But don’t pack your bags just yet
You can now become an e-resident of Estonia.
You can now work remotely from the Baltic European Union country of Estonia. It just became the first country to offer e-residency to digital nomads, irrespective of where they may be physically based.
As the majority of us suddenly learn that we did not in fact need to waste our lives commuting to get to a common office location to work effectively with colleagues and be productive, gainfully-employed members of society, working remotely might actually be a trend that will stick around, hopefully longer than the virus does. And now for those who operate their own businesses that don’t require physical infrastructure, Estonia is offering an e-residency that allows you to set up operations in the EU country.
Located in northern Europe, with Finland to the north and Latvia to the south, Russia to the east and Sweden to the west, Estonia is opening itself up to people who would like to incorporate and grow their business in the EU. The residency is aimed at those who work online and may not be based in any one country or location for an extended period of time; freelancers; startups looking to set up operations in the EU; and other digital entrepreneurs working in finance, tech and marketing who would like a European presence. The country is expected to issue 1,800 e-residency permits every year.
What is an e-residency?
The e-residency application costs €100 (INR8,620) and it is designed to help you set up a location-independent Estonian and EU company that has no physical infrastructure in the country or anywhere in the world for that matter. When you are granted e-residency you also get a unique digital ID that helps you sign contracts, file taxes in Estonia (personal and corporate tax rate is a competitive 20 percent), receive funding and payments, all digitally encrypted. Also, you will have an EU-registered company that gives you access to the single market to scale up your business and access funds from within the economic bloc without any additional red-tape. Also, unlike with traditional businesses with physical infrastructure, you do not have to appoint a local Estonian director or employees.
While a small number of countries like Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic and Mexico offer freelance and long-term visas aimed at the digital nomad, the Estonian e-residency is the first of its kind.
How does it work?
You sign up to the programme here, fill out the online form providing contact details, immigration info as well as a resume, criminal history and why you would like to set up a business in Estonia. Your application is vetted by local law enforcement and immigration authorities. If successful, an e-residency kit is mailed to the Estonian embassy closest to you. The kit has a digital e-residency card, a USB-enabled digital ID card reader and an envelope with a number of PIN numbers to be used with your e-residency card.
The Estonian e-residency kit gives you access to all of the EU’s business community.
You will also need to set up a virtual legal address, establish an Estonian contact person (this person is not in any way involved in the workings of the company), set up banking and hire any other service providers your e-enterprise might need. You can find a vetted list of service providers here.
The idea is you get to operate a business in a country that has been ranked the 15th best in terms of economic freedom, 16th best in ease of doing business (India ranks 63rd) and the 18th most transparent and least corrupt countries in the world. What does Estonia get out of this? Your innovations in its country and tax Euros.
What can you NOT use your e-residency for?
Your e-residency kit simply allows you to operate a digital business based in Estonia. You will notice your e-residency card does not have your photograph on it and this is because it cannot be used to travel or immigrate. If you want to visit Estonia you will still need to apply for a Schengen visa.