Friday, December 26, 2014

By the End of This Year, You Will Be Able to Become an eResident of Estonia

The Guardian reports:

On 21 October, Estonia’s parliament unanimously voted to extend national digital e-residency rights to foreigners by the end of the year. With this e-residency programme, the least populous country in Europe, of 1.3 million people, intends to attract around 10 million “digital citizens” by 2025.

Estonians say
their open and online culture – 77% of the population has internet access – is behind this experiment on a state level, and there has been little controversy over the move. After all, this is the country which created Skype.

From Talinn’s point of view, it hopes that foreign citizens will be encouraged to open an online business in the Estonian domain. Authorities say with their online system, applications can be processed in as little as 18 minutes.

“The primary goal of the e-residency initiative has been straightforward: to make life and business easier for our international partners and non-resident foreigners who have a relation to Estonia – who invest, work or study here and do trade with us,” says Siim Sikkut, who works in the government’s strategy unit and is one of the drivers behind the scheme.

Digital identity for non-residents will have nothing to do with constitutional rights or actual citizenship – it’s about everyday matters. Access will come in the form of an ID card with a microchip and no photo, used with two-step authentication and a USB card reader.

“General banking, government dealings, company management, contracts, medical visits; non-residents will have secure access to online services and ability to digitally sign in legally binding manner just like Estonians do,” says Sikkut...

Ruth Chamberlain says she will be applying as soon as possible so that she can launch Investly, a business funding platform currently based in the UK, in Estonia.

To do that she will have to visit the police or border guards in Estonia at the end of the year, undergo a background check and wait for two weeks before collecting the card, which costs €50 (around £40), in person. However, Estonia is in the process of developing a system whereby this process can be available in embassies in the future, so e-residents would not need to set foot in the country to apply.

“Our UK lenders would become e-residents, too, taking advantage of digital signatures and secure authentication,” says Camberlain’s Estonian colleague Siim Maivelthe, a 24-year-old from Haapsalu. “It will save time on signing documents for everyone.”

“You have to go where you have the best means of doing something. The UK has a lot of capital and highly talented people, but Estonia has the infrastructure,” he says.

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