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Social security in the European Union

Persons must be guaranteed social protection so that they can freely choose their country of residence and employment in the European Union (hereinafter the EU). For example, the right to free health care, benefits and allowances as well as pension.

This cannot be always guaranteed by applying the laws of just one state. Therefore, the EU has adopted rules for coordinating different social security systems. These can be found in Regulation (EC) No. 883/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Implementing Regulation (EC) No. 987/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council.

The coordination rules apply in the European Economic Area (EEA) – all EU Member States, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland. The rules concern all citizens of the EU Member States and non-citizens living in the European Union on a legal basis.

The general rule of coordination of social security

is that people moving within the EEA States are eligible for social security in just one EEA State at a timeAs a rule, it is the state where the employee works or operates as a self-employed person.

This applies irrespective of in which state the person lives or in which state the person’s employer is located. Economically inactive people are generally subject to the social security system of the country where they reside.

The coordination of social security systems is based on four principles:

  • Equal treatment
    any and all discrimination is prohibited. A person may not be deprived of a benefit for the sole reason that the applicant is not a citizen or permanent resident of the country.
  • The laws of one Member State apply at a time
    generally an employee has social security in their country of employment. 
  • Export of pensions, allowances and benefits.
    For example, a pension earned in Estonia is also paid if a pensioner relocates to another EEA State. 
  • Adding up insurance periods.
    If a person is entitled to a social security benefit, all the insurance periods in all EU Member States are added up.

Benefits in the European Union

An overview of the social security systems of the EEA States is available in MISSOC (Mutual Information System on Social Protection), a database managed by the European Commission.

The database gives an overview of the countries’ social security systems and their administration and funding and it includes a detailed description of the social security branches (health, pension and unemployment insurance, family benefits, etc.) in English, German and French. 

Family benefits

A lot of countries pay allowances to families in connection with raising children. When leaving Estonia to take up employment or residence elsewhere in the European Union as well as when settling in Estonia it is important to know that one cannot receive full allowances from several countries at the same time. If family members live and work in several European Union countries, the fact whether and in which country the parents work is decisive for granting family benefits.

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The payment of pensions in the European Union Member States, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland is governed by Regulations (EC) 883/2004 and (EC) 987/2009. The scopes of application of said regulations include:

  • Old-age pensions
  • Survivor’s pensions
  • Pensions for incapacity for work
Read more

Working in several European Union countries

If due to working or operating as a self-employed person one is involved with more than one EU Member State, it must be determined which country’s social security applies to them.

This is required both in the case of temporary secondment and working/operating in several countries at the same time.

The decision as to the social security and laws of which country are applicable is made by social security institutions based on applicable legislation and the relevant person’s actual situation.

In accordance with Council Regulation No 1 determining the languages to be used by the European Economic Community (OJ 17, 6.10.1958, p. 385) drawing up documents to be issued and sent to a person, in the official language of the issuing country.

The social security laws of only one Member State are applied at once:

  • An employee or a self-employed person is subject to the social security system of the country where they work/operate as a self-employed person. 
  • A civil servant is subject to the social security system of the Member State under whose jurisdiction is the state authority where the person serves. 
  • A person summoned to military service, reservist training or civil service is subject to the social security of the Member State who summoned them to service or training. 
  • Working or operating as a self-employed person on a ship flying the flag of a Member State is considered working or operating as a self-employed person in said Member State. 
    Unless the person resides in another Member State where the economic operator who pays them wages is registered or operating. In that case the person is subject to the social security system of the country where the person resides.
  • The activities of a flight and cabin crew are deemed to take place in the Member State where the home base is (defined in Regulation (EEC) No. 3922/91, Annex III). 
  • A person receiving unemployment benefits is subject to the social security system of the Member State who pays them the unemployment benefits. 

