Estonia e-residency is a digital identity program launched by the Estonian government in 2014. It allows individuals from anywhere in the world to become virtual residents of Estonia. E-residents are issued a digital ID card that allows them to sign documents electronically, register a company, access Estonian government and private sector services online, and open bank accounts in EU.
This article aims to explore the benefits of Estonia e-residency and guide you through the application process.
Interesting facts about Estonia
- Often referred to as “e-Estonia,” Estonia is the most digitally advanced country in the world. It was the first country in the world to offer e-residency and online voting in national elections. It also offers a digital ID system, digital signatures, and online public services. 99% of government services are available online.
- Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, has emerged as a vibrant tech hub attracting startups and tech companies from around the world.
- Skype, the VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service and Wise, an online bank, were founded in Estonia.
- 1 Benefits of e-residency in Estonia
- 2 How to apply for e residency in Estonia
- 3 Estonia E-residency Pickup Locations
- 4 How to register a company in Estonia as e-resident
- 5 Estonia e-residency tax
- 6 Open bank account in Estonia with e-residency
- 7 Can you work in Estonia with e-residency?
- 8 Estonia e-residency alternatives
- 9 Estonian e-Residency: Access EU Market From Anywhere in the World
Benefits of e-residency in Estonia
Estonia e-residency offers entrepreneurs the opportunity to establish and manage online businesses, access global markets, and leverage Estonia’s digital infrastructure. Benefits of e-residency include the following:
- Digital Business Management: As an e-resident, you can start an online company in Estonia, which is part of the EU. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of operating within the EU digital market, including access to EU customers, banking services, and a trusted business environment.
- Global: You can access the advantages of Estonian digital infrastructure and services regardless of physical location.
- Digital Identity: Receive an Estonian government-issued digital identity card that ensures access to various Estonian government services online.
- No Paperwork: With e-residency, you can handle important administrative tasks such as company registration, signing and authenticating documents, tax filing, and banking services easily online.
- Best Tax System: According to the International Tax Competitiveness Index 2022, Estonia has the world’s best tax system.
Don’t consider getting an e-residency for travel purposes. If your passport doesn’t give you easy access to the EU, e-residency won’t help, at least not initially. An Estonian e residency doesn’t allow you to move to Estonia or travel in the EU, although if you manage to set up a successful business in Estonia, it’s likely that you can apply for a long-term visa in Estonia, which can be a way to acquire Estonian citizenship in the long run (note that you will have to be able to speak basic Estonian).
How to apply for e residency in Estonia
First-time applications for e-resident’s digital identity card submitted by Russian and Belarusian citizens will not be accepted.
The Estonian Police and Border Guard Board (PBGB) oversees the e-Residency application process and is responsible for managing and evaluating e-residency applications. The process is entirely online and will take a few weeks to complete. Here’s the application process:
Estonia e-residency requirements
To be eligible for e-residency, you must be at least 18 years old and have no criminal record. Before beginning the application process, it is important to gather all the required documents. These include a copy of your identity card, a digital photo of yourself, a motivational statement, your CV, and information related to your previous business activities. Additionally, you will need a credit or debit card to make the necessary payment for the e-residency fees.
Estonia e-residency motivation statement: A motivation statement for Estonian e-Residency is a brief paragraph outlining why you are applying and how you intend to benefit from e-Residency. It should cover your objectives, such as accessing the EU market, utilizing Estonia’s digital infrastructure, and networking with other entrepreneurs.
Submit the application online
You should now go to the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board website and submit your application. To get started, create an account using your email address. You will receive a magic link to activate and log in to your account. No password is required. If you need to complete the application later, use the same email to log back in. Please ensure your email will be valid for the next 12 months, as it cannot be changed later.
PBGB will review your application to ensure that you meet e-residency requirements. This review process usually takes between 8 to 30 days. If the application is accepted, you will receive a notification by email. It will take an additional 2-5 weeks for your e-Residency kit to be printed and sent to your pick up location. As you collect the application, your fingerprints will also be taken. During the application process, you need to choose a pickup location that is closer to your country.
After receiving the e-residency approval, you should now use the web portal to verify that your Estonia e residency card is active. You should then install the digital ID card software and insert your digital e residency ID card into the reader and you are ready to go.
