4. How to Apply for Estonian e-Residency
Before you start your business, open a bank account, or begin your new life as an international VIP, you need to actually complete the application for Estonian e-residency. Luckily, it’s not that difficult; but it does require some effort. In this article, we’re going to take you through, step by step, how to apply for e-residency and what to expect when you do.
Brief Outline of the Whole Process
The good news is that most of the application process can be handled online… most, but not all. At some point you’ll need to go and pick up your physical digital ID card and card reader from the nearest Estonian embassy or consulate.
Getting to the pick-up location may be inconvenient, as there are only a limited number of Estonian embassies and consulates in the world. Depending on where you live, you may need to travel to another city, state/province, or even country. (Later in the article, we list all the available pick-up locations so you can find the one closest to you.)
Everything together, it’s pretty much a two-step process:
- Fill out the application online
- Pick up your ID card after (at least) 30 days.
The initial online application takes about 15-30 minutes (depending on how long you spend on the Motivation Statement), and requires a few basic materials:
- Digital photo of your government-issued ID
- Digital photo of yourself meeting all the requirements
- Visa or Mastercard for payment
- 100€ fee (plus credit card service fee of 1.99€)
Below, you can see a screenshot of the entire application.
The Online Application Process
Let’s go through each step of the process one by one:
Type of Application
This is mostly to distinguish between applying for a new e-residency, or updating a previous one, whether something happened to it or it has expired.
Personal Details and Contact Information
Pretty standard information about your name, address, phone number, etc. Just make sure it matches whichever government ID you’ve chosen to use.
This is where you enter the specifics of your government ID, like your ID number and expiration date, etc. You’ll also need to upload a digital photocopy of the same ID, along with a customized photo of yourself that meets the program’s guidelines.
E-Residency Photo Requirements
As with any other government record, the official photo for your e-residency must comply to the state rulings. You’ll need a digital version of the photo to upload during the application process.
You can see the complete list of guidelines in the photo below, but here are some key takeaway points to consider:
- Color photo 4 cm x 5 cm
- No more than 6 months old
- Original (i.e., you can’t scan your passport photo)
- Plain, light-color background
- You must be facing the camera directly; no angled shots
- Consistent lighting; no heavy shadows
- No red eyes
- Eyes fully opened
- Face centered within frame
- No obstruction of hair in your face
- Glasses are okay, as long as your eyes are clearly visible
- No non-religious head coverings (if you require a religious head covering, see the special rules)
Reason for Application
That’s right — in the style of a college application letter, you have to write a brief “essay” on why you want to apply. It doesn’t have to be Shakespearean or anything; they just want to hear why you’re applying in your own words. A few simple paragraphs will suffice.
Below the Motivation Statement is an area where you can upload any optional support documents. These could be business documentation, special permits from the Interior Ministry of Estonia, or anything else you’d consider relevant to your application.
Then, after a quick legal confirmation that you didn’t lie and the option to receive newsletter-like informational emails, you submit your application and move on to the Payment page.
Once your application has been sent through correctly, you’ll receive a confirmation email from the Estonian government along with links for further assistance.
Keep in mind that the application needs to be reviewed. Most applications get accepted (we mention in another article the current acceptance rate is around 94% with 2% pending), so no need to worry about any spelling errors in your written statement. However, it does take some time, roughly 30 days.
As they state outright, the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board will conduct a background check on you during the review process. You may need to submit further information on request if they have any questions.
If your application is accepted, you will receive a notification by mail that invites you to pick up your ID card at the location you specified when you applied. At the pick-up point, you will have to:
- show the same government-issued ID that you used for the application
- provide fingerprints to the consular or police officer.
After that, you receive your e-residency kit, which includes the digital ID card and card reader.
There are only a limited amount of Estonian embassies and consulates in the world — 39 official locations outside of Estonia — so finding a place to pick up your ID card may be the most challenging part of the entire process. Here are all the current available locations, organized by country, as of June 12, 2017:
- Australia: Canberra
- Austria: Vienna
- Azerbaijan: Baku
- Belarus: Minsk
- Belgium: Brussels
- Canada: Ottawa
- China: Beijing
- Czech Republic: Prague
- Denmark: Copenhagen
- Egypt: Cairo
- Finland: Helsinki
- France: Paris
- Georgia: Tbilisi
- Germany: Berlin
- Greece: Athens
- India: New Delhi
- Ireland: Dublin
- Israel: Tel Aviv
- Italy: Rome
- Japan: Tokyo
- Kazakhstan: Astana
- Latvia: Riga
- Lithuania: Vilnius
- Netherlands: The Hague
- Norway: Oslo
- Poland: Warsaw
- Portugal: Lisbon
- Russia: Moscow
- Russia: Pskov
- Russia: St. Petersburg
- Singapore: Singapore
- Spain: Madrid
- Sweden: Stockholm
- Turkey: Ankara
- United Kingdom: London
- Ukraine: Kiev
- USA: New York City
- USA: San Francisco
- USA: Washington, DC
Additionally, you can pick up your e-residency kit at one of the offices within Estonia itself.
Once the groundwork is out of the way, you’re free to enjoy all the perks the Estonian e-residency program has to offer. All things considered, the application process really isn’t so bad. The fee and the time period are both quite low for full review and background check, and what’s waiting another month before beginning a new international life.
This post is Part 4 of our 5 part “Complete Guide to Estonian e-Residency.” We will release a new chapter every 2 weeks. Subscribe to our email list to get updates when we release new posts!