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.
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.
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
Estonia’s tech culture
Science Park Tehnopol — Estonia’s tech hub.
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.