Interior ministry: Foreigners who have lost their jobs must return to their home country

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme.

PHOTO: Sander Ilvest

The Estonian government has approved amendments with the purpose of ensuring foreigners who have lost their jobs leave Estonia as soon as possible, spokespeople for the Ministry of the Interior said on Thursday.

The government on Thursday approved amendments to the Aliens Act and the Obligation to Leave and Prohibition on Entry Act, the main purpose of which is to ensure that foreigners who have lost their jobs leave Estonia as soon as possible, the ministry said.

“The bill concerns third-country nationals working in Estonia on the basis of a visa for the purpose of employment or without a visa. If their short-term work permit expires or they become unemployed for any other reason, they must return to their home country as soon as possible,” Minister of the Interior Mart Helme said.

The minister added that, in such case, the Police and Border Guard Board may revoke the visa or visa-free stay of the foreigner and also issue a precept to the foreigner to leave Estonia.

“For those foreigners who become unemployed here, I advise them to start looking for opportunities to return home immediately, rather than waiting for the visa or visa-free stay to expire or be declared invalid. By staying here without income, foreigners spend money that could be used to return to their home country and could thus end up in the European Union illegally in the future,” Helme said.

In order to get home, people should turn to their embassy to explore possibilities of leaving Estonia. For example, Ukraine has helped more than 200 of its citizens return home. The Ministry of Internal Affairs also asks current employers to facilitate the return of foreigners to their home countries after the termination of their employment.

According to the bill, if an foreigner’s visa or visa-free stay expires but they are temporarily unable to leave Estonia due to movement restrictions imposed in the crisis situation, the interior minister or the director general of the Police and Border Guard Board may provide them with a basis for stay until the end of the crisis situation.

“We have also been thinking about what decisions to make regarding foreign workforce in relation to possible longer-term, months-long crises that may affect us in the future. In the event of a months-long crisis situation, the bill provides for the possibility that the government may decide to grant foreigners working in the country for a short period of time the right to work longer than the initial permitted period of employment,” the minister said.

According to Helme, pursuant to the bill, the government may, during a longer-term crisis situation, decide to extend the period of employment of foreigners who have initially come to work for 12 months during a 15 month period to 24 months within a period of 32 months. “However, I emphasize that this possibility is very exceptional. Today, where we are in the first month of the emergency situation, there is no such plan,” the minister added.

Helme said that in the current difficult time, when jobs are in short supply for Estonians and where more and more people are losing their jobs every day, it is necessary to support the people of Estonia.

“They must be able to fill vacancies. It can be seen that, over the last month, the number of registered unemployed among the Estonian population has increased dramatically. At the same time, employers have submitted applications for the use of foreign labor to a similar extent as unemployment has increased. I encourage employers to look at these figures and nevertheless look for ways to use more domestic labor. Our people are worthy of being offered jobs in difficult times with rising unemployment,” Helme said.

Employers who need new employees are advised by the Ministry of Internal Affairs to seek advice and assistance from the Unemployment Insurance Fund. There are currently more than 40,000 registered unemployed in Estonia, and even before the start of the emergency situation, there were more than 36,000 registered unemployed in Estonia who have been looking for work for a long time, the ministry said.

The bill has been submitted to the Riigikogu together with the draft of the 2020 supplementary budget bill and a bill concerning related amendments. A Riigikogu majority is required for the adoption of the bill.

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