Post-Brexit travel, work, and residence conditions in the EU


After Brexit, travel, work, and residence conditions in the EU countries have changed remarkably for UK citizens. We will take a look at the changes in effect from 1 January 2021 on travelling to the EU, including business travels, visas, and recognition of qualification according to the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) and Withdrawal Agreement (WA). We will also explain the conditions in force to the UK citizens when travelling to Estonia, whether a permission to work or stay is necessary, how long does the procedure of applying for permits take, and how UK nationals already staying in Estonia can secure their status.

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Updated travel conditions in the EU

Will UK citizens need a visa for short visits to the EU?

No. Normally, British citizens will be able to visit the EU for short visits of up to 90 days within any 180-day period, without a visa. This decision was taken by the EU and the UK prior to the TCA. The 90-day period started to run from 1 January 2021 once freedom of movement had ended. As part of a reciprocal arrangement, the UK will also allow visa-free short-term visits for EU citizens.

What restrictions are in place for longer trips to the EU or for work?

British citizens who wish to stay within the EU for longer than 90 days, or intend to carry out certain activities that are not permitted under the short-term visit rules (including working), will need to comply with the EU immigration requirements that apply to non-EU nationals (third country nationals), as well as the national laws of the relevant member state. That may involve obtaining a work permit under local laws.

What about business travel to the EU?

The TCA states that business visitors are allowed to stay in the EU for a period of up to 90 days in any six-month period. Whether or not a work visa will be required, will depend on the country being visited and the type of business activity being carried out. However, there are some exceptions included for specific countries which makes the rules more complex. Also, there are certain business activities permitted and prohibited by the TCA during short-term visits to the EU.

What if the purpose of the visit is to establish a business within an EU country?

Business visitors who are visiting for ‘establishment purposes’, i.e. those in senior positions responsible for setting up a business in another territory, will not generally need a work permit for entry and temporary stay of up to 90 days within any six-month period. There are restrictions on activities that can be carried out – for example you must not offer or provide services or engage in any economic activity other than that required for establishment purposes, and you must not receive remuneration from a source located within the EU.

Recognition of professional qualifications

As part of the UK-EU comprehensive free trade agreement, authorities responsible for professional qualifications in the UK and EU member states can submit joint recommendations to the UK-EU Partnership Council for profession-specific arrangements.

Once approved, these mutual recognition agreements would provide routes for UK professionals to have their qualifications recognised in the jurisdiction of an EU member state, and vice versa. You’ll need to have your UK professional qualification officially recognised if you want to work in a profession that is regulated in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. It will need to be recognised by the appropriate regulator for your profession in each country where you intend to work. You’ll need to do this even if you’re providing temporary or occasional professional services.

Professionals already working in EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein don’t have to do anything if your qualification has already been officially recognised by the relevant regulator in an EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The regulator’s decision to recognise your qualification remains valid.

If you start working in the aforementioned areas, check the European Commission’s Regulated Professions Database to find out if your profession is regulated. Then contact the relevant country to find out how to get your professional qualification recognised. There are different rules for lawyers and auditors. You can find out more information about individual countries in the selling services country guides.

Conditions for UK citizens when travelling, working, or staying in Estonia

What documents are needed upon arrival in Estonia for business travel?

UK citizens need a travel document (passport) that is valid for at least three months after departure from Estonia and that has been issued within the last ten years. Also, proof of duration and purpose of stay must be specified as border control may ask additional questions concerning that.

Do UK nationals need additional permission to work for business travel in Estonia?

Additional permission is not required for business trips of a maximum of five days in any 30-day period. For business trips exceeding five days, the short-term employment of the UK nationals will need to be registered in the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board.

Do UK nationals need permission to work and stay in Estonia?

Yes, they do, unless they can rely on an exemption such as:

  • holders of a permanent Estonian residence permit;
  • holders of a residence permit for studying in Estonia;
  • UK citizens who have registered their place of residence in Estonia until 31 March 2021.

If permission to work is needed, the most common categories of permissions granted are:

  • top specialists;
  • employees coming to Estonia for up to 365 days (who are exempted from the residence permit for work, but required to register short-term employment in Estonia).

UK nationals are exempt from the quota that applies to the employment of third-country nationals.

How long is the procedure of getting a permission to work or stay in Estonia? What does it cost?

The duration of the procedure varies upon your work or stay.

Up to two and a half months for the residence permit for work:

  • save for certain exceptions, the employer needs to apply for permission from the Unemployment Board, which is granted within seven working days;
  • a residence permit for work is issued or refused within two months of filing of the application.

Up to a month and a half for short-term employment:

  • short-term employment is registered within 15 working days from the employer’s application.

After registration of short-term employment, the employee can apply for a long-term (type D) visa for work in Estonia and this application is processed within 30 days.

The cost of permits is:

  • 96-120 euros for applications for a residence permit for work (depending on whether the applicant applies in Estonia or from a foreign representation);
  • 108–128 euros in total for short term employment registration and a visa (depending on the type of visa applied for).

What steps could UK nationals take to secure their residence and work status?

The residence of UK citizens and their family members who have resided in Estonia under EU law will continue to be regulated by the Citizen of the European Union Act with the specifications set out in the WA.

UK citizens who have entered Estonia for the first time can register their place of residence in Estonia until 31 March 2021 and will be able to reside in Estonia without having to apply for a residence permit. In order to prove residence, the UK citizen must visit the office of the local municipality unit where they reside and submit a residence notice together with a copy of a document proving their right to use their residence premises (e.g. a tenancy agreement).

UK citizens who came to live, work or study in Estonia from 1 April 2021, must apply for a residence permit at a Police and Border Guard Board service office or in advance at an Estonian representation abroad. No specific guidance is currently available on UK frontier workers other than what arises from the WA.

From five years of legal stay in Estonia (subject to conditions), third-country nationals are entitled to apply for permanent residence.

If you are planning on starting your business or establishing a company in Estonia, feel free to reach out to us in case of any additional questions on business travel or working conditions. In case you wish to learn more about the changes that Brexit has brought, please take a look at our other posts.


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