Since 1 December, Estonia’s e-residency services are also available to foreigners, giving them the same digital rights as Estonian citizens. The service is available to anyone over 18 years of age, but the primary target groups are foreign investors, employees and specialists. The e-residency service makes it easier to register companies in Estonia, declare taxes, access Estonian bank accounts and electronically sign documents and contracts.
“The purpose of e-residency is to make life easier by using secure e-services that have been accessible to Estonians for years already. By providing e-residency, we are moving towards the idea of a country without borders”, the government of the Republic of Estonia explains on its e-residency website. E-residency does not provide physical residency rights or rights of entry to Estonia or the EU. The service does not entail residential or citizen rights and it cannot be used as a passport.
“General banking, government dealings, company management, contracts, medical visits; non-residents will have secure access to online services and ability to digitally sign in a legally binding manner just like Estonians do,” the Guardian newspaper quotes the Estonian ICT policy adviser Siim Sikkut as saying.
E-residents receive a smart ID-card with a microchip. The card contains a certificate that allows authentication on government portals, and a second certificate that allows the electronic signing of documents, with the digital signature considered legally binding in all EU Member States.
The country hopes to gain over 17,000 e-residents and 5,000 companies within the next three years, according to the Helsinki Times.
Estonia says that e-residency provides opportunities for businesses and those interested in secure, decentralised digital electronic services. The service also includes tools for software developers: “You can build new services, integrating the possibility of secure and private digital authentication and digital signatures. Using our open source tools gives you the opportunity to build tech innovations, e-commerce websites or non-profit developments that operate through a system that has global reach and governmentally approved security layers.”