The digital world is getting more inclusive than the real world. Just this week, the Republic of Estonia announced the world’s first e-residency status to anyone who wants to visit its borders. It definitely gives a new meaning to the term Internet citizen.
Unfortunately, the new residency doesn’t give Internet users the same rights as real residents of Estonia; e-residency status “will not entail full legal residency or citizenship or right of entry to Estonia.” With digital status, you can expect to receive “secure access to Estonia’s digital services and an opportunity to give digital signatures in an electronic environment. Such digital identification and signing is legally fully equal to face-to-face identification and handwritten signatures in the European Union.”
Likewise, the Identification Card for e-status is not a real card at all, but is similar to other digital services — perhaps like Facebook — except you have to sign up in real life. To get one, you must “visit a Police and Border Guard office in Estonia — there you need to submit an application and provide biometric data (your facial image and fingerprints) for background check.”
Then, a “decision will be made in max. two weeks and if all is OK, the card will be issued to the applicant in-person at the Police and Border Guard office.” You have to pay a “one-time state fee for the card [which] is €50, other fees will depend on service providers — public digital services will be offered mostly free-of-charge, just like to ‘real’ residents.”
Overall, it feels more like a marketing scheme than a real digital society unless you already have a lot of connections to Estonia. According to the project’s website, the e-residency will be most useful for “entrepreneurs and others who already have some relationship to Estonia, [those] who do business, work, study or visit here but have not become a resident.”