TAKING COUNSEL: Employment opportunites for EU citizens

  • 2004-08-05
  • Mindaugas Lescius
After the three Baltic states' accession to the European Union, the idea of free movement of labor within the EU has been a much discussed topic. However, the Baltic countries still preserve certain requirements for employment, particularly in regards to obtaining certain permits.

EU citizens seeking a job in Lithuania are allowed to have a six-month visa-free stay. But before being employed in Lithuania, a EU citizen must obtain a residence permit even if the above-mentioned period has not elapsed. Usually foreigners (especially managers of subsidiaries of foreign companies) do not pay attention and unintentionally violate this requirement. Companies and their employees simply conclude an employment contract for an indefinite period of time and consider that, if the employee stays in Lithuania less than the maximum term allowed by law, everything should be in line with the requirements.
However, according to Lithuanian authorities, EU citizens do not need the residence permit if the term of employment lasts less than three months. Moreover, it should be taken into account that Lithuanian authorities will not take into account the number of days to be spent in Lithuania, and that the permit will be required even if half of that time is spent abroad. Although immigration authorities do not tend to impose administrative penalties, there have already been a few cases when foreigners were asked to pay fines or even to leave Lithuania due to the breach of the above requirement.
In Latvia, EU citizens may stay, as well as work, without a residence permit for no longer than 90 days within one half-year period. Should the EU citizen need to stay for a longer period, he has to come in person to the Foreigners Service Center to submit an application and respective registration. Residence permits for EU citizens are usually issued within 30 days on the basis of their employment; however, EU citizens are allowed to work within the mentioned period. Also, such a service is free of charge. Compared with the situation before May 1, 2004, the situation in Latvia with residence permits has improved a lot. However, the application form to be submitted to the authorities to obtain a residence permit has confused EU citizens due to its extensive list of questions about parents, other relatives, work experience, etc.
The positive trends concerning obtaining residence permits have also been seen in Estonia. EU citizens may apply to the local department of the Citizenship and Migration Board for the receipt of the residence permit on the basis of employment. Compared with the past, less formalities are required - e.g., earlier Estonian authorities required foreigners to go to the psychologist in order to prove their satisfactory mental state as well as to have an HIV test.
On the other hand, Estonia abolished the possibility to agree on the time of the visit to the migration board. Therefore, instead of spending five minutes at the migration board, one may need to stand in line in order to submit documents for up to three hours. If one were to compare Estonia with Lithuania, another advantage is EU citizens are not prohibited to work while the application is being processed. However, EU citizens are formally required to register themselves at the Labor Market Board.

Mindaugas Lescius is a senior associate at Sorainen Law Offices in Vilnius