There is no good reason to limit the working time of foreign students
The Chamber of Commerce is still of the opinion that limiting the working time of foreign students to 16 hours a week is unjustified. As a result of the restriction the state may lose up to 2 million euros of tax revenue per year and the state has to start financing higher education more than it has done so far.
- The Ministry of the Interior would like to continue with the Aliens Act amendments, one of the amendments includes limiting the working time of foreign students from third countries to 16 hours a week.
- Last year, there were over 5,000 foreign students studying in Estonia whose employment generated 8 million euros of income and social tax for Estonia.
- A foreign student from a third country who does not fulfil the curriculum will lose the temporary residence permit and must leave Estonia.
Limitation to the working time of foreign students working in Estonia
Last year, a draft was prepared, according to which, in the future, an alien who has been granted a residence permit for studying can work in Estonia for up to 16 hours a week. The purpose of this limitation is unclear, because the extent and existence of the problem is unclear. Today, there is no convincing evidence that foreign students would extensively misuse the residence permit granted for studying as a cover for labour migration. Furthermore, the applicable Aliens Act sets out provisions that help to prevent and solve the problem.
If the students from third countries come to work with the residence permit granted for studying in Estonia and abandon their studies, their residence permit is declared void and they must leave Estonia. A second option is that an alien finds another legal basis for staying in Estonia to live and work, for example short-term employment or residence permit for employment. Therefore, it is unclear, why the additional limitations are needed for the employment of foreign students. Today, the regulation provides a very clear distinction between residence permits for employment and studying, which excludes the possibility that a student seemingly comes to study in Estonia, but instead is secretly working. If a foreign student fails to fulfil their curriculum due to working too much, they will lose the temporary residence permit and they will be deported to their country of origin.
The explanatory memorandum to the draft act also set out that the amendment has a positive influence on foreign students, because it directs them to focus on their studies. According to such logic, it would also be necessary to limit the working time of local students, students of vocational schools and high school students, but that would not be reasonable. The limited working time would decrease the interest of employers and opportunities to offer work to foreign students. As a result, the foreign students could have fewer opportunities to practice Estonian, get to know Estonian working culture and broaden their contact network with local people as well as gain experience of working in Estonia.
Considerable amount of tax revenue lost
As a result of the amendments, the state would lose up to 2 million euros of tax revenue per year, which is directly due to the decreased working time of third country foreign students and it does not take into account the situation where the students from third countries may abandon the plan to come to study in Estonia. According to Statistics Estonia, companies who employed foreign students during the academic year 2018/19 paid 8 million euros of income and social tax on the employment of foreign students.
We asked for the proof on the extent of the problem from the Ministry
At the end of May we sent a letter to the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Education and Research, in which we requested explanation on how many foreign students from third countries are working in Estonia and in how many cases has the state declared a residence permit for studying void due to the reason that the alien is using the residence permit for studying as a cover for working in Estonia. Thus our wish is to find out what is the extent of the problem in reality and why are the current opportunities for handling the persons who misuse the residence permits not enough and why is it necessary to limit the working time of all foreign students.