Estonia: e-Residency of Estonia (also called virtual residency or E-residency) is a program launched by Estonia. The program allows non-Estonians access to Estonian services such as company formation, banking, payment processing, and taxation. The program gives the e-resident a smart card which they can use to sign documents. The program is aimed at location-independent entrepreneurs such as software developers and writers. The first e-resident of Estonia was British journalist Edward Lucas; the first person to apply for and be granted e-residency through the standard process was Hamid Tahsildoost from the United States.
An application for e-residency can be made online by filling in a form, supplying a scan of a national passport and a photograph, and giving the reason for applying. Kaspar Korjus, managing director of the e-residency programme, said that applicants who had been involved in financial misbehaviour such as money laundering would be rejected. Successful applicants would be invited to an interview in Tallinn or an Estonian embassy about three months after applying, and would then, if successful, be issued with their card. The certificates of the document are valid for three years. After that period, if a person wishes to continue using e-services, they have to apply for a new document. The application process will be the same as when they first applied. A state fee needs to be paid again when they submit a new application.
E-residency allows company registration, document signing, encrypted-document exchange, online banking, tax declaration, and fulfilment of medical prescriptions. Other services become available as the scheme is expanded. A digital ID smart card issued by the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board in Estonia or at an embassy is used for access to services. Korjus said that registering an Estonian business was “useful for internet entrepreneurs in emerging markets who don’t have access to an online payment provider”, and for startups from countries such as Ukraine or Belarus which suffer financial limitations from their governments. E-residency is not related to citizenship and does not give the right to physically enter or reside in Estonia.