How I became an Estonian e-resident?
Conducting business online is not easy for everyone, depending on the country they live in. Furthermore, establishing an online company is difficult for people living in countries that have lots of bureaucracy and red tape. I consider myself facing this dilemma. As a business school graduate translator from Turkey, conducting my own translation and marketing services business was a distant dream considering the number of hurdles I faced to save my business plans.
I recently heard about the e-Residency world from an Estonian friend and was introduced to the paperless, almost fully digital business environment. However, I believe it is necessary to raise the curtains on the e-Residency system a bit more before I start to talk about my journey to obtain an Estonian e-resident card. The Estonian e-Residency system refers to a government-issued digital identity and status that opens the doors to Estonia’s transparent business environment. It makes it possible to open a e-resident company online that is based in Estonia. E-Residency is referred to as “a new digital nation for the world” and this bears the meaning of an open digital environment for entrepreneurs from all over the world. The term refers to an individual holding the digital ID that allows the person to access this digital nation by establishing a private limited company.
After reading through the e-Residency Knowledge Base and the very comprehensive Support Articles of Unicount, I have decided to open my own limited company to provide my services in the EU. Applying for an e-resident card is the first step to entering this transparent business environment as a digital nomad. The e-residency applications are made through the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board’s application page. I would like to emphasize the word “transparent” because transparency is also expected from the prospective e-residents when it comes to providing personal and legal information.
The e-residency application process was very easy for me since the instructions and questions asked during the application are pretty clear. However, I would like to elaborate on a few points that I believe helped my e-residency application to be processed and accepted faster. The first thing that should be kept in mind is the pickup locations to collect your e-resident kit after it is issued and sent. Pickup locations are limited around the world and they should be checked before starting the application. This one was not a problem for me since I live in Ankara and the Estonian Embassy here is one of the pickup locations. However, a Tunisian friend of mine also applied for an e-resident card but he faces a hurdle in that he has to travel to either Egypt or Turkey to collect his kit. The other important detail that should be mentioned is that you need to have a valid travel document. The application system asks for your travel document type and relevant information from it. In my case, I used my passport as it is the only travel document that the Turkish government issues. A scanned file of your travel document is required which must be uploaded to the e-residency application. I basically scanned my passport with my phone and uploaded it to the system. Having a valid travel document is very important because it is also the document that needs to be provided when collecting an e-resident kit from pickup locations. Therefore, please ensure you have an accessible pickup location and a valid travel document before you make an application.
The application page asks applicants to create an account with an email address and sends a link to that email address to log in for the first time and also to access draft applications. My reason for applying for an e-resident card was to create and register a company. I stated my intentions briefly in the follow-up questions. My answers were pretty general, consistent, and accurate and I don’t believe they need applicants to discuss or submit their whole business plan. Again, simplicity and accurate information are essential to make these steps easier. I also mentioned that I was planning to use Unicount’s virtual address and contact person services as I learned a lot from their Support Articles and decided to go forward with them. I would also suggest scanning a recent portrait photo in advance to go faster with the application. However, if you do not have a scanned portrait photo, the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board has an amusing video guide on how to take your own portrait photos, which can be found via this link. I also added all my existing social media accounts to provide further information aside from the legal ones. The application continues with more questions on personal payment accounts and virtual currencies used and ends with further questions on criminal and additional background. Once again, 100% honest answers should lead to a faster result.
The application fee is 100 €, I had to pay an additional 20 € for my card to be sent to my pickup location. Further information can be obtained through this link on costs & fees.
I completed the application process two days before the Christmas break and was pretty convinced that I would get to know the result of my application within about three weeks. This wasn’t the case and even though there was a week of Christmas break, my e-Residency status was confirmed two weeks after my application. The Estonian Embassy in Ankara received my e-resident kit within ten days and sent me an email to allow me to arrange a pickup appointment. It is really important to be at the Embassy’s door at the right time and ensure you have your travel document with you. Otherwise, you will not be able to pick up the e-resident kit.
I rushed home with my kit after my visit to Estonian Embassy and was ready to start my e-resident company formation process, I downloaded DigiDoc and its browser extensions so as to be able to use my new eID card with my name and personal code on it. I also decided to create a Smart-ID right away to easily log in to online services such as Unicount as they are my virtual office provider company.
I faced a problem when I tried to log in to the e-Business Register and create my Smart-ID. My attempts were failing. After panicking a little, I remembered that e-resident cards’ cryptographic digital signature certificate was being activated within 24 hours after card collection. This warning is not included in the kit though and I should tell the e-Residency team to consider adding it. The next morning, I was able to check the status via DigiDoc and my card’s certificate was activated. I was a brand-new happy e-resident, looking to go forward with the rest of the process, which is my company formation journey that I will talk about in my next blog post.