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A unique opportunity opens Estonia’s e-services to foreigners

As a successful e-state, Estonia has launched the e-resident digi-ID, which gives foreigners the ability to apply for secure e-credentials in Estonia and thus gives them the chance to access Estonia’s e-services  from anywhere on the globe.

  • E-residency is a state-issued secure digital identity for non-residents that allows digital authentication and the digital signing of documents.
  • E-residency does not bring physical residency or rights of entry to Estonia or EU. E-residency does not entail any residential or citizen rights and cannot be used as a physical identification card or travel document.
  • 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.

 

Who is an e-resident?


An e-resident is a foreigner, to whom Estonia issues digital credentials on the basis of his/her own identification from his/her country of citizenship. This will allow foreigners to tend to business in Estonia no matter where they are, thereby making activity in the areas of international economy, science and education more flexible and effective.

With a digi-ID, foreigners with ties to Estonian enterprises or companies that do business in Estonia can accomplish transactions with the same ease as a citizen or permanent foreign resident. For example, signing documents digitally reduces bothersome paperwork. But it also allows the opening of an Estonian bank account, the use of online tax department services, taking part in a business, etc.

The importance of cash in the lives of the population of Estonia is decreasing steadily. 58% of people are more likely to use a bank card than cash. The vast majority of payment transactions are done by direct bank draft (70%) or through internet banking (62%). Transactions of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board also transpire in an online environment. Over 95% of the population uses the internet to send in their tax returns, since it is simple, reliable and takes only minutes. A private limited company can be founded online in less than an hour.

Businesses with foreign partners play a key role in Estonia’s economy: they make up 60% of total export, 36% of employment, 35% of R&D spending and 45% of economic value added. Therefore, e-residency encourages business growth in a vital sector of Estonia’s economy.

For the foreigners and foreign enterprises doing business in and with Estonia, digi-ID will increase the attractiveness of this friendly environment for living or just visiting. Adopting the use of e-residence will expand a business’ opportunities to offer their digital services in Estonia, as well as in the international market through an additional client base.


Digi-ID is an exceptional opportunity for foreign investors and foreign employees of their businesses to operate in Estonia, for foreign scientists, educators and students to work with Estonian universities in R&D, for the foreign clients and partners of Estonian businesses to deal with companies here, or for foreigners in leadership or partnership in enterprises to do business in Estonia.

E-residency encourages vital business activity and growth in Estonia’s economy, helping to bring investments and jobs. It is a suitable means for keeping in touch with ex-pat Estonians and to create access to digital services and information, regardless of their residency or citizenship.

 

An e-resident’s digi-ID is a benefit, not a right


The Estonian state issues a digi-ID for the applicant’s use in good faith and for legal purposes. The state monitors an e-resident’s use of the digi-ID, just like all other digital credentials in Estonia.


Therefore, confirming a person’s identity for the purpose of issuing a digi-ID is secure and certain, and there is always vigilance against illegal use.
 

Different e-services are already available, for example through internet banking, but digi-ID, created and secured by the state, is certainly the safest method. Nevertheless, it must be kept in mind that illegal activity by an e-resident (i.e. giving the document to someone else, breaking the law) will hold consequences for that person, and the state has the right to confirm an individual’s trustworthiness before issuing a digi-ID and to monitor its legal use.


However, the Estonian government stands for an e-resident’s digi-ID usage to be safe and convenient. The experience of hundreds of thousands of Estonian citizens and residents over the years confirms this. Now even foreigners living abroad have an excellent opportunity to securely and conveniently do business in Estonia.

Digi-ID will open new horizons for the international development of e-services in the private sector.

Kristina Narusk, Estonian Service Industry Association

The conception of the digi-ID is a refreshing step in the preservation of Estonia’s reputation as an innovative nation. The Estonian Service Industry Association and our members find it to be very positive that in addition to Estonia gaining notoriety in the world for popular public sector e-services (e-voting, e-tax bureau) there has also been thought put into opening the local e-infrastructure internationally for private sector services.

Although the first phase of the project is geared toward persons connected with Estonia and Estonian business as digi-ID users, the more exciting opportunity and challenge is to create services for the whole world and new forms, which would require user identification. In a small nation like Estonia, it’s possible to experiment and establish novel services quickly and with flexibility based on the results. Therefore, we highly appreciate the state’s willingness to be open, to involve private sector services in the conceptual phase and to allow freedom for companies to make decisions and developments.

 

 

Last updated: 26 March 2015