Estonia regulates the future of the British living in Estonia after Brexit

The Estonian parliament on 21 February passed an act that regulates the conditions for the citizens of the UK and their family members for residing in Estonia after Brexit.

As it is still not yet clear whether the United Kingdom will leave the European Union on the basis of a withdrawal agreement or without an agreement, the act provides a solution for both cases in order to ensure the citizens of the UK residing in Estonia as smooth transition as possible, the parliament said in a statement.

“If Brexit takes place on the basis of a withdrawal agreement, the act ensures the conditions for living in Estonia laid down in the agreement to the citizens of the United Kingdom who are living in Estonia now or come to live here during the up to two year transition period, and their present and future family members,” the parliament said.

“This would mean that, throughout the transition period, the EU law will continue to apply to the citizens of the UK, and they will be able to continue living in Estonia on the basis of right of residence, without anything changing in two years. The citizens of the UK arriving in Estonia after April 2021 would already fall within the scope of regulation of the Aliens Act, which means they will require a residence permit for living in Estonia like all other citizens of third countries.”

Residence permit

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the Estonia’s Aliens Act will immediately apply to the citizens of the UK and their family members living in Estonia. “In such a case, the act will grant them a temporary residence permit for settling permanently in Estonia, with the period of validity of up to five years, or a long-term resident’s residence permit, depending on whether they live in Estonia on the basis of temporary or permanent right of residence at the Brexit moment. All UK citizens who wish to settle in Estonia after the withdrawal of the UK from the EU will have to apply for a residence permit like all other citizens of third countries,” the statement added.

In the case of both withdrawal with an agreement and withdrawal without an agreement, the identity cards that have been issued will be valid until the expiry of the period of validity of a specific document. “In the case of withdrawal with an agreement, the citizens of the UK will be issued residence cards from 2021; in the case of withdrawal without an agreement, from 1 April 2020, which means the UK citizens settling in Estonia in the meantime will be issued identity cards, and not residence cards, as identity documents.”

The UK will be treated like the US and Japan

In the future, the UK will be treated like the United States of America and Japan, to whose citizens the immigration quota of Estonia does not extend. Regardless of whether the UK will leave the EU with an agreement or without an agreement, it is important that the citizens of the UK should take care that the details of their place of residence in Estonia were registered in the Population Register, the parliament noted.

As of February 2019, 1,335 citizens of the UK had registered their residence in Estonia and hold a valid ID-card, and 338 of them have the permanent right of residence.


Cover: A screenshot of the title sequence of “The Spy Who Loved Me”, a 1977 James Bond movie of the British namesake spy films franchise (the image is illustrative).

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About the author: Sten Hankewitz

Sten Hankewitz is a lifelong journalist and Deputy Editor at Estonian World. Having lived in Estonia, Spain, the UK and all around the US, he now resides in Chicago, IL. He loves to write and besides working at Estonian World and doing some occasional blogging, he writes books and contributes to other outlets in Estonia, Israel and elsewhere. He has strong convictions and he shows them unashamedly. You can follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook or check out his personal blog. You can write to Sten at