Estonia is considered to be the most liberal former-Soviet country when it comes to LGBT rights, however, LGBT people in Estonia face certain legal challenges, including the inability to get married. As a response to the war in Ukraine, Estonia has set special conditions for Ukrainians under the temporary protection status, including waivers for employment, housing, and social assistance. Estonia might be an interesting option for those who are planning to relocate or set up business in the country, as Estonia intends to establish beneficial conditions for Ukrainian businesses that relocate their operations outside of Ukraine, including preferential taxation and transportation options.
As of 9 March 2022, a Decree of the Government of the Republic of Estonia entered into force, allowing Ukrainian citizens and their family members who have fled to Estonia when escaping the war to apply for temporary protection. Temporary protection is a one-year residence permit that can provide security and social guarantees to Ukrainian citizens and their family members. Once they have applied for temporary protection, war refugees will enjoy similar rights to those enjoyed by Estonian residents, for instance the rights to study, work, and consequently the right to receive health insurance.
You can apply for temporary protection at the service offices of the Police and Border Guard Board (PBGB). In order to apply for temporary protection, you have to book an appointment in advance.
At your appointment, you will need to bring your identity documents or equivalent, such as a birth certificate. If you do not have any documents, you should contact the Embassy of Ukraine, which will issue identity certificates to Ukrainian citizens. Then you will be able to apply for temporary protection.
When you have received a temporary protection and residence permit in Estonia, you must register your place of residence in the Estonian Population Register. You can do this at the local government of your place of residence. After registering your residence address, you are entitled to services and benefits intended for Estonian residents, such as social benefits, health care, free public transport, or a place in a school or kindergarten.
Along with the Temporary Protection status, temporary protection applicants receive a personal code. This allows access to social protection and benefits, including:
- Living allowance: for people or families with an income below the living wage. The first adult family member is paid one subsistence minimum (150 euros), the second adult - 0.8 subsistence minimum (120 euros), minor children - 1.2 subsistence minimum (180 euros).
- Child allowance: 60 euros per month for the first and second child in the family and 100 euros for the third and each subsequent child. Starting from the third child, a large family is paid an allowance of 300 euros per month, and from the seventh child - 400 euros per month.
- Parental allowance: paid to one of the parents of a child under one and a half years old. The allowance amounts to 584 euros per month for a period of up to 545 days.
- Unemployment benefit: 292 euros per month.
- Pension: for pensioners receiving a pension from Ukraine. If the Ukrainian pension rate is lower than the national pension rate in Estonia (275 euros), you can request compensation for the difference.
- Disability allowance: from 12.79 to 241.64 euros per month.
"School Support" is a one-time allowance of 50 euros for all school-age children (aged 7-19) who have received international protection or temporary protection and are starting school in Estonia for the first time. It is paid by the Estonian Refugee Council and is intended for school-related expenses. All school-age children who started or are about to start schooling in Estonia for the first time in 2022 can apply for School Support. The child must be admitted to the school at the time of the application. The application is made on behalf of the child/children by their parent or guardian.
Compensation of housing costs for Ukrainian war refugees
If you have received temporary protection and move from temporary accommodation to a permanent residence, you are entitled to a lump-sum benefit to cover the costs of concluding a lease contract. Expenses will be reimbursed after you have found suitable accommodation.
- To receive the compensation, an application must be submitted to the local government.
- The benefit is paid to the war refugee, lessor, or another person (for example, a volunteer who assisted the war refugee) who has made expenses related to the living arrangement of the war refugee (e.g. purchasing furniture or household appliances, repair work). The decision concerning whom the expenses will be reimbursed to will be made by the local government.
From 1 June, the maximum amount of the lump-sum benefit is 1200 euros. The local government is responsible for assessing whether compensation is necessary on a case by case basis.
Urgent medical aid is ensured to anyone staying in Estonia if they have a severe or life-threatening health issue - even if the person who has arrived does not yet have a direct legal basis for being in Estonia.
Emergency medical and dental care, COVID-19 testing and vaccination, and healthcare services related to the protection of public health are guaranteed for Ukrainians who have been granted temporary protection.
Ukrainians who get a temporary residence permit are equal to Estonians, i.e. they have the same rights to health insurance, health care services or subsidised medicines etc. However, getting a residence permit and an Estonian personal identification code do not automatically give Ukrainian war refugees health insurance. After receiving a residence permit, you have to apply for health insurance.
