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International House of Estonia: Breaking boundaries and leading the way in settling in – Estonian edition

The International House of Estonia (IHE), a part of the Estonian Investment Agency, opened its doors in November 2018 and since then it has attracted increasing visitor numbers weekly. ‘Good news spreads by word of mouth. Many of our customers say they heard about us from their HR department or other colleagues who found good advice and assistance. That is great to hear, because it shows we are on the right track,’ says Annely Tank, Manager of IHE.

Founded by eight institutions – Enterprise Estonia, the Ministry of Interior Affairs, the City of Tallinn, the Unemployment Board, Integration Foundation, Police and Border Guard and the Tax and Customs Board, – the service centre brings together various public services three days a week, in order to help new foreign specialists in adapting to Estonian society and to alleviate the work of employers. The main target groups of the IHE are foreign specialists arriving in Estonia, their Estonian employers and people returning to Estonia.

‘Normally, you have to consume public services all over the local government district, traipsing from one institution to another, which wastes valuable time for companies and specialists. Our current track record is 58 minutes. During this time, the customer receives information and services from four different public bodies. This seemed unrealistic earlier, but we have managed to prove that it is indeed possible to save time,’ explains Annely Tank.

The house works on the principle of public institutions collaborating. Consultants from the founding institutions, who advise foreign specialists on a daily basis, work one or two days of the week at the International House in Ülemiste City. At other times, they are based in their respective organisations. ‘It is good to see that the advisers like it here,’ says Michaela Snopkova, Administrator at the International House. Michaela herself arrived in Estonia as a foreigner and therefore understands the concerns and joys that relocation may entail. Of Czech origin, she studied in Paris and Tartu and speaks Estonian very well: she says that many customers are surprised to learn about her story. Annely adds that, thanks to Michaela’s excellent Estonian skills and her experience of integrating into Estonian society, different customers have an easier time finding a common language with the International House.

The services include consultancy, which helps when adapting to Estonian life, migration consultation, living advice to foreign specialists and their employers, applying for an ID code for foreigners, registering the place of residence, career counselling and business counselling. As public services, all those services are free of charge but it is recommended that one pre-books a time. ‘The booking helps us to see which questions clients need advice with, hence we can do a better job. Sometimes the issues people need advice on are very simple, we are able to answer straight away and the customer doesn’t even have to turn up. This helps us to save the customer’s time and we can have free time slots for other clients,’ explains Annely.

The International House of Estonia is part of the Estonian Investment Agency’s project “Work in Estonia”, which aims to help Estonian companies find and keep extraordinarily skilled specialists from all over the world. ‘Every year, more and more foreign specialists arrive in Estonia and I am happy that we as representatives of the country can help make their lives and the lives of their employers much easier,’ says Triin Visnapuu-Sepp, Programme Manager of “Work in Estonia”. In addition to the services of the International House, the programme offers assistance to foreign specialists and companies with many other important services, shares information about working in Estonia, administers English language job adverts, offers foreign employment support and counselling to companies, and organises various campaigns like Career Hunt. ‘Together with our team and our target groups we are breaking boundaries.  We are not afraid to test and try out things because our aim is to be a reliable partner for Estonian companies and hence benefit society at large. When we talk about our activities in the world, nobody believes that we only employ six people,’ laughs Annely.

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