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Estonia e-residency: World’s first ‘govt start-up’ wants to make business all digital

To put it simply, if you want to be an e-resident of Estonia, all you need to do is fill a form online, upload the required documents and you are done.

Written by Shruti Dhapola | New Delhi |
Updated: October 27, 2015 2:52:11 pm

In times where nationhood and questions of citizenship are hotly debated, the Baltic-nation of Estonia is experimenting with a new mode of residency via the digital medium. Estonia’s e-residency scheme, which has been in beta mode since May this year, makes it the first country in the world to allow citizens to claim residency online.

To put it simply, if you want to be an e-resident of Estonia, all you need to do is fill a form online, upload the required documents and you are done.  The e-residency grants a secure digital identity online, a smart ID card and lets these e-citizens conduct business in the EU.

E-residents can then go on to establish a company online, declare taxes, sign documents digitally and get access to international payment service providers. And Estonia promises you can do all of this in under 20 minutes. For businesses looking for an entry into EU, this looks like a new paperless solution.

“We call it a government start-up. Plus, we’ve used the latest security protocols to keep this data safe. It will basically help e-residents get a foothold into EU market and we’re hoping more Indian businesses will try this out,” says Estonia’s Ambassador to India Viljar Lubi.

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However, e-residency does not grant an automatic visa or entry into EU. Banking is another area where e-citizens don’t get instant access. But Estonia’s ambassador admits that this is a work in progress and they hope to have a solution by next year.

“The banks in Estonia are private sector, so we can’t really dictate how they should choose a customer. And banks like to meet the potential customer in person and they need an address as well, ”says the Ambassador.

“We are in consultation with them and hopefully we can find a solution to this. We are looking to find a workaround for the address bit as well, maybe ensure one visit from the e-resident to Estonia once a year,” he adds.

Lubi claims the e-residency programme has seen over 5000 e-residents sign up since the programme was first announced. The country hopes more businesses will take up on this offer of an all new digital solution. From India, so far the programme has managed to attract AirAsia India CEO Mittu Chandilya, Woodlands CEO Harkirat Singh and Genpact India’s Pramod Bhasin as e-residents.

How the e-residency programme pans out to remains to be seen, but in age where digital is touted as the key to all, Estonia’s experiment gives a new twist to the idea of citizenship.

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