E-residency update on the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

And a look at the future of remote work

e-Residency enables entrepreneurs to run their companies entirely online

Key points

  • We are switching to webinars and online events for the first half of 2020. We will be publishing a list of these events on our events calendar in the coming weeks.
  • E-Residents can request that their digital ID cards be kept for pickup for longer than 6 months at embassies and other collection locations in order to accommodate for global travel disruptions.
  • Estonia is a leader in remote service delivery and online collaboration, and e-Residency and other institutions are ready to share their experience and knowledge.
  • We encourage everyone to follow the advice of local public health authorities to keep the most vulnerable among us safe.

Estonia is a leader in digital service delivery and online collaboration

Estonia has spent the past 25 years developing online services for its citizens and residents, built on the foundation of a strong digital identity system and a data exchange layer known as X-Road. As of 2020, 99% of Estonia’s government services are available fully online, and only a few things like marriage, divorce, and selling property require a physical presence in Estonia.

In 2015, Estonia was the first country to launch e-Residency, a government-issued digital identity and status that provides access to Estonia’s e-services, including the ability to start and run a company online, for people living beyond its borders.

Since then, over 67,000 people from more than 170 countries have applied for e-Residency and registered 12,000 new Estonian companies online, which has contributed about 17 million euros of direct benefit to the country’s economy.

As we observe what’s happening around the world with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we wanted to provide an update on what we are doing differently, and how Estonia has already proven to be a leader in the field of remote work and online service delivery.

In addition, we are keeping everyone affected in our thoughts and we encourage everyone to listen to public health authorities and to act with the intention of protecting the most vulnerable among us.

Estonian entrepreneurs were pioneers in the field of promoting remote work after launching Skype in 2003, making video calls accessible to many people around the world for the first time. Since then, other Estonian companies have built numerous products that support location-independent businesses.

Estonian companies like Transferwise and Monese have grown to become some of the largest financial technology companies in Europe, providing international payment and business banking services to people fully online. The Estonian company Toggl is one of the leading tools used by freelancers to track their time no matter where they happen to work, and other companies such Lingvist and Speakly are helping people learn a new language online in order to facilitate cross border business collaboration.

As we mentioned before, this mindset is also seen in the public sector, with the majority of government services available fully online.

The coronavirus will accelerate the growth of remote work

Organizations around the world have announced plans for adapting to the threat of the virus. Large companies such as Google have announced that they are allowing all employees to work from home from March 5th onward, and large events such as South by Southwest in the US and Latitude59 here in Estonia have been canceled, postponed, or moved to an online format.

Most e-residents apply for the programme so that they can establish and manage a trusted, location-independent EU company fully online and work from anywhere.

According to the 2019 State of Remote Work survey from Buffer, 99% of people want the opportunity to work remotely, and 91% of employers want to support remote work for their employees, up from 88% the previous year.

This preference has also been reflected in concrete growth numbers in the field. Remote work has seen an upward trend in recent years, and according to a report from FlexJobs, over a one year span between 2016 to 2017, remote work grew 7.9%, and over the last five years, it grew by 44%. As the world embarks on a massive new remote work experiment accelerated by the coronavirus, it is inevitable that organizations will start to reconsider how they manage their work, conduct/attend public events and conferences, and run their organizational travel policies.

We also estimate that many people working remotely for the first time will start to consider whether they might want to pursue entrepreneurship and start a company of their own, possibly by becoming an e-resident.

Many companies are laying off workers or reducing their hours in response to the economic impact of the virus, so starting your own business, even one considered a “side hustle” at first, can provide income security during times of uncertainty.

It’s also important to note that technological and administrative solutions are only one part of the equation that makes remote work possible. Remote workers often face loneliness and isolation in their daily lives, and certain business processes are difficult to replicate fully online. When speaking to e-residents who work online, many of them have found that being a part of a community of like-minded individuals around the world helps combat these feelings and can even lead to new opportunities for collaboration.

While it’s important to differentiate between an organization that enacts temporary “work from home” policies opposed to one fully embracing remote work, we believe that even temporary changes will accelerate the move by organizations to move to fully remote and more distributed ways of administration, with some obvious bumps along the way. Its also ok that some companies will consider this a failed experiment, and conclude that centralized offices might work best for their business model.

How are we adapting to the pandemic?

Here at e-Residency, we have decided to more fully embrace the switch to online interactions, and have decided to postpone business seminars in most places for the near future.

In-person events will be offered instead as webinars and other formats accessible remotely. Due to the global nature of our work, the bulk of our communications is done digitally, but we have still made an effort to host seminars around the world to meet the members of our digital nation directly and speak to them about the benefits of applying for e-Residency and establishing a company in Estonia.

The e-Residency team itself is also working remotely today, and will consider going fully remote soon based on recommendations from the Estonian government.

The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that e-residents who cannot travel to pick up their e-Residency digital ID card during the normal 6-month window due to global travel restrictions can request that their cards be held longer. In order to make this request, please directly contact the <
a href=”https://e-resident.gov.ee/become-an-e-resident/#available-pick-up-locations” target=”_blank”>pickup location specified in your application. To be clear, the usual 6 month period for collecting a kit will not be automatically extended. Applicants must make a specific request to their chosen pickup location.

Visit our website for the latest information

In case you want to change your chosen pickup location due to the coronavirus, please directly contact the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Konsul@mfa.ee for further instructions.

There will be additional disruptions to the delivery of e-Residency digital ID cards to pickup locations around the world, so please keep an eye on your inbox for communications from Estonia’s Police and Border Guard Board and Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the latest information.

We hope everyone stays healthy during this pandemic, and we encourage our community to listen to public health authorities and consider the most vulnerable among us when making plans.

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