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Become an e-Resident of Estonia. Online, of course

17.09.2015

eResidency

Can you guess the one thing that connects Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, The Economist’s editor Edward Lucas and president and CEO of Swedbank Group Michael Wolf? No?Well, they and more than 4 200 other foreigners are all e-residents of Estonia.

Last year, in October 2014, Estonia first introduced the idea of e-Residency and the interest was huge – almost immediately over 4 000 followers signed up see where this ‘crazy idea’ would develop. Now, over 18 000 prospective e-residents worldwide have subscribed to the program newsletter.

Today Estonia already has over 4 200 e-residents and currently several hundred are waiting for their e-Residency approval. There have been applicants from 113 countries, almost a half of them from neighbouring countries such as Finland and Russia, but also from much further afield places like Italy, India or the United States.

Although the project managers of e-Residency dared to predict as many as 2 000 e-residents by the end of 2015, it is obvious that the number is going to exceed their wildest dreams, and reach a level more like 10 000.

One of the advantages, and the key reason why applications are booming, is because it is so much easier to apply compared with what it was at the beginning. At the time of writing (May 2015) it is possible to apply for e-Residency online. You can also choose your desired pickup location: one of 38 Estonian embassies and consulates around the world, or an Estonian Police and Border Guard Board service point.

Note that these people are not and will not become physical citizens of Estonia, nor will they become residents of Estonia. They will not necessarily become tax residents either and the e-resident digital ID is not a physical identification or a travel document.

So what are the benefits of e-Residency and why do people apply? Since e-Residency is a platform for advanced government and business services which is open to virtually everyone on the planet, e-residents will have access to one of the world’s most advanced set of e-services, a set that this small Baltic country has been developing since the 1990s.

e-Residency is likely to attract a veritable swarm of business entrepreneurs, freelancers and fans of the digital society in a way that can turn the whole idea of being a small country on its head.

Estonia’s unofficial motto is that states can become bigger than the sum of their physical residents. Plus it would be a good idea to move your business to Estonia if you are interested in low amounts of red tape and high quality of e-services. And we already have some numbers to prove that the scheme is working – new e-residents have created 93 companies in Estonia already, and altogether there are 284 companies in Estonia where e-residents are involved.

e-residents can create companies in minutes as opposed to the days or even months that the process can take in some regions of the world. They can administer their companies and assets in a hassle-free manner from anywhere in the world. They can sign and verify the authenticity of signed documents digitally without travelling. If they need to pay taxes in Estonia, they can take advantage of the world-famous Estonian tax interface which makes declaring taxes so easy that the whole process is over in only about five minutes!

You can already access online payment service providers, and conduct e-banking and remote money transfers by establishing an Estonian bank account. Opening an account currently requires one in-person meeting at the bank, and is at the sole discretion of banking partners.

The current list of basic services is growing rapidly, but the very success of Estonia’s e-Residency program depends on government and private sector cooperation in creating new applications.

Currently several banks and start-ups are working on innovations that will make their services available to e-residents. At the beginning of September there was also an event called ‘Garage48 e-Residency’, where Garage48, Enterprise Estonia, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and the Information System Authorities teamed up to create an international e-Residency hackathon.

‘Our goal is to draw attention to the fact that all developers and service providers are welcome to develop services to the open digital identity platform. The e-Residency platform could in many aspects be compared with the Apple App Store, as it allows to create many needed services to e-residents. It is very important that the new customer base is recognised by the developers and service providers, who may already offer their services to e-residents,’ says Taavi Kotka, the Government CIO, Deputy Secretary General of ICT at Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications for Estonia.

If this has whetted your appetite to find out more, and to get further instructions on how to apply, you can visit the e-Residency website at e-resident.gov.ee and start your application. It will cost you just €50 in state fee and a credit card processing fee of €0.99. We guarantee that this is worth it.

Over the next few pages we will introduce you some notable e-residents of Estonia who are already using the benefits and helping us to revolutionize the world!

e-residents receive a smart ID card which provides:

• Digital identification and authentication
• Digital signing of documents
• Digital verification of document authenticity
• Document encryption

Estonia invites developers to integrate the secure and simple open ID platform with services requiring digital authentication and document signing.

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