Everyone else (so-called economically inactive people) is subject to the social security system of their place of residence



Nationals of non-EU countries (third-country nationals), legally residing in the territory of the European Union cannot remain subject to the Estonian social security system under an A1 Certificate while working in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Denmark, United Kingdom.

Regulation (EU) No 1231/2010 extending Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 to third-country nationals does not apply to countries outside the European Union.

If the employee wishes to remain subject to the Estonian social security system while working in one of the aforementioned countries, they must contact that country’s institutions in order to apply for an exemption in accordance with their legislation.

Secondment and working/operating as a self-employed person in two or more countries

If due to working or operating as a self-employed person one is involved with more than one EU Member State, one must apply for Form A1 in order to determine which country’s social security applies to them.


means temporary referral of an employee to a foreign state for a period of up to 24 months. During secondment the employer is required to make social security contributions for the employee as prescribed by the home country’s laws, and the home country’s health, pension and unemployment insurance remains in effect. But the presumed duration of work may not exceed 24 months and the employee may not be sent to substitute for another employee.

The same rules apply to self-employed persons who take their main activities to another Member State provided it will presumably not last for more than 24 months.

Working in several countries

means a situation where it is permanently usual for an employee to be working in several Member States. This includes people who work for their employer on the territory of more than one Member State as well as people who have more than one employment contract in effect in several Member States at the same time.

For determining the country of insurance the country in which a substantial part of the employee’s activity takes place is decisive.

  • If a substantial part of the employee’s activity takes place in their country of residence, the social security scheme of the Member State of the employee’s residence is applied.

  • If a substantial part of the employee’s activity does not take place in their country of residence, the country of insurance is determined based on special rules:
    • Working in several countries for one employer --> social security according to the employer’s registered or principal place of business.
    • Working for two employers operating in the same country --> social security according to the employers’ place of business.
    • Working for two employers operating in different countries, one of whom has its registered office or place of business in the person’s country of residence and the other in another Member State --> social security of the other Member State.
    • Working for several employers whose registered offices or places of business are in different Member States outside the employee’s country of residence --> social security of the country of residence.
    • Working in two or more Member States for an employer registered outside the European Union while living in one Member State without doing a substantial part of the employee’s work there --> social security of the Member State of the employee’s residence

For self-employed persons operating in two or more Member States at the same time or alternately the country of insurance is also decided by the location of a substantial part of their activity or the centre of interest of their activities. If a substantial part of their activity takes place in their country of residence, the social security scheme of their country of residence is applied. If a self-employed person does not operate in their country of residence to a substantial extent, they are subject to the social security scheme of the Member State where the centre of interest of their activities is.

Inimesele, kes teeb palgatööd ja tegutseb FIE-na eri riikides, kohaldatakse selle riigi sotsiaalkindlustussüsteemi, kus ta on palgatööl.

Inimesele, kes on riigiteenistuja ühes liikmesriigis ja töötab või tegutseb FIE-na teises liikmesriigis, kohaldub selle riigi sotsiaalkindlustus, mille riigiteenistuja ta on.

Euroopa Ühenduste lepinguline töötaja võib valida, millise riigi sotsiaalkindlustussüsteemi tema suhtes kohaldatakse:

  • selle liikmesriigi oma, mille territooriumil ta töötab;
  • selle liikmesriigi oma, mis viimati tema suhtes kehtis;
  • selle liikmesriigi oma, mille kodanik ta on.

Valikuõigust saab kasutada üks kord ja see jõustub töösuhte alguskuupäeval.

Form A1 and applying for Form A1

A posted employee or a person working in several European Union Member States (including the EEA States and Switzerland) must be issued with Form A1 “Certificate concerning the social security legislation which applies to the holder”.

Form A1 certifies that social tax is paid for the employee in the country which has issued the certificate. The certificate allows the employee to prove to their other countries of employment that no social security contributions are required there.

