Justin Zehmke, who recently moved to Tallinn from Cape Town, South Africa, writes about his rollercoaster experience of settling in Estonia – and has some hard-learned advice for the Estonian government and businesses.
In early December 2015, while rather casually considering applying for the Estonian e-residency, I came across a job ad that seemed perfect for me. The problem was, as a South African, I held out absolutely zero hope that I’d even receive a response to my CV submission, let alone make it through a lengthy interview process.
Four months later I stepped off the plane at the Lennart Meri International Airport with my family, ready to start a new life in Estonia, still somewhat awed and taken aback by how things had worked out. We’d packed up our entire lives in South Africa, sold our cars and all our physical belongings. We were armed with six suitcases containing the basics needed to start a new life, and we still had huge doubts and uncertainties hanging over our heads.
My wife and daughter each had a 10-day tourist visa. Mine ran for 90 days, but I had no work permit or even a signed contract from my new employer. This could all still go horribly wrong, leaving us destitute and on our way back to South Africa with no money, no jobs and nowhere to live.
We knew the 10-day visas were a problem, but we’d been told in no uncertain terms in South Africa that if I so much as mentioned that I was going to Europe for work, my passport would be blacklisted and I would not travel to anywhere in the EU for at least ten years. As an African, telling a European embassy you’re travelling to go and work if you don’t have a signed contract, a work permit and every single piece of documentation needed is about as smart as showing up at the airport with sticks of dynamite strapped around your waist. Yet I could only apply for the Estonian residence permit once I had started work in Estonia. This was to be the first of many catch-22s.
We had ten days to legally settle in Estonia. I could almost hear the ominous ticking of a clock in my head.
Finding a home
In order for me to even be allowed to apply for a residence permit, I had to secure a permanent place to stay. This seemed completely insane to me. I would be expected to sign a year’s lease, pay the equivalent of three months’ rent in advance with absolutely no guarantee that I would be granted a residence permit.
Yet I was calm about this at the time; I was in the hands of professionals at my new employer and we’d been looking at Estonia’s two big real estate portals for weeks and had narrowed it down to about five places that we liked. Oh how naive we were. It turns out that about 90% of the properties on these portals, kv.ee and city24.ee, are completely fictitious. Yes, they probably were for rent at some point in the past, but they definitely aren’t any more.
I phoned about 20 agents and got the same set of stories every single time. The property I was enquiring about had just been rented out, literally five minutes ago, and unfortunately, they have nothing else available. Eventually, we struck it lucky, or at least so I thought at the time. We found a decent two-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a three story house in an acceptable part of Tallinn. How that turned bad is likely a story best saved for another time.
“Oh how naive we were. It turns out that about 90% of the properties on these portals, kv.ee and city24.ee, are completely fictitious.”
If I could change one thing here, it would be the Estonian government’s insistence on the applicant having a signed rental contract before their application can be considered.
Being allowed the courtesy of not committing a deposit, one month’s rent and the agency fee in the middle of what is already a very expensive move and before one has started earning a salary, is onerous in the extreme. I would have preferred to stay in a hotel or rent an apartment over a short term until I know I would be allowed to stay for at least two years. As things stand, I had to take another major financial risk on the gamble that my application would be approved.
Back in March, however, we were about to embark on our immigration office ordeal.
The immigration office
I was feeling rather confident at this point and there’s nothing quite like false confidence to put a man right in his place. My employers had submitted the residence permit application many times before, they knew exactly what was needed and we’d filled in all the forms correctly a day in advance.
The first faeco-ventilatory collision occurred when the immigration officer saw my wife and daughter’s visas. There was no way they were even accepting their applications for residence permits. Mine was processed rather painlessly, but we had to come back the next day and apply for extensions to the holiday visas or they were going to need the leave the country in three days’ time.
“The first faeco-ventilatory collision occurred when the immigration officer saw my wife and daughter’s visas.”
We had all applied together in South Africa, as a family, but the Swedish embassy where we applied decided I would get 90 days and wife and child only ten. Why they made this decision is beyond me even today.
So we had to go back the next day, this time with a lawyer in tow, and start begging. After about four hours, many written explanations and getting my daughter to dial up the cuteness to 11, the application for extension was accepted, but we were also told the following: our marriage was meaningless and that woman I have the child with would have to find work herself or we’d have to get married in Estonia. Option two seemed quicker at that point so we asked what we would need to do to arrange a wedding in Estonia.
