e-Residency scheme reports record revenue, profits for 2020

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Lauri Haav, head of the e-Residency scheme. Source: Herkki Erich Merila/EAS/e-Residency

Estonia's nation e-Residency program has reported a 2020 revenue of €19.7 million, the highest in its six-year existence, with profits also topping previous records.

e-Residency CEO Lauri Haav said that: "We welcome the government's unwavering faith in the program, and I am confident that every euro invested in the program will bring manifold returns, which go way beyond the number indicating the rate of return, especially considering indirect revenue such as the cash flow from e-Residents going into local business services," adding that the program boosts Estonia's prestige in the international arena.

IT and foreign trade minister Andres Sutt (Reform) said that: "The e-residency program is a long-range business venture, which has yielded a significant return on investment over the years."

"Every euro that has been channeled into the program by national authorities has yielded manifold returns. The government continues to maintain strong confidence in this program, as evidenced by in the national budget strategy for the period 2022-2025," Sutt went on, according to BNS.

Lauri Haav added that since the program cost €4.85 million through 2020, the revenue level represented over four times the return on investment.

Haav said that a 20 percent return-on-investment in one year was good going for an average venture capital fund.

"Our goals are ambitious, aiming to robustly increase the number of Estonian e-residents and the resulting economic impact on the national budget," Haav added.

Andres Sutt, a government minister, seemed to be reading from the same page as Haav, noting that the e-Residency program attracts entrepreneurs worldwide, thanks to a transparent business environment which he said operates with minimal bureaucracy.

Digitally signing documents and logging into e-service portals are some of the features e-Residency confers, though at the same time becoming an e-Resident does not equate to citizenship of Estonia, nor physical residency or tax residency, neither does the e-Resident card issued constitute a travel document.

e-Residents to date have established over 17,000 companies in Estonia, BNS reports, while the over 400 new companies added to the business register in March this year was also a record figure.

Private limited liability companies registered in Estonia by e-Residents constitute 20 percent of the total.

As reported by ERR News, companies set up by individuals all over the world who are registered e-Residents paid in close to €17.5 million to Estonian state coffers in 2020.

Andres Sutt said that the program was here to stay, while improving the security features was priority going forward.

IT and Foreign Trade Minister Andres Sutt. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The program announced earlier this year that stricter background checks are to sought from e-Residency applicants in future, than has been the case up to now, not least because the success of the program has attracted those who would use it for nefarious purposes.

BNS reports business brought in by e-Residency has so far contributed €63 million in the six-and-a-half years of its existence.

Lauri Haav said that those firms which have been founded by e-Residents have on the whole demonstrated growth, and in most cases are expanding into international markets.

Brazil, Singapore, South Africa and Thailand are the latest additions to the list of countries where new e-Residents can pick up digital starter kits, while the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic has served to accelerate the trend for a growing number of e-Residents, Haav said.

e-Residents get a physical card, like this one, on signing up. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Launched in December 2014 with the intention of providing foreign nationals with safe access to e-services offered within the Estonian e-governance ecosystem, over 81,000 e-Residents have signed up to the program so far, BNS reports.

The scheme was championed by the Estonian president at the time, Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Edward Lucas, former senior editor at weekly The Economist, was in fact the very first e-Resident, while notable people reported to have been attracted to the scheme include British motoring journalist Jeremy Clarkson.

The program has also been copied by Lithuania, which launched its own e-Residency program at the beginning of this year.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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