Ukrainians arriving in the country can have a free general health examination, which is carried out at the hospitals belonging to the hospital network. During this health check, patients will undergo a general medical and infectious disease examination, they are vaccinated if necessary, and the required prescriptions are issued.
During the medical examination, the medical condition of the war refugee is documented in their medical history. If necessary, the doctor can refer the war refugee to a medical specialist or decide to continue the ongoing treatment and/or the treatment of chronic diseases.
To register for the health check, you need to contact the hospital in your region directly:
- The Family Doctor's Advice Line 1220 (+372 634 6630 when calling from a foreign phone number) is offering health advice in English and in Russian. If necessary, your call will be forwarded to the emergency line 112.
- Ukrainians can address their health concerns (renewing prescriptions, chronic illnesses, other issues) at family health centres.
- Pharmacies will also sell medicinal products, except for narcotic and psychotropic medicines, based on physical prescriptions issued in Ukraine. The pharmacist must be able to understand unambiguously what kind of a medicinal product has been prescribed to the person.
- The Estonian state also funds the provision of treatment services provided to Ukrainians in relation to HIV, tuberculosis, or the consumption of narcotic drugs. More information is available on the Institute for Health Development website.
Psychosocial crisis support is available at reception centres and in accommodation establishments. The crisis support telephone number 116 006 (+372 6147 393) is offering mental support. In addition, you can also chat online at www.palunabi.ee/en. Support is provided in Estonian, English and Russian.
Estonian authorities offer short-term accommodation to Ukrainians and support them in finding a long-term place of residence.
On the day of arrival, you must contact the nearest reception point, here are two of them - in Pärnu and in Tartu. Only here you can receive temporary accommodation from the state. In Tallinn, the Reception Centre works only for consultations, places of temporary residence are no longer provided there. The reception centres provide refugees with emergency assistance and temporary accommodation in hotels, with meals included, while they search for long-term housing. The state guarantees refugees 30 days of temporary accommodation and food, but it does not guarantee accommodation in the same hotel for 30 consecutive days.
Options for long-term settlement from the state:
- accommodation in the social house of the local self-government;
- renting a flat with the support of the local government;
- accommodation with volunteers in coordination with the local government.
Independent search for housing and rentals. If you have relatives or acquaintances who can accommodate you in Estonia, you should contact them. Additionally, you may look for housing on the real estate portal acting in cooperation with the Social Insurance Board, which displays offers for Ukrainian refugees.
You can also search for flats for rent on the free market through kinnisvara24.ee, city24.ee and kv.ee.
EL*C has created a lesbian hosting network of individuals who have made their flats and spare rooms available to Ukrainian refugees. Please notice that EL*C can provide you with a temporary solution (up to a few months). Contact the relocation team at: +48 571 944 400 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Educational counselling services for Ukrainian children, young people, and parents are available to help them find the most suitable learning opportunities at primary, general, and vocational levels and to help them choose a career. Counselling services started on 1 June at Tõnismagi 14 in Tallinn and can be reached locally and by telephone.
Schooling is compulsory for school-age children to the extent specified by law. Estonia provides children and young people from Ukraine with opportunities to continue their education based on a short-term and long-term plan. In the short-term plan, there is no clear expectation that the student will continue their studies in Estonia on a permanent basis, but the preconditions are set, should they wish to. The aim of the long-term plan is to integrate children into the local education system.
Children and young people who have arrived in Estonia can participate in education in the following ways:
- Pre-school education in kindergartens and childcare for pre-school children (1.5 to 7-year-olds).
- Basic education, i.e. general compulsory school education for children and young people (7 to 17-year-olds).
- Upper-secondary, vocational and higher education, in upper secondary schools, vocational schools, and universities respectively.
- Hobby education and activities, in educational institutions, including hobby schools, generally starting from the age of 7.
- Youth work, in youth centres for 7 to 26-year-olds.
You can apply for a place in a school or a kindergarten at the local municipality even before you have a personal identification, temporary protection, or a permanent place of residence.
Higher education in Estonian is free, and there are several scholarships established for Ukrainian students wishing to study in English.
