Questions about crossing the border

What difference is there between crossing the external or internal border?

Persons who wish to cross the external border must cross the border only through border crossing points open for international traffic during specific hours of operation. Crossing the external border anywhere but an official border crossing point or outside its hours of operation is considered illegal crossing of the state border.

A valid travel document (passport) is required for crossing the external border.

See also: Estonian border crossing points and open for international traffic.

The internal border may be crossed at any place without border controls. Although there is no border control on the internal borders, everyone is obliged to carry an identity document (ID card or passport)

What document can the external border be crossed with?

A valid travel document (passport) is required for crossing the external border.

Estonian citizens’ travel documents are:

  • Estonian citizen’s passport
  • diplomatic passport
  • seafarer's discharge book
  • emergency travel document (certificate of return).

The travel documents issued by the Republic of Estonia to foreigners are:

  • alien’s passport
  • temporary travel document
  • refugee’s travel document
  • certificate of record of service aboard Estonian ships
  • permit of return to the Republic of Estonia.

In the event of loss or theft of a travel document abroad, the Estonian foreign representation (embassy, consul) will issue the person a temporary travel document for return to Estonia, which is a certificate of return to Estonian citizens. 

For a foreigner, who lives in Estonia with a residence permit and to whom has been issued a foreigner’s passport, temporay travel document or refugee’s travel document, a permit of return will be issued.

The abovementioned documents are meant only for returning to Estonia. An itinerary interrupted cannot be resumed with these documents. Upon arrival in Estonia, the certificate/permit of return will remain in the possession of police officers at the border crossing point.

Do I need a visa to enter Estonia?

Information on visa-free travel can be found on the website of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

What is the document obligation when crossing the external border?

A valid travel document (passport) is required for crossing the external border. In the case of third-country citizens, the valid travel document must be valid for at least three months after the planned departure date and the document must be issued within the last 10 years (Schengen border rules, article 5).

A foreigner crossing the state border must have a valid travel document issued by a foreign country or international organization, an alien’s travel document issued by the Republic of Estonia or a permit of return, into which a visa or residence permit data are entered, unless set forth otherwise in legislation or treaty. The residence permit data do not have to be entered into the travel document issued by the foreign country or international organization, if the foreigner submits, in addition to the said document, a valid ID card or residence permit card issued by the Republic of Estonia.

An Estonian citizen leaving Estonia must have a valid travel document with them upon crossing the external border. An Estonian citizen arriving in Estonia must have with them, when crossing the external border, a valid travel document, certificate of return or other document set forth in a treaty for visiting a foreign country.

When arriving in Estonia, an Estonian citizen who lacks the abovementioned document but whose identity or citizenship is proved on the basis of other documents shall also be permitted to cross the state border.

What documents should a vehicle driver have with them when leaving Estonia?

When crossing the state border from Estonia with a passenger car or a truck with up to a 3,500 kg maximum mass, the driver of the motor vehicle must have with them:

  • a driving licence or other document certifying driving privileges
  • registration certificates for the motor vehicle and its trailer or copy of the trailer’s registration certificate certified by the issuing authority Note: Regardless of the category of motor vehicle, only the registration certificate itself and not a copy thereof is acceptable for border crossing.
  • if a driver wishes to drive an Estonian-registered passenger car or truck with up to a 3,500 kg maximum mass out of Estonia into a non-EU member state and the driver’s name is not entered as a user of the motor vehicle on the vehicle’s registration certificate, the driver must have, in addition to the above documents, the written permission of the motor vehicle owner for use of the vehicle. The written permission is not required if the owner or the person entered on to the registration certificate as the user is a passenger.
  • written consent may be substituted for by an agreement on use of the motor vehicle if the motor vehicle owner and the person allowing the vehicle to be used are a legal person entered into the Estonian Commercial Register, whose statutory area of activity is the hire, leasing or rental of motor vehicles.

The written consent for use of motor vehicle and its trailer must include the following data:

  • place and date of preparation of written consent
  • name and address of the owner of the motor vehicle or its trailer
  • make and model and VIN of the motor vehicle or its trailer
  • registration certificate and registration plate number
  • vehicle user’s first name and surname, address, driving licence number, and date of birth or personal identification code
  • term of validity of written consent
  • the owner’s signature on the written consent must be officially confirmed or notarized
  • a motor third-party liability insurance policy.

What documents must a skipper of recreational craft have when leaving Estonia?

A skipper must have:

  • valid travel document
  • skipper’s certificate
  • the registration certificate of the recreational craft
  • passenger list (list of persons aboard recreational craft).

In accordance with legal standards in effect in the Republic of Estonia, the crew list is a ship document.

A skipper arriving from a third country is obliged to submit to police officials a list of passengers aboard the recreational craft.

How do minor children cross the border?

Document obligations for minor children when crossing the state border:

Minor children have similar requirements to those as for adults when crossing the external border of the European Union (EU), meaning that the EU and Schengen member states subscribe to the principle of “each person has their own travel document”. Of the EU member states, the United Kingdom and Ireland are not subject to the obligation of a personal travel document for minors. Nor does this pertain to travel documents issued by countries outside the European Union

In accordance with legal acts in force in Estonia, a person does not need to have additional documents (authorizations) but if the minor child has limited active capacity, the official performing border checks may verify that they have the consent of their parent (legal representative). The parent may express their consent in the form of a signed statement. Border guards from other countries may also ask for additional documents. We recommend providing minor children with a handwritten permission note with parents’ contact details listed. Before they travel abroad, contact a foreign representation in the destination country and inquire about the requirements for documents.

