Estonia has launched its e-residency application portal at e-resident.gov.ee, enabling anyone in the world to participate in the public beta of the world’s first government-backed transnational digital identity program.
The e-residency initiative, which debuted in December 1, 2014, does not confer citizenship, tax residency, residence or right of entry to Estonia or to the European Union, but Estonian e-residents can register a company online, perform online banking transactions, access international payment service providers, declare taxes online and digitally sign documents and contracts. The physical part of the program is a smart ID-card, which contains a microchip with two security certificates: one for authentication and another for digital signing.
From the economical point of view, it is hoped that the scheme will attract global entrepreneurs needing an investment account in the European Union. It would give them the opportunity to create a company and open a bank account in the EU in just one day, as setting up a company in Estonia is simple.
“We created e-residency to grow the digital economy, attract new investment, and connect with new businesses. The digital residency provides enormous advantages in convenience and flexibility for anyone who has an existing business or other connection to Estonia. But it also provides anyone, not just those connected to Estonia, with the tools and systems to own and operate their own business. In creating this program, Estonia hopes to unleash the world’s entrepreneurial potential,” Kaspar Korjus, e-residency program director, said.
Prospective e-residents from around the globe can expect the entire application process to take one month. Starting with online application, paying a nominal fee and completing a background check, e-residents need to visit an Estonian embassy or police station to receive their e-resident digi-ID. Currently, it is possible to pick up the digi-ID in one of 34 countries around the world where Estonia maintains an embassy or a consulate, or at a Police and Border Guard Board service point in Estonia.
So far, over 1,500 people from 73 countries have become e-residents. Over half of them are from Estonia’s neighboring countries: Finland (34 percent), Russia (15 percent), Ukraine (6 percent), Latvia (6 percent), closely followed by the US, Germany, the UK, Lithuania and Italy. Over 18,000 prospective e-residents worldwide have subscribed to the program’s newsletter.
Many prominent foreigners have also become e-residents, among them the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and a senior editor of The Economist Edward Lucas.
The initiators emphasize that the e-residency program is like a governmental startup and therefore certain elements are still in development – such as establishing an Estonian company online or opening a bank account, which currently require a trip to Estonia, but can later be conducted from abroad.