To use public transport in Tallinn, all Ukrainian refugees who have been registered at the Refugee Centre are issued a ticket - a single card (aka "green card").
Tartu also provides Ukrainian refugees with free travel on city buses for a whole year, for which a personalised bus card is issued, which comes with a personal code.
Once the decision to grant temporary protection has been taken and a residence permit has been issued, you can either start working or register as unemployed.
To find a job, you can register as unemployed at the nearest office of the Unemployment Insurance Fund: remember to bring an identity document and a residence permit decision.While you are looking for a job, you will be paid an unemployment allowance if you have worked for at least 180 days in the 12 months before registering as unemployed (including working in Ukraine), raised a child under 8, studied full-time, or engaged in other similar activities. The unemployment allowance amounts to 292 euros per month and can be received for up to nine months. The allowance will not be paid if you have any other income exceeding 292 euros per month.
Estonia intends to establish beneficial conditions for Ukrainian businesses relocating their operations outside of Ukraine, including preferential taxation and transportation options. Ukrainians who continue to work for Ukrainian enterprises (for example, remotely) are allowed to live in Estonia but are not required to pay taxes to the Estonian government. Startup Estonia provides start-up visas to entrepreneurs and skilled Ukrainians.
These rules will be in effect for a year at the most. An extension is possible.
LGBT people in Estonia may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Estonia. Since 2016, same-sex couples may register their relationship as a cohabitation agreement (civil union), which gives them almost all the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples. Although same-sex couples are unable to marry in Estonia, the state recognises same-sex marriages performed abroad.
Single gay, lesbian and bisexual people may petition to adopt, and same-sex couples are allowed to foster. Same-sex couples cannot adopt jointly because Estonian law states that only a married couple can do so. However, thanks to the Registered Partnership Act, couples are allowed to adopt stepchildren. Furthermore, lesbian couples can have access to IVF.
Since 2002, transgender people in Estonia have been allowed to change their legal gender and name. Additionally, they are not required to undergo sex reassignment surgery, sterilisation, or to divorce their partner. However, a Gender Identity Disorder diagnosis/psychological opinion and compulsory medical intervention are required for the procedure.
The Estonian LGBT Association offers free preliminary psychological counselling in English, Russian, and Estonian. They can also help you find an LGBT-friendly psychologist or psychiatrist.
Other organisations will offer support by finding LGBT-specific services (including hormonal therapy), safe housing, community support, or anything else.
Non LGBT+ organisations helping Ukrainians
The Estonian Human Rights Centre offers free legal aid to asylum applicants and those who have received international protection as well as war refugees and their loved ones living in Estonia. The people at the centre are also experienced in advising and representing LGBT+ applicants. They can be contacted in English and Russian.
+372 644 5148
Estonian Refugee Council will help you with accommodation, food, medicine, clothes, work, or other everyday necessities
+372 5665 9118
Refugee Council information centre: Liivalaia 28, Tallinn; open at 10-17
Tallinn city information and reception centre: Niine 2, Tallinn; open 24/7
The Congress of Estonian Ukrainians
You can come to Estonia with your pets without any documents.
It is necessary to fill in the appropriate form (in Estonian, Ukrainian, or English) at the border crossing point and send it to the email address of the Agriculture and Food Board: email@example.com.
As soon as the department receives the notification, it will contact the animal's owner, and arrange an examination, vaccination and microchipping of the animal. Home isolation is prescribed for at least 21 days.
Veterinarians or animal clinics offer help and check-ups to pets, as needed.
Urgent 24/7 veterinary assistance is offered at the following clinics:
Rannamõisa PetCity clinic, phone 15 222 (Rannamõisa tee 8, Tallinn).
The Small Animal Emergency Clinic, phone +372 502 3191 (Mustamäe tee 44-2, Tallinn).
Small Animal Clinic of Estonian University of Life Sciences +372 731 3224 (during the day), +372 503 3878 (at night) (Kreutzwaldi 62, Tartu).
The Estonian Society for the Protection of Animals helps with paying the bill for urgent medical care if you call +372 519 461 46.
Different organisations are active in offering food aid and necessary equipment for pets. For instance, aid is offered by the Estonian Society for the Protection of Animals +372 519 461 46, firstname.lastname@example.org and the Estonian Kennel Union +372 534 990 80.