From today, Estonia will become the first country in the world to offer foreigners e-residency. Senior editor for The Economist magazine, Edward Lucas, is now the country's first e-resident.
According to Taavi Kotka, the Deputy Secretary General on ICT at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the aim of the project is to make Estonia a more visible in the world and attract more businesses to the country.
"Estonian citizens are able to perform nearly every public and private sector transaction in digital form, including signing any document. Until now, this ability has not extended to foreigners who are permanent residents of countries other than Estonia," he said.
Foreigners are the target market for the secure Estonian e-identity card. According to Kotka, e-residency would hopefully attract more business people to associate with Estonia.
“For example, the adoption of non-resident ID cards is an additional argument in favor of investing in Estonia. Today, it is difficult for a foreign investor to actively participate in the executive management of a company. The non-resident ID card and digital signature would provide the necessary flexibility."
The primary target groups of the e-residency would be foreign investors and the foreign employees of their companies; foreign specialists and employees of Estonian companies, their foreign customers and partners; foreign scientists, educators and students; representatives of other countries and international institutions in Estonia; Estonian nationals and their heirs who have emigrated from Estonia, as well as their family members.
Kotka also pointed out that in addition, reinvested profit is tax-free in Estonia, and the highly developed e-banking environment gives users immediate control of their assets from a distance. "This means that Estonia has the potential to be attractive to entrepreneurs who need an investment account, and this would result in additional customers and capital for Estonian businesses.”
The application round opened few months ago, and attracted around 12,000 applications to become an Estonian e-resident, mostly from the United States, Finland, the United Kingdom, Canada and India. About half of them intended to set up companies in Estonia, Kotka said.
The identity card of an e-resident is not usable as personal ID, nor does it give a person the same rights as Estonian citizens. All the applicants will be checked by the Estonian Police and Border Guard, and the state reserves a right to withdraw the e-residence status should it feel necessary to do so.
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves will present the Lucas with the first e-residency card today in Tallinn. Lucas has been writing about Estonia and the other Baltic states since the 1990s, and The Economist magazine has been a great proponent of Estonia's liberal market economy.