TALLINN - Foreign students will soon face tougher checks before being handed an Estonian residence permit under a tightening of immigration legislation.
However, once approved, students will be given more lenient working conditions and can even apply for an extended residence permit after staying for two years.
On July 19 the Interior Ministry announced changes to the Aliens Act to bring it in line with European Commission directives.
Under the changes, students will only be issued a residence permit if they are enrolled in an accredited study program. They must also prove they have a sufficient command of the language in which the course is conducted.
Current legislation does not contain such conditions, an Interior Ministry spokeswoman said. Students could enter the country by enrolling in any study program, rather than a government-approved course.
"At the moment, foreigners who hold a residence permit for study have very limited working conditions," the spokeswoman said.
"According to the changes, the possibilities for working will broaden a bit. Students will be allowed to work as tutors and lecturers without holding a work permit."
They would also be able to apply for a full residence permit through the Citizenship and Migration Board after studying in Estonia for two years. This replaces a condition that restricted foreign students to staying a maximum of six years in Estonia.
The language requirement was introduced in an attempt to crackdown on illegal immigration from so-called third countries into the European Union.
However it will not necessarily mean that all foreign students must learn Estonian. Most of the major tertiary education institutions in Estonia currently offer courses in English, and some in Russian.