Estonia E-residency Pickup Locations
Estonian e-Residency cards can be picked up at various locations worldwide. These include Estonian embassies, consulates, and certain Service Points of the Police and Border Guard Board in Estonia. When applying for e-Residency, you can choose the most convenient pickup location based on your location and preferences. The specific available pickup locations can be found on the official website of the Estonian e-Residency program.
If you are uncertain about the best pickup location for your situation, you can seek guidance from the e-Residency helpdesk. Keep in mind that if you choose to collect your card from an Estonian embassy or consulate, it is necessary to schedule an appointment in advance. You can arrange the appointment by directly contacting the embassy or consulate.
Upon arrival of your e-Residency card at the chosen pickup location, you will receive an email notification. You will have a six-month window to collect your card. After six months, the card will be returned to the issuing authority.
Estonia e-residency fees
To obtain e-residency, there is a state fee that must be paid during the online application process. The payment can only be made using Visa or MasterCard. If you do not have a Visa or MasterCard, someone else can make the payment on your behalf.
The amount of the state fee varies depending on the pickup location you select in your application. If you choose to pick up your e-residency card at a Service Point of the Police and Border Guard Board in Estonia, the state fee is 100 euros. If you opt to collect your card from an Estonian embassy, the state fee is 120 euros, which includes both the application fee (100 euros) and a 20 euro courier fee. In the case of a collection center, the state fee is 100 euros, and an additional service fee will apply based on the chosen pickup location.
There are no annual or maintenance fees for the e-residency digital ID card. The e-residency digital ID card is valid for 5 years. The state fee for renewal or replacement is the same.
How to register a company in Estonia as e-resident
After you have collected your e-residency card, it’s pretty simple to register a company in Estonia online. You can go to the e-Business Register portal and set up a fully fledged company in the European Union.
The process of registering a company involves several steps. First, you need to identify your business model. Next, choose a unique name for your company that is not already registered in Estonia’s company registry. If your management team is located outside of Estonia, you will need to obtain a legal address and appoint a contact person service in Estonia to facilitate communication with local authorities. You can use services such as Xolo for local contact and legal address. You also need to open a bank account (see more details below).
State fees for company registration in Estonia
|Legal person||Registration||Application for amendment|
|Sole proprietor||20 EUR||10 EUR|
|General partnership||20 EUR||10 EUR|
|Limited partnership||20 EUR||10 EUR|
|Private limited company||expedited processing 265 EUR / (regular processing 200 EUR)||25 EUR|
|Public limited company||200 EUR||25 EUR|
|Branch of foreign company||200 EUR||25 EUR|
Estonia e-residency tax
E-residency alone does not automatically grant Estonian tax residency. However, if you become an e-resident and establish a company in Estonia, your company will be considered an Estonian tax resident. As a result, your company will be responsible for paying taxes in Estonia on its global income. If you, as an e-resident, receive dividends from an Estonian company, you will be required to pay taxes on those dividends in your home country. Nevertheless, if your country of residence has a double taxation agreement with Estonia, you may be eligible to claim a tax credit for the taxes paid in Estonia on those dividends.
The tax implications of e-residency can be complex. Therefore, you are strongly adised to seek guidance from a tax advisor such as Xolo to understand your e-residency tax obligations in Estonia.
Xolo e-residency services
Xolo, formerly LeapIN, is a company that provides comprehensive banking, compliance, taxation, invoicing, and administrative solutions for Estonian e-residents. It offers two main products: Xolo Go and Xolo Leap. With Xolo Go, you can avoid the hassle of setting up a complete company. Xolo’s virtual company takes care of all the legal requirements, leaving you free to concentrate on your business activities. They charge a flat-rate fee of 5% of your profit and 0.9% processing fee whenever you withdraw funds to your personal bank account. On the other hand, Xolo Leap is designed for entrepreneurs who want to establish their own company. It offers more flexibility and control over the business operations, allowing you to take charge while Xolo handles the administrative and compliance aspects. Xolo Leap fee starts at €89/month.
This is a lot of value compared to setting up and managing a Limited company in countries such as the Netherlands and Germany, where you tend to pay a minimum of €2000 per year for handling all the paperwork. Plus in Estonia there is actually no paperwork.
If you use the code FIFI you will get a bonus of 100 euro when signing up with Xolo.
