The Republic of Estonia will be the first country in the world to offer what it calls “e-residency.”
For €50 (about $US63), the Baltic state’s e-residents will have access to the country’s “digital services and an opportunity to give digital signatures in an electronic environment.” This will include access to services like online banking, education, and healthcare, according to International Business Times.
In the European Union, digital signatures from Estonian e-residents will be considered legally equivalent to handwritten signatures.
Estonia is marketing the e-residency toward entrepreneurs and others who may do business in Estonia but don’t want to commit to legal residency and citizenship. It’s part of Estonia’s e-Estonia initiative, a collaboration between the government and the country’s ICT industry, which aims to make Estonia one of the most digitally progressive countries in the world.
The government of Estonia is quick to point out that e-residency won’t guarantee legal residency or citizenship in Estonia. And to apply to become an e-resident, you’ll need to pay an in-person visit to an Estonian Police and Border Guard office to submit an application there. Within two weeks, a decision will be made, and you’ll have to return to an Estonian Police and Border Guard office to pick up your e-residency card (The government of Estonia says it’s working to “add capacity” to its embassies to be able to process applications for e-residency abroad within the next year, though).
The e-residency card isn’t your typical, physical identification card — it doesn’t even have your photo on it. Instead, it has a microchip with embedded security certificates, and has two-factor authentication. According to the Estonian government, “These [security certificates] enable the card to be used with a small piece of software installed and a reader attached via USB to a computer.”
Estonia will start issuing its e-resident digital identities by the end of the year.
All of Estonia’s legal residents who are 15 and older already have electronic ID cards. Estonian hospitals issue digital health insurance and birth certificates for newsborns, too. And, as the Economist reports, “no security breaches have been reported” in over a decade since the country started using digital ID cards.