Estonian nationality law

Coat of arms of Estonia.svg

Estonian citizenship - based primarily on the principle of jus sanguinis - is governed by the 19th January 1995 law promulgated by the Riigikogu which took effect on the 1st April 1995. The Citizenship and Migration Board (Estonia) is responsible for processing applications and enquiries concerning Estonian citizenship.

Resolution Concerning the Citizenship of the Democratic Republic of Estonia, the first Estonian citizenship law was adopted by the Estonian National Council on November 26, 1918. According to the law all people who
1) were permanent residents on the day the law came into force on the territory of the Republic of Estonia;
2) prior to the Estonian Declaration of Independence on 24 February 1918 had been subjects of the Russian State;
3) were entered in the parish registers or originated from the territory of Estonia,
regardless of their ethnicity and faith were proclaimed Estonian citizens.

The Citizenship Law adopted in 1922 defined the principles of succession by applying the jus sanguinis principle.[1]


Eligibility for Estonian citizenship

By descent

Children born to parents, at least one of whom was Estonian citizen at the time of birth (regardless of the place of birth) are automatically considered Estonian citizens by descent.

By place of birth

Children born in Estonia to stateless or unknown parents at the time of birth are eligible for Estonian citizenship.

By marriage

A woman who married an Estonian citizen before the 26th February 1992 is eligible for Estonian citizenship.

By naturalisation

Those seeking to become Estonian citizens via naturalisation require to fulfill the following criteria:

  • applicant is aged 15 or over
  • resided in Estonia legally for at least five years
  • be familiar in the Estonian language. People who have graduated from an Estonian-speaking high school or an institute of higher education are assumed to fulfill this criterion without the need to take a full examination.
  • take an examination demonstrating familiarity with the Estonian Constitution
  • showing a demonstrated means of support
  • taking an oath of loyalty

Those who have committed serious crimes or are foreign military personnel on active duty are ineligible to seek naturalisation as an Estonian citizen.

Duties and rights of Estonian citizenship

Undefined citizenship

'Undefined citizenship' (Estonian: kodakondsuseta isik, Russian: негражданин) is a term used in Estonia to denote a post-Soviet form of statelessness. It is applied to those migrants from former Soviet republics and their children, who were unable or unwilling to pursue any country's citizenship after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia being a successor state to the Soviet Union, all former USSR citizens qualified for citizenship of Russian Federation, available upon mere request, as provided by the law “On the RSFSR Citizenship” in force up to end of 2000.[2] Estonia's policy of requiring naturalisation of post-war immigrants was in part influenced by Russia's citizenship law and the desire to prevent dual citizenship.[3]

Stateless persons who reside legally in Estonia can apply for an alien's passport. Estonian alien's passport allows visa-free travel within Schengen treaty countries for a maximum of 90 days in a 6 month period.[4]

Dual nationality

Although not legally permitted, some naturalised Estonian citizens also possess another, e.g., Russian citizenship. According to law, acquiring a foreign citizenship voluntarily and entering into a military or civilian service for another state constitute forfeiture of Estonian citizenship. In effect, this forfeiture requirement applies to naturalised Estonian citizens only, because, according to the constitution, Estonian citizenship obtained by descent is inalienable and can not be taken away by anyone else other than the citizenship holder.[citation needed]


Zvi Gitelman, political scientist at University of Michigan and consultant to the instiution's Yivo Institute for Jewish Studies, points out that

"In the decade after the fall of the USSR, the successor states divided themselves into those seeking to construct themselves as 'civic' states – where the nexus that ties citizens to each other and to the state is political and not based on race, ethnicity, religion, or culture – and those that prefer to be "ethnic" states, based on one nation and serving it primarily."[5]

Characterizing the situation in Estonia as "close to the 'ethnic' model," Gitelman points towards the Baltic states' decision of not automatically granting citizenship to "non-Latvians and non-Estonians who immigrated in the Soviet period as well as their descendants born in the two Baltic republics".[5] The Jerusalem-based Hebrew University historian Robert S. Wistrich writes that the "primary objective" of the post-Soviet-era governments of the Baltic states is "to further the interests and well-being of the majority ethnic groups in these republics."[6]

Peter Van Elsuwege, a scholar in European law at Ghent University, states that the Estonian law is grounded upon the established legal principle that persons who settle under the rule of an occupying power gain no automatic right to nationality. A number of historic precedents support this, according to Van Elsuwege, most notably the case of Alsace-Lorraine when the French on recovering the territory in 1918 did not grant citizenship to German settlers despite Germany having annexed the territory 47 years earlier in 1871.[7]

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and UN Special Rapporteur on racism Doudou Diene recommend to Estonia simplifying naturalization generally or for the elderly and economically marginalized, as well as encouraging registration of children born in Estonia after 1991 as its citizens.[8][9][10]

See also


  1. ^ "Birth of a State: Formation of Estonian Citizenship (1918-1922)". the Directorate General for Research of the European Commission, Retrieved 28 July 2009. 
  2. ^ The Policy of Immigration and Naturalization in Russia: Present State and Prospects, by Sergei Gradirovsky et al.
  3. ^ Wayne C. Thompson, Citizenship and borders: Legacies of Soviet empire in Estonia, Journal of Baltic Studies, Volume 29, Issue 2 Summer 1998 , pages 109 - 134
  4. ^ Tänasest saab välismaalase passiga Schengeni ruumis viisavabalt reisida
  5. ^ a b Gitelman, Zvi Y. A Century of Ambivalence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881 to the Present. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2001. ISBN 0253214181, ISBN 9780253214188. P. 215.
  6. ^ Wistrich, Robert S. Terms of Survival. London: Routledge, 2004. ISBN 0203204832, ISBN 9780203204832. P. 209.
  7. ^ Peter Van Elsuwege, From Soviet republics to EU member states: a legal and political assessment of the Baltic states' accession to the EU, BRILL, 2008, p75
  8. ^ European Commission against Racism and Intolerance Third report on Estonia (2005) — see Paragraph 129, 132
  9. ^ Second Opinion on Estonia, Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, 2005 — see Para. 189
  10. ^ UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance Report on mission to Estonia (2008) — see Paragraph 91

External links

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