Sitting on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, Estonia has been a member of the Schengen Area since 2007. The nation’s capital city, Tallinn, is regarded as the best example of a medieval city in the northern part of Europe and regularly attracts thousands of tourists every year. In fact, Tallinn and Estonia receive more tourists per year than the total population of the country.
As a member of both the European Union and Schengen Area, access to the country is visa-exempt for citizens of both of these bodies as well as to nationals of some sixty countries on an EU liberalisation list. All other intending visitors must be in possession of a valid Schengen Visa for Estonia.
The Correct Visa
As with a Schengen Visa for any of the twenty-six member states, an Estonian Schengen Visa is valid for entry into and travel within all Schengen member countries. An Estonian Visa is necessary if this is the first point of entry into the Schengen Area or if a traveller is using an Estonian airport to make a connecting flight.
There are a number of visa types available and choosing the correct one is the first, and most important, step. The Type C Tourism Visa is the most commonly requested but there are other options to choose from and which one is best will depend on the main reason for the visit.
Schengen Visa Types
Types of Estonian Schengen Visa are:
- Transit Visa
- Study Visa
- Tourism Visa
- Business Visa
- Official Visit Visa
- Cultural Visa
- Sporting Activities Visa
- Medical Reasons Visa
- Family and Friends Visa
The name assigned to each visa type clearly denotes the purpose of the visit to Estonia but it is always advisable to research the specific conditions relevant to each. For instance a Study Visa is only valid for educational courses of no more than three months duration. Students who need to stay for months (or even years) to complete a course will need a Student Visa to cover the entire duration of any courses being attended.
Similarly, a Business Visa is aimed at business people attending short events in Estonia and not those who wish to start a business in the country.
Visa Form and Support Documents
Applying for a Schengen Visa for any country, not just Estonia, is not an easy task. There are three steps to the procedure and none are as straightforward as they may appear.
- Complete the application form correctly and in full. This will probably entail some research as much of the information requested can be very detailed.
- Collect all necessary supporting documentation requested. This must accompany the completed form and can include marriage, birth and death certificates, bank statements, copies of previous visas, letters of consent from employers, flight details, accommodation bookings, evidence of health insurance and adequate funds and more.
- Arrange an interview at the embassy, consulate or designated visa processing centre. This must be attended in person at the specified time and with all necessary documentation requested.
Of the three steps, collecting and collating documentation can be the most difficult and time-consuming and which paperwork is required will depend on the:
- Type of visa being sought
- Applicant’s personal circumstances
- Reason for visiting Estonia
- Purpose of the visit
- Duration of the visit
In addition, applicants are required to write a brief covering letter outlining the main purpose of the visit and any excursions planned or onward trips to another country.
Estonia does not have an embassy or consulate in every country so it is quite likely that the interview will take place at the embassy of another country which has an arrangement with the Estonian authorities. Should this be the case there may be an additional fee involved which the applicant must pay in order to proceed with the visa process.
Personal attendance at the interview is mandatory as this is where the applicant’s identity is verified and fingerprints taken as part of the security protocol. It is also where the application form is checked for any errors, omissions or incorrect details.
Applicants must provide all relevant documentation requested pertaining to the type of visa being sought as well as the following:
- Valid passport containing a minimum of two blank pages where the Schengen Visa will be affixed. The passport cannot be more than ten years old and should be valid for a period of at least three months after the last scheduled day in the Schengen Area.
- Proof of sufficient funding to cover the period of time spent in Estonia.
- Proof of hotel reservations or other accommodation booked.
- Copies of flight details including flight numbers and dates of travel.
- Proof of sufficient (€30,000) medical insurance to cover any emergencies or repatriation.
At the interview an applicant must also pay any fees due for the processing of the visa application. For children under six there is no charge and those between six and twelve will cost €40 while the current fee for all others is set at €80.
Although a Schengen Visa can be approved and issued within a week this is not set in stone and waits of four to six weeks are not uncommon. For this reason it is best to apply well in advance of any visit to Estonia although applicants are advised not to do so any more than three months prior to the first date of the visit.