This is where it gets fun. We would need a letter from the South African government proving that we were NOT married. This still makes my head hurt. The person insisting that we were not married was insisting we prove this fact, which they insisted was a fact.
“This still makes my head hurt. The person insisting that we were not married was insisting we prove this fact, which they insisted was a fact.”
Before we moved to Estonia I had made sure to ask whether our co-habitation agreement would be accepted by the immigration office. We had been told very clearly and unequivocally that it would. Yet now that we were here and had no option to get married, it was being declined. The strangest part is that Estonia passed a similar law that went into effect in January 2016, legalising civil partnerships and affording those who enter such partnerships legal rights.
So technically these immigration officers were acting against their own country’s laws when they declined to accept a document that is legally binding in most of the civilised world. In South Africa, a co-habitation agreement gives both parties and children the same rights as a traditional marriage. The declaration is made under oath and is legally binding. The Estonian government’s complete disregard for its own laws and the laws of another sovereign country is very strange in this regard.
We decided on the spot that this was a battle for another day. The woman I have the child with is highly qualified and we thought finding employment would be easy, and at worst we’d fly to Denmark for one of their quickie Vegas style weddings. As it stood, she submitted her own application for a residence permit about two weeks later, having found a job with one of Estonia’s many great tech start-ups.
The next bit of fun came when they would not accept my daughter’s birth certificate. It is a signed, government-issued document with shiny bits and holographic paper etc. It is as official as it gets. The immigration officer told me with a straight face: “We don’t trust African documents.”
“The immigration officer told me with a straight face: “We don’t trust African documents.”
I would have to get the certificate legalised by the South African government, the same people who issued it. So essentially this means another piece of paper with a signature claiming that the signature on the other piece of paper is a legal one, and a stamp claiming that the existing stamp is a legal one. Done in the same exact place that did the initial ones, by the same people.
This ended up costing me another €200. I am still expecting them to ask me to have the legalisation signature and stamp legalised and then have those legalised once more in an endless loop of futile bureaucracy. If you didn’t trust the first signature, why would you trust a second one that says the first one is OK?
“I am still expecting them to ask me to have the legalisation signature and stamp legalised and then have those legalised once more in an endless loop of futile bureaucracy.”
I sarcastically asked whether we needed to do the same with our passports, as they were also African documents, but received no answer. It seems not all government documents are created equal. Never mind the fact that I could buy a fake passport in South Africa for about €50 while the birth certificate is almost impossible to acquire illegally. The SA passport is jokingly referred to as the green mamba by South Africans, as it poisons your travel plans. (Please don’t deport me, I didn’t buy my passport.)
I need to interject here that I had by that point dealt with about seven different people at the immigration office and the experience had varied hugely. At least four of the people I dealt with were friendly, helpful and understanding. They clearly see it as their job to assist someone who is legally applying for residency. The other three experiences have not been so good. From outright maliciousness to hostility, I’ve seen it all. Surely an experience like this, based on set laws and procedures, should not be determined by whether the person on the other end is in a bad mood or takes a dislike to you?
“Surely an experience like this, based on set laws and procedures, should not be determined by whether the person on the other end is in a bad mood or takes a dislike to you?”
But back to business. Once I received my residence permit and the ID card about five weeks later, I went back to complete my daughter’s application, hoping the fact that I was now legally in Estonia for at least two years would ease the process. I’d also finally got her birth certificate back after having it apostilled under legally dubious circumstances in South Africa. By now, my daughter’s holiday visa’s validity had become an issue again. Had I not couriered her birth certificate to South Africa and back, I could have had it sent through the South African embassy in Helsinki. This would have taken 10 weeks and left us with absolutely no chance of submitting her application. As it stood, we had four weeks’ grace and were told this would not be enough.
I was asked to write a letter stating why the application was so late and asking that the process be sped up. I asked the police officer handling my case that day whether this would help. “No, they are too busy,” she said. So I was writing this letter why exactly?
I would need to come and apply for yet another extension to my daughter’s holiday visa at the end of May, which would once again incur a nasty expense. I wanted to know what they would do to a four-year-old with an expired visa whose parents were both legally resident in Estonia, but could get no answer. Deportation? Jail? Would we be arrested for people smuggling?
