Do you want your company to have a global presence? Ever dreamed of starting a business in the EU? You could consider applying for an Estonian e-residency visa. Over the past couple of years, there has been excitement and confusion regarding the Estonian e-residency scheme.
But what exactly is this program? How can someone from a developing country apply for an Estonian e-residency visa? Is it same as being a citizen of Estonia? Will this program be the future of immigration? Let’s take a look.
Why was the program launched?
Situated in Northern Europe, The Republic of Estonia is a small country with a population of 1.316 million as of 2016. Being a country which is hugely dependent on the internet for bank transactions, tax payment and for voting, we can assume that Estonians are tech-savvy.
Incidentally, Estonia is also one of the founding members of the Digital 5 group, a network of leading governments, which aims at strengthening the digital economy. In the late 2010s, the Estonian population had slowly started to dwindle, even though there were excellent opportunities and social benefits in their country. Many Estonians have migrated and settled down in other countries in Europe.
The government had no choice, but to think of ways to enhance the economic development in the country. The idea of e-residency was then proposed, creating frenzy globally. As per the program no matter where you’re from, you will be able to apply for an e-residency visa.
What is Estonian e-residency?
The program gives nonresidents the ability to apply for digital residency in Estonia, even when they are residing in their home country. Once you receive the Estonian e-residency visa, you will be able to establish a trusted EU company, from any location in the world within a day.
As a part of the program, nonresidents can pay Estonian taxes online (which takes only 5 minutes), open their own bank account and conduct e-banking without any hassle. They will also have access to Paypal and other secure payment gateways. E-residents will be able to digitally sign documents and contracts, which will be valid anywhere in the EU.
As the Estonian e-residency program provides a number of amazing benefits, many small entrepreneurs, freelancers, contracted workers and self-employed expatriates have immensely benefitted from it. However, the program shouldn’t be confused with e-citizenship. Just like any other country, Estonia also has set rules for people who are looking to become a citizen.
How to apply for Estonian e-residency visa
Whether you are an entrepreneur who wants EU access or a business start-up looking for exciting opportunities, you can easily apply for the visa. The process is as simple as it sounds. Firstly, you need to keep your important documents ready. This will include a copy of your government-issued ID, a digital photo, your Visa/ MasterCard, and a motivation statement stating your reasons why you are applying for the Estonian e-residency visa.
In order to submit your application, you will have to pay €100 state fee. You will receive a confirmation email after submitting your application. Once your application is successfully submitted, the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board will conduct your background check. This is highly important in order to ensure the safety and security of the e-residency program. During the background check, you may be requested to provide further information. The entire process takes around one month.
Once your background check is complete, and your application is approved and processed, you can collect your digital ID card in person from your chosen location. You need to furnish the same identification documents you had used in your Estonian e-residency visa application process. Next, you will have to submit your fingerprints to the concerned official. Once this is complete, you can collect your e-residency kit, which includes your digital ID card and card reader.
How secure is the e-residency program
The internet is vulnerable to cyber-attacks and hacking, which makes the security of any software application at risk. The Estonian government is aware of this and has taken a lot of measures to protect the digital identity of e-residents and to minimize risks associated with the program.
The measures have increased when a group of international security researchers had notified the authorities about a potential threat to the use of digital ID cards. On October 2017, a new update was introduced as a security measure. Not just e-residents, but also citizens and residents will have to update their ID and certificates.
This is required to reprogram the chip, which is embedded inside the digital ID. In order to complete the update successfully, an e-resident will need the latest version of the Estonian ID card software. If you need to access any encrypted documents in future, it is recommended to decrypt them before updating the software.
Benefits of the program
If you’re considering applying for an Estonian e-residency visa, you need to know how it’s going to help you in the long run. It is easy to apply for a visa, and the application takes just one month. Unlike setting up a company in order countries, setting up your company online is extremely cost-effective. You don’t have to run around for procedural formalities, and it doesn’t involve any sort of paperwork.
Once you are an e-resident, you will be able to use Estonian public and private services online. No matter where you are, you will be able to manage your company smoothly. If you need to sign any official documents or contracts, you can use your digital signature. You will be able to keep revenues, costs and financial reports in EUR. The program will give you better access to global markets, enhancing your global presence.
Instances when the Estonian e-residency visa is rejected
If you do not have a valid government ID of your country, showing that you are a citizen, your application will be rejected. If your motivation statement doesn’t justify your interest in the use of Estonian e-services can also be a reason for rejection. Most importantly, your Estonian e-residency application will be rejected if you do not pass the stringent background checks conducted by the concerned authorities.
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