For a posted employee, Form A1 must be applied for by the employer.
When a person living in Estonia works in several Member States of the European Union (including EEA States and Switzerland) at the same time, Form A1 must be applied for by that person or their Estonian employer.
If in addition to another country of employment one only works in Estonia but does not reside here, Form A1 must be applied for at the social security institution of one's country of residence.

During the validity of Form A1 the employer is required to pay social tax, mandatory funded pension contributions and unemployment insurance premiums for the employee in Estonia. The Social Insurance Board must be informed of all changes that may affect the validity of an issued A1. Such changes include, for example, termination of the employee’s employment contract, suspension of the employee’s activities in a foreign state, or the employee’s new country of residence.

Form A1 can be applied for through the state portal for oneself but an employer can also apply for it for an employee.

Applying for A1

To use the service as an economic operator’s representative first choose the role of relevant position from the drop-down menu at the top right of the screen. By default the services of the state portal are available to the person with sole right of representation set out on the company’s registry card. That person can also grant others the right to use e-services on behalf of the company (in the state portal under My stuff – Settings – Rights to use services). Quick start guide for administration of state portal rights

State authorities and public law institutions not entered in the Commercial Register must first designate an administrator in the state portal by submitting a relevant application (.doc or .odt). The application must be signed by a person with right of representation. It must be sent digitally signed to the address [email protected] or mailed on paper to the address Information System Authority, Rävala 5, Tallinn 15169.

If you are unable to submit the application through the state portal,
please use paper applications for Form A1 (E101). Please send digitally signed application to the e-mail address [email protected] or a paper application to the address Paldiski mnt 80, Tallinn 15092.

Time limit for processing applications for Form A1

If you submit your application for Form A1 electronically in the state portal, we will issue Form A1 within the next working day.

However, the following conditions must be met: 

  • At least 25% of the employer’s usual activities takes place in Estonia;
  • The employee’s place of residence is in Estonia;
  • The duration of the employee’s work in a foreign country will presumably not exceed 24 months;
  • The employee is not sent to a foreign country to substitute for another posted employee;
  • At least two months have passed since the employee’s last secondment;
  • The employee and the employer will have a valid employment relationship throughout the period of work in a foreign country;
  • The employment is registered in the employment register at the Tax and Customs Board;
  • Immediately before secondment the employee is subject to Estonian social security;
  • A third-country national holds a valid residence permit for working in Estonia.

Applications with shortcomings and applications submitted on paper are processed pursuant to the procedure provided by the Administrative Procedure Act, which means no later than within 30 days as of the registration of the application. If the time limit does not end on a working day, the time limit expires on the first working day following the due date.

 Forms A1 issued in Estonia will be effective without being signed or sealed and the Estonian Social Insurance Board will no longer issue paper forms by mail. You can view and print issued Forms A1 through the service here

  • Additional information

  • Health insurance card

    A person who is insured by the Estonian Health Insurance Fund and who works in a foreign country on a temporary basis and who has been issued with Form A1 (formerly E101) has the right to medical aid in the foreign country on the basis of a European health insurance card issued by the Estonian Health Insurance Fund, not on the basis of Form A1 (formerly E101).

    A person on long-term secondment (over 6 months) or their employer may apply to the Health Insurance Fund for Form E106. Form E106 gives a person the right to register themselves in the health insurance system of their country of employment and in that case the person is eligible for healthcare services on the same grounds as the people insured in that country. Information about healthcare in the EU and elsewhere and the application form for E106 is available on the website of the Health Insurance Fund.

  • Information about payment of social security contributions

    Non-resident employers of persons working on the territory of Estonia can find the procedure for the payment of local social security contributions (social tax and unemployment insurance premiums) on the website of the Tax and Customs Board.

  • Information field for posted employees

    Information concerning the remuneration, working conditions and registration of posted employees based on Directive 96/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the posting of workers is available on the website of the Labour Inspectorate.


    Practical guide – The applicable legislation in the EU, EEA and in Switzerland is available on the website of the European Commission.

Last updated: 23.10.2023

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