“I wanted to know what they would do to a four-year-old with an expired visa whose parents were both legally resident in Estonia, but could get no answer. Deportation? Jail? Would we be arrested for people smuggling?”
Having spoken to other expats I now realise that many, if not all, of our issues stem from the fact that we are South African, but surely there should be no discrimination? I was coming to Estonia as a highly skilled person to work in a field with a severe skill shortage. I was not an illegal immigrant sneaking across the border to come and steal an Estonian’s job.
“I was coming to Estonia as a highly skilled person to work in a field with a severe skill shortage. I was not an illegal immigrant sneaking across the border to come and steal an Estonian’s job.”
If it is easy and painless for Brazilians, Americans and Australians to come and work here, why do my human rights not extend me the same privilege?
Does “we do not trust African documents” actually mean “we do not trust Africans”?
The digital shortfall
For a country that prides itself on being digital, the information supplied on the immigration website is either inadequate or so well hidden as to be impossible to find unless you know specifically what you’re looking for. We suspected this even before we started the process as we would regularly see that info taking up two-three pages in Estonian is dealt with in a couple of paragraphs in the English version. Had I not had a company HR representative and a lawyer with me, I have absolutely zero doubt I would be writing this missive from South Africa. What is severely lacking is one convenient digital destination that gives you step-by-step instructions and clearly tells you what will be needed. The workinestonia.com site is a great start, but is so focussed on selling the country as a great destination that it often glosses over the realities of what will be required.
“For a country that prides itself on being digital, the information supplied on the immigration website is either inadequate or so well hidden as to be impossible to find unless you know specifically what you’re looking for.”
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. All along the entire process there were rays of light as we found some people, even at the immigration office, who were willing to go out of their way to help and find a solution. And had this process been done in South Africa, I would most likely still be sitting in the queue, waiting for my very first meeting with an officer, visa long since expired and my spirit broken by weeks spent queuing.
But back to the action. As this immigration saga was playing out, I had started work and needed to get paid. So I made my way to a bank, my employment contract, a rental agreement and my passport in hand. I’d heard about how easy it was to open a bank account in Estonia and was actually looking forward to this. South African banks are the most exploitative, money stealing, customer screwing institutions on earth. They are so notoriously bad that once a man let a whole bunch of snakes loose in a bank in protest for bad service and became a national hero of sorts. This would make a nice change. Bring on that first-world service. This is what I came to Europe for.
“We can open an account for you, but it will cost €250.”
I was shocked. That’s a lot of money simply to open an account. I was told I could wait until I received my ID card, then it would be free. But at that time it was possibly 60 days away and I came to Estonia to work, not as an independently wealthy tourist. I needed the account, so dropped further into debt, my once-respected South African credit card taking an almighty battering.
“We can open an account for you, but it will cost €250.”
Again, this seems like a brutal screwing of people who are desperate. The banks know the expat has no choice as he or she has bills to pay and their salary needs to be paid somewhere as well, so they charge an extortionate amount. I felt like I was back home. Nothing says “South Africa” quite like being screwed by a bank.
Kindergarten and childcare
My partner had always planned to find work in Estonia, but with a four-year-old we had hoped to wait a few months, settle, find a school of our choice in the right area and just generally be relaxed about the entire thing. The fact that Estonia offers free schooling and subsidised kindergartens was one of the main reason we came here. Now, due to the immigration issues we were suddenly faced with the prospect of having to find a kindergarten in two weeks.
A friendly neighbour took it upon herself to phone around and found a school a few blocks away with an opening and willing to take my daughter at a week’s notice. Fantastic. We went and met the head teacher and all seemed well. Our daughter could start first thing on the Monday morning. At 10:30 PM on the Sunday evening before my daughter was due to start at the kindergarten we received a curt text message, stating that the place was no longer available.
We desperately tried to phone the next day, but our calls were not answered. Eventually, a few days later, we received a mealy mouthed mail claiming a child who had previously left the school had decided to come back at short notice and that they no longer had space for our daughter.
“At 10:30 PM on the Sunday evening before my daughter was due to start at the kindergarten we received a curt text message, stating that the place was no longer available.”
We let it go. After all, if we forced the issue our four-year-old would be going to a place where she was not welcome.