Open bank account in Estonia with e-residency
To open Estonia e-residency bank account, it is recommended that you opt for a business banking account offered by a fintech company based in the European Economic Area (EEA). This allows for the convenience of opening the account entirely online. Your Estonian e residency business bank account will come with IBAN and allow you to transfer money for free in SEPA region. There are several good options for business bank accounts:
- LHV.ee, if you choose to use Xolo. for admin tasks, LHV bank is a good choice if you need an Estonian IBAN, e.g. for receiving payments from Google Adsense.
- Wise Business Account, formerly TransferWise, is free and also offers accounts in other countries and currencies, including USD and GBP
- N26 Business Account
- Revolut Business Account
- PaySera is a payment solution that offers various services such as IBAN accounts, online payments, currency exchange, mobile payments, and business payments.
- Holvi is a Finnish bank with a nicely integrated platform. Costs are currently €9/month.
- Swedbank and other banks in Estonia can be good options but it’s useful if you can be introduced by a service provider.
Can you work in Estonia with e-residency?
As a non-EU citizen, having e-Residency status in Estonia does not grant you the right to visit, work, or reside in the country. However, if you are an e-resident with a registered company in Estonia, you can physically work in Estonia for your company without the need to register for short-term employment, under the following conditions:
- You have a valid legal basis to stay in Estonia for the intended duration of your stay.
- You are performing director or supervisory functions for your company.
Estonia e-residency alternatives
Here is the list of e-Residency alternatives to Estonia:
- Lithuania has recently introduced its own e-Residency program in 2021, resembling Estonia’s initiative. This program presents similar advantages, including the convenience of establishing a company, opening a bank account online, and the ability to digitally sign contracts and file taxes.
- Portugal’s e-Residency program is also similar to Estonia’s, but it offers some additional benefits, such as the ability to apply for a temporary residence visa.
- Cyprus’s e-Residency program differs slightly from Estonia’s, as it specifically targets high-net-worth individuals seeking relocation to Cyprus.
In Germany it was easy to set up my business, but became very complicated and risky as I progressed. Moving from a self-employed Einzelunternehmer to a Limited Company (GmbH) would require €25,000 in share capital which I didn’t have, as well as an uncomfortable amount of bureaucracy. Whilst I don’t mind being a tax resident or paying taxes per se, the complexity and paperwork required quickly became a problem. — Michelle
Estonian e-Residency: Access EU Market From Anywhere in the World
Estonian e-residency offers a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs worldwide to tap into Estonia’s digital ecosystem and unlock global business potential. By applying for e-Residency, you gain access to a range of digital services, business management tools, and the chance to run an EU company from anywhere in the world. You can also access services such as EU bank accounts that you couldn’t access as a non resident. While it doesn’t provide physical residency, e-residency opens doors to new digital opportunities, and the advantages of Estonia’s advanced digital infrastructure.
Can I live in Estonia with e-Residency?
No, Estonia's e-Residency program does not grant the right to live in Estonia. It provides digital identity and business services to non-residents, but not physical residency. If you are interested in living in Estonia, you would need to explore other visa or residence permit options available.
How long does it take to get Estonian e-residency?
The entire process from application to receiving your Estonian e-Residency kit usually takes around 4–8 weeks, but it can vary depending on individual circumstances and demand.
Is Estonia e residency worth it?
Estonian e-residency is a program enabling non-Estonians to establish and operate an online business in Estonia. While it doesn't provide residency or work rights, it offers access to the EU market, Estonia's digital government infrastructure, and a favorable corporate tax rate.
Can I travel to Estonia with e residency?
Yes, having Estonian e-residency allows you to travel to Estonia as a visitor. However, e-residency itself does not grant any travel or visa privileges. As an e-resident, you will need to comply with the visa requirements and restrictions based on your nationality and purpose of travel to Estonia.
How much does eEstonia e-residency cost?
The state fee for Estonian e-Residency varies based on the chosen pickup location. If you select a Service Point in Estonia, the fee is 100 euros. Alternatively, if you opt to collect your e-residency card from an Estonian embassy, the fee is 120 euros, covering both the application fee (100 euros) and a 20 euro courier fee.
How long is Estonia e-residency validity?
The Estonian e-Residency card has a validity period of five years. After the five-year validity period expires, you will need to renew your e-Residency card if you wish to continue using the e-Residency program. You can renew your card up to 3 months before it expires. You will need to submit a new application for a digital ID card and pay the application fee.