Estonia adds 7,000 new ‘e-citizens’ thanks to e-Residency program
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Screenshot from "e-Estonia:Life in a networked Society." Photo Credit: e-Estonia / YouTube

Screenshot from "e-Estonia:Life in a networked Society." Photo Credit: e-Estonia / YouTube

On Wednesday, Estonia marked one year since the launch of their e-Residency program. This is how the first year went

On December 2, 2014, Estonia became the first country to offer a “transnational digital identity” via its e-Residency program. In its first year, 7,000 global citizens have become “e-Estonians.”

For those unfamiliar with the e-Residency program, it as “a transnational digital identity by the Republic of Estonia available to anyone in the world interested in administering a location-independent business online.” In other words, it allows people to set up online businesses under Estonian law and create a digital business identity, but it “does not confer citizenship, tax residency, residence or right of entry to Estonia or to the European Union.”

In marking the program’s 1st year anniversary, Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas described e-Residency as a unique and excellent example of Estonia’s ability to be a pioneer in the world of e-services: “e-Residency has shifted mental frames, has made us and other countries alike think truly globally – e-Residency has potential to make us big,” the prime minister said.

When Geektime asked e-Residency Program Director Kaspar Korjus if he was happy with the first’s year’s numbers, he overwhelmingly said yes. “Yes, the whole Estonia is actually positively surprised that there are four times more users than ever expected with zero marketing costs, just word of mouth. Really active users are those who run their companies with e-Residency. It might be that they have never visited Estonia but they are e-Estonians: That illustrates well the world we are living in today.”

A prime audience: Digital nomads

An example of a digital Estonian ID. Photo Credit: e-Estonia

An example of a digital Estonian ID. Photo Credit: e-Estonia

He also confirmed one of the key appeals of the program: for folks who are digital nomads: “For people who travel,  e-Residency might be the perfect solution for running their business.”

“True, the location independent business environment not only gives you the freedom to run your company whenever you are, but also it gives you access to all the tools you require – from bank accounts to online payment providers,” though to set up a bank account, e-residents need to apply and visit Estonia. In the six months, he noted that he hopes e-residents will be able to start bank accounts purely online.

He noted that beyond getting access to a bank account and “legal entity, it also opens up the whole new marketplace of services. As of now, you have a digital name and every time you enter to some site, you are a recognized and validated person. I can guarantee that in coming months, the marketplace will have more services than what the Estonian public sector can offer.”

Ultimately, he believes Estonia’s e-Residency program appeals to internationals because, “It is a door to a trusted, zero bureaucracy business environment.”

Tarmo Virki, a journalist living in Estonia, told us, “In a way, e-Residency enables on a corporate level free movement of intellectual or digital capital. As entrepreneurs, we are not tied to any physical office space. Why should our online companies be?”

According to Virki, e-Residency is most attractive to online entrepreneurs outside of the European Union because it offers a stepping stone into this wide market. For European entrepreneurs, the key offer is hassle-free bureaucracy: Anything involving the state and any of the services can be done online using the e-Residency.

“I think the biggest misunderstanding stems from the name residency — what Estonia really offers is secure online identification,” added Virki.

If you are interested in applying, visit www.apply.e-estonia.com. You can also watch the video below to get more details about the program.

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