We found another school with a place available and were invited to go and meet the teachers. I made sure that my colleague who phoned them on my behalf asked repeatedly whether there was a place available, now. Not in a few months’ time, not next year. Now. They assured us there was. When we showed up for the meeting, the story changed immediately. We were welcome to apply for the next year, and we could find the application form on the website. Or we could go to that other school a few blocks away. This last bit said while vaguely pointing out the window. We asked for directions. Just there somewhere, a few blocks away.
I don’t know if it is pertinent to mention this, but my partner is of Indian descent. Could this be the issue? Is it a race thing? Is it the fact that we only spoke English? We were very upfront about that at all times, even before showing up for the meetings.
“I don’t know if it is pertinent to mention this, but my partner is of Indian descent. Could this be the issue? Is it a race thing? Is it the fact that we only spoke English?”
After a few more disappointments we ran out of time and decided to hire an au pair. Luckily we found a wonderful Estonian lady who has been fantastic with our child, but obviously, this costs a whole lot more than a government-subsidised kindergarten.
There is a website that lists all the kindergartens and whether they have spaces available but of course, it is not in English. Like the estate agents and their ghost apartments, these kindergarten spaces seem to only exist until you enquire about them. We’ve dubbed the real estate ones Schrödinger’s Flats.
My advice to the Estonian government
My advice to the Estonian government: You’ve advertised yourself as a digital utopia and you’re actively luring skilled people to come and work here. Remove some of the obstacles and actually walk the walk rather than just talking the talk. Improve the information on your websites, make sure you have immigration officers who actually speak English and use some logic when it comes to documentation. If my wife, daughter and I all have passports, a birth certificate, jobs, a house etc, why hassle me to get that one document sent back to South Africa at extreme expense? We obviously are who we claim to be.
“You’ve advertised yourself as a digital utopia and you’re actively luring skilled people to come and work here. Remove some of the obstacles and actually walk the walk rather than just talking the talk. Improve the information on your websites, make sure you have immigration officers who actually speak English and use some logic when it comes to documentation. If my wife, daughter and I all have passports, a birth certificate, jobs, a house etc, why hassle me to get that one document sent back to South Africa at extreme expense? We obviously are who we claim to be.”
Train the immigration officers in the law, and make sure there are enough of them. Almost everyone I’ve met had a different idea of what was required and if you phone for information, the answers you get seem to vary according to the person who answers. It really shouldn’t be luck of the draw.
In addition, I’ve learned that the staff numbers at immigration have been cut. This makes no sense as the Estonian government is still openly marketing the country as a welcoming one for highly skilled immigrants. It already takes about 60 days to get a residence permit. You should be careful that this doesn’t end up taking longer than the 90 days applicants are allowed to stay in Europe.
“Train the immigration officers in the law, and make sure there are enough of them. Almost everyone I’ve met had a different idea of what was required and if you phone for information, the answers you get seem to vary according to the person who answers. It really shouldn’t be luck of the draw.”
I was told that until late 2015, the process would take a few weeks and was generally easy and smooth. Then came the big staff lay-off and the subsequent slowdown in processing applications. The Estonian government is generally quite forward-looking, so this strikes me as an odd instance of stupidity. Slowing down your entire economy to save the cost of a few jobs at the immigration office. Again, I’m reminded of home. Rumours that even more staff will be cut also waft through the air like the stench of raw sewage.
Explain, explain, explain. Which documents are accepted? What constitutes a marriage in Estonia? If you’ve passed a law legalising co-habitation but nobody really knows whether it is in force, shouldn’t that issue be clarified? This is such a small country that communicating legislative changes should be easy. In South Africa, there are 55 million people who speak 11 different languages. If you go to an immigration office the entire immigration law is presented in posters on the wall, in multiple languages. This is the only thing that is better about South African bureaucracy. Literally, the one thing.
If it turns out that our co-habitation agreement was enough to secure my wife a residence permit, will I be able to take the government to court in order to reclaim the expenses I underwent due to this lack of communication?
The Work in Estonia website lists about five things needed, when there actually are a hell of a lot more. There is no mention of apostilled birth certificates, medical insurance, proof of residence, marriage certificates etc. It is only when one starts digging rather deeper that these things appear, on a different website entirely.
When it comes to companies employing foreigners, my wife and her employer, who is a much smaller company than the one I work for, ran into the maze of how long a company must exist and how much turnover they must have before you work out the payment coefficient and blah-blah-blah. The proof that this system is broken lies in the fact that she had to reapply a few days after the initial application because the immigration officer and her employer had completed the wrong forms entirely. If not even the people working at immigration can figure this out, how will the average employer or a potential immigrant? Trust your companies enough to fast-track and simplify the acquisition of talent.
