How e-Residency is helping small businesses around the world adapt to COVID-19

E-Residency is readymade for remote working entrepreneurs, so at a time when many people around the world are looking to start their own small businesses or shift to freelance work online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Estonia’s groundbreaking programme is more relevant than ever. Having access to Estonia’s digital nation enables 70,000 e-residents from over 170 countries to run their businesses entirely online from anywhere.

What is e-Residency?

E-Residency is a digital identity issued by the Republic of Estonia to people outside its borders, which enables them to securely verify themselves online and access all tools needed to launch an online business.  E-residents can register an EU-based company within a day, digitally sign and encrypt documents and contracts in line with the highest EU standards, access a range of business banking and payment options, and declare and pay taxes online. Last but not least, they join a global community of like-minded remote entrepreneurs and startup founders from around the world.

The programme is especially attractive for location-independent entrepreneurs who want to set up a company based in the trusted, transparent business environment of Estonia and by extension the EU. E-residents run businesses in a range of sectors, including IT and digital marketing, consulting, translation, recruitment, and eCommerce. Like Christoph Huebner, originally from Germany, who runs his insurance startup while travelling around the world. Or Glasgow-based Vicky Brock, who set up her Estonian company to keep her business in the EU after Brexit. Read more e-resident stories on our blog.

How did COVID-19 impact e-Residency and e-residents?

Despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19, e-Residency applications and access to Estonia’s e-services have been unaffected. E-residents have continued to access all digital services in the country, including the company registration portal, tax board website (EMTA), online banking, and more. Due to travel restrictions or border closures, some e-residents have at times faced disruptions in picking up their digital IDs, but we continue to work hard along with Estonia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to alleviate and address these.

The e-Residency team has also shifted our 2020 priorities and activities as a result of COVID-19 by focusing on how we can help e-resident entrepreneurs withstand the uncertain economic situation. This has involved transforming the way we interact with our community of e-residents, for example by offering more online events and webinars in lieu of physical meet-ups and helping raise the profile of e-resident businesses on our website, blog, and social media. COVID-19 has also highlighted the need for us to accelerate longer term projects and strategies to open up access to e-Residency to more people around the world, e.g. by expanding pickup locations and looking at how to make the pickup process more seamless.

In our covid impact survey, we learned that many e-resident entrepreneurs are also adapting their businesses, including by pivoting to new revenue streams, going virtual, finding new clients and markets, or helping those in need. The survey respondents confirmed that e-Residency has made it easier to undertake these activities during the crisis as it is ready made for running a borderless business remotely, supporting a lean and agile company setup, and focusing on creating value.

COVID-19 has also revealed that our community is full of good samaritans.  Every day, we hear inspiring stories about those using their skills for good, like Sri Lankan e-resident Alagan Mahalingam and his team at Expert Republic offering an all-in-one video platform for professionals to offer online consultations and Vicky Brock tackling the increase in online scams and misinformation created by the crisis through her company Vistalworks. Plus, we set up a community page for e-residents to volunteer their time and expertise for others doing it tough and were blown away with the response and the generosity of what was on offer.

How to apply?

It’s simple and quick to become an e-resident and join our 70,000-strong community. The first step is to apply online and pay the state fee. Your application will be checked by Estonia’s Police and Border Guard, which normally takes around 30 days. If approved, they will email you and let you know when your digital ID card and e-Residency kit is ready for pickup. Once you have your digital ID, you can establish your business and start taking advantage of all that Estonia’s e-services offer. Find out more and subscribe to our newsletter at the e-Residency website.