Estonia Officially Welcomes Its First E-Residents

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New scheme allows access to online services such as banking and healthcare, even if applicants aren’t Estonian citizens

Estonia has opened up its borders to anyone seeking a higher standard of online services with the official launch of the country’s ‘e-residency’ program.

Under the new initiative, anyone wishing to access services based in the country, such as online banking, education or healthcare, can now apply for an e-residency permit allowing them to do so, even if they are not a citizen.

The new residents will receive Smart ID cards embedded with a microchip containing security certificate to confirm their new identity. The approval process, which includes providing biometrical data (facial image and fingerprints) for background checks, will take around ten days, with the applicant needing to go to an Estonian Police and Border Guard Board service station to receive the card.

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The Baltic nation first announced the program in October as part of plans to attract foreign investors, foreign experts and diplomats.

However, the permit will not entail the holder full legal residency or citizenship or right of entry to Estonia, and users will need to enter a registered PIN in order to use the services, which can also be protected through two-factor authentication.

“The adoption of non-resident ID cards is an additional argument in favour of investing in Estonia,” said Taavi Kotka, the deputy secretary general on ICT at the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs.

“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.”

“This means 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.”

Estonia is well-known for being one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world right now, and is the home of several famous technology companies such as Skype and Kazaa. The country also produced one of the new heads of the European Commision’s Digital Agenda, with former Prime Minister Andrus Ansip announced alongside centre-right German politician Günther Oettinger.

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