“If not even the people working at immigration can figure this out, how will the average employer or a potential immigrant?”
Speak to your banks about dropping their ridiculous account opening fees for people who are employed in Estonia. And when you do that, I’d appreciate a refund.
The citizen’s portal is a wonderful thing, but all the forms are still in Estonian. I’m supposed to be able to do everything online, but I need a translator every time. I happen to know a decent copywriter who could help out with making improvements.
Establish English-speaking kindergartens. If Estonian nationals have trouble finding spots in kindergartens for their children, can you imagine how expats struggle, especially when heavily pressed for time? You are openly encouraging people to move to Estonia, yet once they get here, it is virtually impossible for them to arrange quality childcare unless they’re willing to pay in excess of €600 for a spot in a private school. We came incredibly close to leaving Estonia because of this matter as we were mere days away from a situation where our choices were leaving a four-year-old at home on her own or have my wife deported after her 90-day visa. The private kindergartens wanted deposits and we had simply exhausted all our funds by that time. I know you love the Estonian language and that you’re desperate to preserve the language and the identity, but if you want to be the European start-up capital and digital torch-bearers, you’ll need a nation that speaks English as well. Teach them young.
Remove the catch 22s. I need a residence permit to live here but I need a lease to apply for a residence permit. That’s simply capricious and puts people at risk of major financial losses and exploitation.
My advice for Estonian companies
My advice for Estonian companies: The best advice would probably be quite brutal. Only hire EU citizens. However, and fortunately for people like me, that is not always practical. In that case, try and help as much as possible. If you’re regularly employing foreigners, consider buying or renting a property that you can “rent” to new starters while their application is in progress. If you can actually house them here for two months, even better.
Give them employment contracts and invitations before they arrive in Estonia. Lobby the government to tell the Swedish embassy in South Africa to chill the f**k out when people want to come to Estonia. The horror stories about that embassy in South Africa could be an article on its own.
“If you’re regularly employing foreigners, consider buying or renting a property that you can “rent” to new starters while their application is in progress.”
As Europeans you’re used to being treated with dignity and respect when you travel. That doesn’t apply to people from the “third world” coming the other way. Bear this in mind and arm your staff with the tools they need.
Understand that what worked for getting an American employee into Estonia will most likely not work for a South African. Make sure they know exactly what they need before they arrive. I could have saved a lot of money and headaches if I’d known I’d need the apostille on the birth certificate and had not been told our co-habitation agreement would be accepted.
“As Europeans you’re used to being treated with dignity and respect when you travel. That doesn’t apply to people from the “third world” coming the other way. Bear this in mind and arm your staff with the tools they need.”
There are a lot of small start-ups in Estonia and you rightly take great pride in your entrepreneurial spirit. How about banding together and starting some international kindergartens? As an African I’ve learned that waiting for the government to do things for you is futile. Even your Estonian staff members are likely to make use of these facilities. A quick straw poll among colleagues suggests they’d happily pay for a service that is convenient and on, or close to, their work premises. Imagine a generation of multilingual super Estonians emerging from these kindergartens, ready to rule the world.
“How about banding together and starting some international kindergartens?”
Whatever relocation fee you are considering, double it. Especially in cases where the new employee’s native currency is trading at 17/1 against the euro. My employer was very generous but I will still only pay back the cost of my move in about two years’ time.
We have been in Estonia for three months and I absolutely love it, despite all the setbacks. After South Africa’s violent, corrupt society I find the safety and the organisation in Tallinn fantastic. The people, although reserved and fairly quiet, are friendly and extremely helpful. We’ve made some friends already and hope to stay indefinitely. I am excited to contribute to the Estonian national project and plan to integrate and assimilate with Estonian culture.
“Estonians should embrace the fact that your small country is an attractive destination for young, highly educated and motivated people from around the world who are interested in becoming part of your culture and contribute to your success.”
I love the diversity of my workplace and the burgeoning multi-culturalism of Tallinn. Estonians should embrace the fact that your small country is an attractive destination for young, highly educated and motivated people from around the world who are interested in becoming part of your culture and contribute to your success.
The opinions in this article are those of the author. Cover: a welcoming sign by the Kultuurikatel’s chimney in Tallinn.
