Hiring globally - What does the Startup Visa mean to the Estonian economy... And to me?

The Startup Visa was launched in January 2017 with a humble goal to help the Estonian startups access global talent with a visa system that is easy for the ones relocating as well as the companies hiring. It was also meant for people who wanted to relocate their companies to Estonia.

This is an article by Merilin Lukk, Startup Visa Project Lead at Startup Estonia

Fast forward to July 2020, the world is in the middle of one of the most severe crises in recent history, traveling is limited and the economy on the verge of a breakdown.

And then there’s the Estonian Startup Visa, which has helped close to 2000 employees and over 600 founders relocate to Estonia, to work in an Estonian based startup or develop their own company here. Behind these numbers are people, who develop our startup ecosystem, our economy and our society.

One-fifth of startup employees and a whopping one-third of the founders are from outside Estonia and their role in our sector can not be underestimated. The reality for a long time has been that the amount of talented people we have in Estonia is just not enough for the continuous growth of the sector. Besides bringing their skills to the sector, they also bring experience, new contacts and a diverse world view to Estonia. And we should not try to limit it in any way. 

We (and by that I mean Startup Estonia and the Estonian startup sector) have always worked for an open and inclusive society and it is worrying to see discussions about whether we need foreign employees in Estonia at all. And even though these discussions focus mainly on the workforce in agriculture, the message goes beyond that and the world is looking. The decisions to restrict foreign employees and students to come to Estonia in the shadow of Covid-19 are worrying us, especially on the verge of an economic crisis. To illustrate - 31% of foreign talent has had problems to relocate to Estonia since the Covid-19 induced lockdowns. And as much as this is understandable because of health concerns, it can not be made into an excuse to indefinitely restrict migration in general.

Since regaining our independence in 1991 we have worked hard to establish Estonia as a successful, innovative, and welcoming country. In light of today's discussions, let's not forget that the world is watching us. Competition for talent is fierce and we should do everything that we can to stay ahead. Our startup sector needs the talent to grow and develop not only themselves but the Estonian economy as a whole. Let’s not lose that!


Not a farewell but a “see you soon”!

Some of you already know that the incredible journey in Startup Estonia has ended for me (for now). It is tough leaving a job that has had so much significance, but more than that, it is tough leaving a team and the people who mean so much to me. However, change is good and necessary for things to keep progressing. And I am sure the brilliant Startup Estonia team will continue to make the progress happen.

Startup Estonia team



So long story short - here is my appreciation to every team member from Startup Estonia who I had the absolute honor and joy to work with.

Startup Estonia in Slush Tokyo




Rivo, Riina, Marily, Inga, Elina, Christina, Markus, Sander, Moonika, Helina, Liisi, Maarika - What an amazing ride it has been. I’ve learned so much from you all and I will miss working with such a diverse team. This is just a tiny fraction of the memories I’ve made during the years, but I will carry all of them close to me!

Liisi Org and Merilin Lukk
Sander Sillavee and Merilin Lukk


And of course...Paula - The best unicorn in the world!



Article by: Merilin Lukk, Startup Visa Project Lead


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