find a kindergarten for their children, how to choose a school for them later, and what children’s rights and parents’ obligations are. In their turn, the kids had plenty of fun activities, which gave them knowledge about Estonian culture, nature and traditions.

They could also study the map of Estonia and learn about the country’s most common birds and animals, watch videos of the song and dance festivals and learn how Christmas, Independence Day, St John’s Day, St Martin’s Day and other holidays are celebrated here.

One of the participants was a woman from France who was planning to bring her pre-school daughter to Estonia. She came to the training course to better understand what the process would look like, what kind of a school system she could expect for her daughter, whether she would be able to ensure her child’s adaptation was as smooth as possible and how to do it.

Muljeid Settle in Estonia peremooduli koolituspäevalt

The training courses of the programme are not merely lectures, during which one person speaks and the others listen. The instructors do use the materials prepared in advance, but the participants’ questions are always welcomed, and discussion is always encouraged. The course also included a demonstration of how to use one’s ID card to log in to the web page as well as other useful tips, and the participants were assured they should turn to the appropriate government institutions if they have any questions later. The structure of the day during the course fosters the participants’ communication. At lunch break they could network and exchanged impressions, experiences and contact details over tea or coffee, so some of them got new acquaintances in addition to new knowledge.

Riina Solman’s conclusion of the one-day course was highly positive: “I saw a number of joyful people, their eyes alight with excitement and curiosity about Estonia. I do hope and believe that the foreign nationals who have come to Estonia to stay and also taken part in the programme will soon feel at home here.”