19 thoughts on “Justin Zehmke: Move to Estonia, they said. It will be easy, they said”
This shows that everything is not pink when it shown on web site…. Estonia might be better for European people but not good place for people from Third World Country. …. Really Eye opener….
Thank you for the honest review, if people don’t speak out and complain the process would not get better.
I read your report with interest, however I don’t agree with the other two commenters. I feel you are blaming being South African for all your woes when, if you had done some research you would have been able to mitigate some of the issues you came upon. Also turning up in another country with tourist visas, no written job offer and nowhere to live is never going to go well is it?
These rules apply to everybody and they are there for very good reasons.
My wife is Estonian and I own property in Estonia but if I wanted to move there permanently I would have to go through the same process you have.
I am an e-resident but all that allows me to is digitally sign official documents and pay the taxes on my property easier.
Having official documents authorised with an Apostille stamp is very common and you are not being picked on because you are South African.
When I served in my country’s armed forces we had a mantra called the 6 Ps (Perfect Planning Prevents P*** Poor Performance) which I think in your case would be a valuable lesson.
It is easier for EU citizens but even then I was surprised at how bureaucratic it was for a country which prides itself on being digital. If Estonia really wants to become the country it says it does, it needs to listen to you and the many others having issues like these.
interesting points of view. obviously your expectations were just unrealistic… nevertheless it looks like you mostly got what you wanted? it took some effort, yes, but why did you think it should be without any effort, especially for you? do you have experience with similar procedures in USA, UK, Russia? or small European countries – Belgium, Switzerland or why not Asian – like Singapore or any other??? i think it is absolutely justified that any country gets to choose who we accept and who we don’t and on what terms? this right can not be exchanged to just a job interview of just one single company who has some kind of business interest. however skilled and perfect you are. do you agree?
to stop your head hurting – if you are not married to one specific woman it does not automatically mean that either of you are not married to anyone else! what is there so difficult to understand? we are not an arab country where multiple spouses are allowed, so if you want to get married here you need to proove that you are not married to anyone yet. simple.
kindergartens – do you know what is the daily fee of kids daycare in Belgium – 70 EUR. and this does not include a warm meal for the kid! there are a lot of private kindergartens in Estonia – feel free to use those! if you are highly skilled specialists and two working adults – should not be a problem. the local “free” kindergartens have a small fee for the partents to pay but are mainly financed by local municipality = taxpayers money. and truly, in Tallinn we sign up our kids as soon as they are born to get a place. and we also must have a registered address in the municipality! we can’t just walk into another town or district and demand a free place. there is a good chance you won’t get one when you want, where you want even in your own town. if you are not a taxpayer yet, why do you feel you should be entitled to this service? since there is so many highly intelligent highly skilled international folks here why don’t you guys start your own FREE international kindergarten for any newcomers with any number of kids and without much qualifying rules??? with instantly available places, of course! yes, i’m being sarcastic too.
finding a proper place to live: good affordable housing for lease in Tallinn is gone in hours and days. that is reality not fiction. anything that is vacant for months is overpriced or terrible. we would also like to have an infinite number of vacant affordable, beautiful homes to choose from without upfront fees & agents charges. don’t we. again – all those clever foreigners – isn’t this a splendid business opportunity! develop large qty of beautiful affordable real estate that is always available to any number of people 🙂 and rent it out – no upfront payment, no agents or fees. sarcastic again, yes…
banks are private. and owned by swedes. so who do you think should talk to them to drop fees? we, the local people would also like banking without fees. and in fact we have pointed out to our lovely government for years, that the foreign-owned banks are robbing us fees they would not dare to dream of in their homecountry. but you see, they might have a bit stronger opinion than yours, so they also have created this “picture perfect” Estonia where their well-being (read sky-high fees) are priority to peoples needs. sarcasm, again.
