How to Become an E-Resident of Estonia

Estonia is building a digital nation — and you can become one of its e-Residents. This is especially useful for traveling entrepreneurs who want to start an online business and manage it from anywhere in the world. 

On the Postcard Academy podcast, two Americans who moved to Tallinn to work on this government program explain what e-Residency is, how to apply, and how, Estonia, a formerly poor Communist country, became the most digital nation on Earth. Julia Barrett is a well-traveled American who moved to Tallinn to help develop e-Residency 2.0 and represent e-Residency at the United Nations. Alex Wellman, a Michigan native, heads up their brilliant marketing. 

Listen to the podcast (subscribe here for free) to hear how Estonia became a digital powerhouse and how you can become an e-Resident, or even a resident IRL. Here are some helpful resources we discussed on the show.


 
Little Estonia, with less than 1.5 million people, has been running itself like a tech company for about two decades now, giving everyone a digital ID and letting them access almost all government services online. Now they’re letting foreigners become e-Residents of their digital nation. Photo courtesy of e-Residency.

Little Estonia, with less than 1.5 million people, has been running itself like a tech company for about two decades now, giving everyone a digital ID and letting them access almost all government services online. Now they’re letting foreigners become e-Residents of their digital nation. Photo courtesy of e-Residency.

What is e-Residency? 

All Estonians have a digital ID card that lets them do almost everything instantly online, including voting. Only a few things are off limits: getting married, divorced, or buying property — and that’s only because they want to save you from making rash, life-altering decisions. 



“We developed all these great digital services, but we only have 1.3 million people here,” Alex says. “We can serve many more people than that. So they thought, ‘Let’s actually let foreigners around the world apply to become e-Residents, and we’ll give them a digital ID card, which they can use to access governmental digital services here in Estonia. We now have 50,000 e-Residents from 160 countries around the world.” 



So why would you want to access these services? One of the biggest benefits of e-Residency is the ability to start a limited company in Estonia and manage it from anywhere in the world. As of 2019, e-Residents have founded about 6,000 Estonia-based companies and this means more transparency and less bureaucracy than other countries. 



Estonia leapfrogged paper forms, pen and ink, and the back and forth required to set up businesses in most places. They let you set up an manage almost everything online — they’ve never even used paper checks. Fax? What is that?? Just use your electronic signature. Plus, you can take your online business with you easily if you move countries and not have to re-register somewhere else. 



Alex Wellman is an American expat who moved to Tallinn to head up marketing for e-Residency. Photo courtesy of Rasmus Jurkatam.

Alex Wellman is an American expat who moved to Tallinn to head up marketing for e-Residency. Photo courtesy of Rasmus Jurkatam.

e-Residency doesn’t mean permission to live in Estonia

e-Residency doesn’t grant you Estonian residency or Estonian or E.U. citizenship. It gives you digital access to their best services lets you start a company in a very business-friendly environment. But don’t fret! If you have your heart set on living in Estonia, you have options.


How to live in Estonia 

jobbatical - Alex found his job with e-Residency through jobbatical, a site founded by Estonians, but that posts global job openings. The best part: these companies want foreign talent and they’ll help you move abroad. 



Work in Estonia - Find more than 500 current job offers based in Estonia. 



Startup Estonia - E.U. citizens can freely move to Estonia. The Startup Visa allows non-EU founders to relocate and grow their startups in Estonia. 

 

Storytellers Nest - Are you an influencer? Ugh, I know that word has become so gross. But if you do have a platform and a following, Visit Estonia will put you up in an apartment and guide you around their beautiful country. 



More information on e-Residency 

What is e-Residency? 

How to start a company 

How do e-residents pay taxes?

E-Residency Facebook Group



Estonia’s tech culture 

Estonia is running its country like a tech company

Skype's journey from tiny Estonian start-up to $8.5 billion Microsoft buy

Science Park Tehnopol — Estonia’s tech hub.




Julia Barrett  is an American who moved to Estonia to help develop e-Residency 2.0. E-Residency is a government program that bestows e-Residency to non-Estonians around the world. Julia also represents e-Residency in its partnership with the United Nations. Photo courtesy of Julia.

Julia Barrett is an American who moved to Estonia to help develop e-Residency 2.0. E-Residency is a government program that bestows e-Residency to non-Estonians around the world. Julia also represents e-Residency in its partnership with the United Nations. Photo courtesy of Julia.


Sarah Mikutel in Dubrovnik

If you found this article useful, please share it, and subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast. Each week, expats and adventurers share their insider travel tips on the best food, nightlife, and cultural experiences in the most interesting places around the globe. I’m your host, Sarah Mikutel, an American who's spent the last 8 years living in, and traveling around, Europe.