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Estonia to offer 'e-resident' status to world+dog

ID card will carry security certificate allowing access to Estonian digital services

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The Republic of Estonia will offer “e-residency”, a digital identity issued by the Baltic nation that offers access to government electronic services.

The site promoting the idea says “An e-resident will be a physical person who has received the e-resident’s digital identity (smart ID-card) from the Republic of Estonia.”

Holding the card “will not entail full legal residency or citizenship or right of entry to Estonia” but will allow “secure access to Estonia’s digital services and an opportunity to give digital signatures in an electronic environment.”

That's handy because “such digital identification and signing is legally fully equal to face-to-face identification and handwritten signatures in the European Union.”

The ID card “has no photo on it, but it does have a microchip with security certificates. These enable the card to be used with a small piece of software installed on your PC and a reader attached via USB to the computer. It works using two-factor authentication. To get access to a service or sign something digitally, you need to enter a secure PIN that only you will know.

The nation is talking up e-residency status as a handy way to do business in Estonia, or to take advantage of Estonian digital services. As the promotional material explains:

“... e-residency is also launched as a platform to offer digital services to a global audience with no prior Estonian affiliation – for anybody who wants to run their business and life in the most convenient aka digital way!”

Sounds like fun? Cool your jets: for now you have to visit Estonia to apply for e-residency and the process is a bit icky. You'll need to visit a Police and Border Guard office, “submit an application and provide biometrical data (your facial image and fingerprints) for background check” and fork over 50 Euros.

A decision on whether or not to grant e-residency will take up to two weeks, and you'll need to go back to the Police or Border Guard office to pick up your card.

Estonia says it is “working to add capacity to our embassies to process e-residency applications and issue cards abroad by the end of 2015 – so that you would not necessarily need to travel to Estonia to join us as an e-resident.”

Most Reg readers reside in nations where Estonia maintains a diplomatic outpost, but folks in South America, Africa and South-East Asia are going to find picking up an e-residency card difficult unless they can plan a two-week holiday. ®


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