Overall – Estonia is not and hopefully will never be a “promised land” and wellfare country for any foreigners to flock in uncontrolled, demanding all possible privileges and giving valuable advice on things that would improve their well-being here. see, what has happened to Sweden, Denmark, others? Have you checked yet: the average wages for locals in Estonia? empty, falling apart countryside? old people, living on miserable retirement pay? struggle of locals to get a “free” place in kindergarten? how many fathers/mothers are forced to leave families behind and work in Finland to make ends meet? you took the job and the luxury of bringing your entire family along instantly and you complain it is hard. well, this is a sad fact, but your personal choice. many of locals don’t have the luxury. just asking/telling. so maybe you start to understand that the troubles are not designed especially for you as a foreigner, a lot of people face hardships & struggle here.
so maybe it will help you to fit in better and take another, more positive outlook on things if you, coming here and finding this place offering you and family maybe a bit better quality of life than the country of departure – what can I give them, instead of what they must give me? our first priority is improving things for our citizens, not foreigners, because we really have a lot to improve yet. and yes, becoming estonian is a privilege and it is possible. only be prepared to work for it. and really, we appreciate hard-working, intelligent, active people whatever their origin – who want to make an effort, contribute to positive changes. whining and is not so appealing. good luck to you and family here!
I agree with another comment that your expectations were unrealistic. You are moving from Africa to Europe, no matter what country it would have been, it isn’t going to be easy. I don’t know who told you it was going to be easy…
I do agree that it’s probably a bit harder for Estonia as this country is generally speaking not too welcoming to non-Europeans. It’s unfortunate but that is the way it is.
As I understand it you decided to move to Estonia without signing a contract with your new job, and with your child and kid only having a 10-day visa. This sounds absolutely crazy to me!
About the rental markets: I have rented several flats in Tallinn and have never had to sign a 1-year lease nor pay 3 months rent in advance. That’s insane and you are being ripped of. It’s not surprising a lot of ads on those sites are “fake”/”old”. This is the case in any country really… it’s just inexperience with the real-estate market (I encountered this as well, but not only in Estonia).
I did not have to pay any money to open a bank account, and I have opened a bank account with several banks. Granted I am European, so maybe that’s where the difference is (unfortunately there is more discrimination against non-Europeans in Estonia than in other western countries).
The kindergarten problem is real. We were advised that as soon as our child is born we have to apply for kindergarten (which is 2 years in advance).
Document and government wise I agree there are some things lacking. I’m also not to keen on the public healthcare system and am only seeing private doctors… which are obviously a lot more expensive.
I have to agree that the writer’s expectations were extremely unrealistic and as an Estonian living outside Europe, I can assure that the process he went through was actually a lot easier than in other countries. Not to mention a lot faster! Moving to another country and immediately expecting all the benefits of residents upon your arrival? Where does that happen? And since when is the fact that documents have to be legalized something outrageous? There are probably just a handful of countries in the World where it is ‘easy’ to open a bank account even if you pay. It is interesting to read about his experience but his expectations are very naive.
I’m planing to move to Estonia with my daughter within the next two years and is always good to read and see all experiences to make sure we learn from them. There’s so many questions I still have but I hope in our next trip as tourists we will be able to see the places, ask questions and see if this is a fit for us. I’m sure after seeing your conclusion to the story it will very likely be the case.
Thank you so much for this article, it made me forget my own ‘immigration’ problems for a moment. We had a very similar situation to yours, my African (DRC) husband couldn’t believe his eyes when he got a job offer here in Estonia and on top of that the company were willing to give him work papers!! After years of being refused a schengen visa, let alone a work permit, we were absolutely thrilled when we arrived in Estonia. Our experience the first year was great. I think we were very lucky, the company provided a relocation package, the residence permit was no issue at all (it took 2 months), we found an apartment within 1 day and we also didn’t have to pay for a bank account due to me being European, I got my ID card within 5 days and so could open a bank account for free, which my husband used to receive his salary. However it all went down hill when we had a child here in Estonia. Don’t get me wrong the free health care when you are pregnant was awesome, as was all the birth allowance, child care allowance and parental benefits! Never seen a system so generous when you have a child. However when we came to apply for the birth certificate, oh my god!! We first had to register our marriage in Estonia before we could register our child’s birth…how weird is that? Does that mean that unmarried people can’t have a child? We have a foreign (Tunisian) marriage certificate and even though it had been legalized
with the apostille stamp, Estonia decided it had too many stamps on it (it also had a stamp from each of our embassies recognizing they knew about the marriage) and we must get a new one. Do you know how hard that is to get? They insisted that we return to Tunisia or go to the embassy in Poland to get a new certificate, and they only gave us 2 months to do this! We couldn’t afford to go to Tunisia as obviously this was unplanned, so we ended up going to the embassy in Poland and thank god they managed to produce a document which Estonia would accept, even though it wasn’t a proper marriage certificate! The hilarious thing was when we returned again to the birth registration office, the employee didn’t even look twice at the document or stamps and just registered our marriage in the system with a few clicks on his mouse. We could have screamed!! We now could register our baby and get her birth certificate, great! When we saw the birth certificate we were like, where is the rest of it? It is quite a flimsy piece of paper and guess what? It doesn’t contain the parent’s nationality which makes getting a passport for your baby very complicated indeed!! We are currently still in the process of waiting for our baby’s passport but it has been delayed many times due to them needing more proof of the parent’s nationality which makes sense. All the certificate says is the baby’s name and place of birth and the parent’s names and Estonian ID numbers…like who outside of Estonia cares about that? If they could include passport numbers it would be better. On top of all this the company where my husband is working has decided to lay everyone off, meaning that his ID card will be cancelled very shortly and unless we find another employer who is willing to again apply for him a work permit with the minimum foreign employee wage of 1,500 which is becoming harder and harder to find, we will have to leave Estonia with nothing after only being here 1.5 years….how sad!! We love Estonia even though it’s bureaucracy drives us crazy. We would really love to spend a lot of time here, although with it taking 8 years to get citizenship plus learn one of the hardest languages ever, Estonia is not the easiest place to settle.