Foreigners under the age of 15 are not required to have a travel document is they travel to Estonia, are staying in Estonia or are leaving Estonia accompanied by a person whose travel documents lists their name, date of birth, data on right of residence or residence permit or visa if the foreigner is required to have a visa, residence permit or right of residence or obligation, and a photo. The photo does not need to be entered into the accompanying person’s travel document if the minor child is under seven years of age. The data on residence permit or right of residence do not have to be entered into the accompanying person’s travel document if the minor child has an ID card or document substantiating residence permit issued by the Republic of Estonia.

A minor foreigner who lacks a legal basis or valid travel document for entering Estonia and who wishes to seek asylum or a residence permit based on temporary protection, shall be allowed to enter Estonia after submitting to a police institution an asylum request or application for residence permit on the basis of temporary protection.

In the case of minor children travelling with an accompanying person, it will be verified that the accompanying person is their parental caregiver. To streamline the checks, we recommend carrying documents that substantiate your rights as a parental caregiver. When travelling out of Estonia, notarized consent from the other parent is be required at the border. However, we draw attention to the fact that this may be required on the border of a transit and/or destination country, and thus, before starting travel, we advise contacting a foreign representation of the transit or destination country for more detailed information.

What to do if a child has been taken or planned to be taken to a foreign country to live without consent of the other parent?

Often parents contact the PBGB asking that they prevent the other parent from taking the child to a foreign country. Based on the Family Act, parents have a joint custody of a child and if the parent represents the child independently, the consent of the other parent is required. An email or phone call to the PBGB is not sufficient grounds for the PBGB to be able to prevent the child from crossing the border if the child is travelling with the other parent. Parents will also have to take into consideration the fact that after accession of Estonia to the Schengen visa area, there are no more border checks on internal borders (including on flights and passenger ships between member states). Persons undergo border checks only if they cross the external border (if they travel to a third country).

If one parent wishes to block (not consent to) the child from being taken/moving to another country and the parents do not reach agreement, the problem must be resolved in a court of law. Taking a child out of the country without permission from the other parent is not a solution to the problem. In a later court dispute over custody rights, this may not only be grounds for loss of visitation rights, but in certain cases it could mean a legal penalties for the parents (if a child under the age of 16 has been taken to a foreign country or kept there without the permission of the person with custody of the child, the provisions of the International Convention on Child Abduction are applied).

To avoid later problems questions regarding custody of the child must be resolved by the parents before the child moves to a foreign country.

If the child has already been taken to a foreign country, contact the Estonian Ministry of Justice at +372 6 208 183, or via email at .... The Ministry of Justice will start by determining the location of the child and assist in finding a peaceable agreement. Above all, attempts will be made to reach agreement with the other parent on voluntarily bringing the child back or extrajudicial avenues will be explored. If these actions do not produce results, judicial proceedings for the return of the child will be started.

See also the following instructional films:

Recommendations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

What are the legal grounds for arriving and staying in the country?

Legal grounds for a foreigner’s stay in Estonia are:

  • visa issued by a competent Estonian institution
  • visa issued by a competent institution in a state party to the Schengen convention, if the visa conditions do not exclude the right to stay in Estonia
  • right arising directly from a treaty to stay in Estonia
  • right to stay in Estonia arising from the decision of the Government of the Republic to forgo visa requirement
  • right or obligation arising directly from legislation, court decision or administrative act to stay in Estonia
  • residence permit issued by a competent institution in a state party to the Schengen convention
  • diplomatic identity card issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to accredited personnel of foreign diplomatic missions and consular institutions and representations of international organizations in Estonia, their family members and private staff

General procedure for legal status of an alien who arrives at a border crossing point after the legal basis for stay in Estonia has expired.

What countries are visa-free for holders of Estonian alien’s passports?

Estonian residents with undetermined citizenship who hold an alien’s passport and Estonian residence permit enjoy visa-free travel. For more information, consult the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

Under what circumstances may a police official deny a foreigner entry into Estonia?

A police official has the right to deny entry into the country if:

  • the foreigner is in violation of the border regime or customs regulations
  • the foreigner declines at the border crossing point to present data about themselves and their travel
  • the foreigner lacks sufficient financial means to cover costs during their stay in and departure from Estonia and lacks a host who would cover such expenditures
  • the foreigner lacks the required health insurance policy
  • the foreigner poses a threat to the public order, internal security, public health or international relations in one or more EU member states
  • in other cases set forth in Estonian legal acts.

What questions may be asked of persons crossing the external border?

At the external border, police officials may ask about the purpose of the travel, financial means for covering stay and daily expenses and request documents substantiating the person’s statements.

Where can I find information about border queues?

Information about border queues can be found on the GoSwift electronic border queue reservation environment.

What restrictions are in place on import of goods?

For information on restricted and prohibited goods accompanying passengers, visit the Estonian Tax and Customs Board website.