Estonia is planning to be the first country to offer a status called e-residency. The program’s website says, “You can become an e-Estonian!” Sounds great, right? Or are you thinking that this sounds like a pyramid scheme? Both are valid reactions. Let’s look at this.
The website says that anyone can apply to become an e-resident and receive an e-Estonian online identity “in order to get secure access to world-leading digital services from wherever you might be.” Places you might be include … not in Estonia. The country is definitely known for being technologically advanced, though. For example, it offers online voting in general elections, has some of the fastest broadband speeds in the world, and considers Internet access to be a human right.
Basically for e-residency it sounds like you get a flashdrive or USB stick of some sort that has software on it protected by two-factor authentication. The software allows you to verify your identity, use Estonian digital services, and sign legal documents.
The e-residency “leaflet” explains:
[E-residency] is especially useful for entrepreneurs and others who already have some relationship to Estonia: who do business, work, study or visit here but have not become a resident. However, e-residency is also launched as a platform to offer digital services to a global audience with no prior Estonian affiliation. … With e-residency, you can become part of the digital society revolution taking place in our dynamic Northern European country.
The country will start issuing cards at the end of this year, but you’ll have to visit a Police and Border Guard office in Estonia to submit an application, get background checked, have your photo taken, and get fingerprinted. Plus the application fee will be 50 euros. Estonia is planning to expand the program so people can apply at local Estonian embassies around the world within a few years. Don’t try to get sneaky, though. “This will not entail full legal residency or citizenship or right of entry to Estonia.”
You can’t deny that the program has a compelling marketing pitch, though. It’s “for anybody who wants to run their business and life in the most convenient aka digital way!” Sounds good to me.