Estonia is for White people, it doesn’t need Indians of half caste Indian children coming into the country. The author loves the ‘burgeoning multiculturalism’ ? how strange, after fleeing Anti White violence he celebrates non Whites making Estonia less Estonian.
Asian countries for Asians
Black countries for Blacks
but White countries for Everybody ?
‘Diversity’ means White Genocide.
Go eat a bullet, nazi.
What is it that you hate about Estonians so much you want Estonia to become non Estonian, Anti White ?
Just look at the obvious kike who is the author. The world’s finally onto these Satan spawn.
Darris is the author’s butt buddy.
Justin, with all due respect here are the facts:
1) Your access to our labour market and the reception of your documents are based upon your citizenship and the origin of the documents. South Africa is an African country and not an EU country. Even US and Canadian documents have to be legalized or apostilled. This information is readily available on many websites in Estonia for the public service and many of them, including Tallinn the the Police have pages in English
2) The Estonian labour market may have a shortage of copyrighters (this sounds rather doubtful, but for the sake of argument…). Those jobs are FIRST AND FOREMOST for Estonians and EU citizens who are out of work in the hundreds of thousands (in the near region). You are NOT and EU citizen and hiring you should have been a LAST RESORT on the part of any honest Estonian employer. Even citizens of your own country are noted for being extremely fed up with non-citizens flooding the South African labour market. Well, we EU citizens feel that way too.
3) Just selling everything and jumping off into the deep end and moving into a region where you are not allowed to work without a permit was utterly irresponsible and childish. Considering what you did, I would say that you’ve received a much better treatment and response than is warranted.
Can’t you take a hint? Leave Estonia alone.
Somebody sounds rather defensive. The fact of America’s CIS (Immigration Service) being a bunch of bumbling morons is well established and has been notorious as such for DECADES. However, the author is NOT American. I can’t imagine why you would try to imply that he and his family are deserving of some sort of bizarre revenge-discrimination because of your unfortunate experience in the US is, well, preposterous. Finally, if you want to discuss your ill-treatment at the hands of the US authorities, I, as an American, encourage you to do so. Yell it from the roofs, or, as our esteemed South African copywriter did: start a blog. Democracies which receive no criticism are, at best, HORRIBLE democracies!
If this was Norway, you would stand no chance coming in a state like that. Tourist visa, no contract. You would surely be deported.
I live in the UK have one pleasant Estonian neighbour, likes Putin and has a Russian wife it was not easy meeting requirements for her to come to the UK. very few Estonians in UK compared to Lithuanians. as to prejudice, widespread against Roma mainly because of the way a significant minority ?, behave.
Prejudice is fed by the press here owned as it is by vested right wing interest, probably the same in most countries. Achieving residency in Uruguay years ago was not easy, understandable, a reasonable little country beset with the corrupt giants Brazil and Argentina to the north and south. I have a bedsit business if I rented to Roma other east Europeans would never consider renting from me so I do not, I have Nigerian, Hungarian and Rumanian residents, my wife, Cantonese which means most ‘white’ English are not interested in renting from me, modest rents legitimate business sadly the world is as it is.