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Estonian visa — the start of a more fluid global workforce?

While the much-talked-about global pandemic seems to have limited our opportunities for international travel, it has actually highlighted something much more freeing; the concept of a location-independent global workforce. Digital nomads have practiced this idea for years, hunting out countries around the world with a stable internet connection, and the most accommodating visas, and working from pretty much anywhere across the globe. Luckily, Estonia has just opened up its borders to digital nomads with open arms. They are on the brink of creating a digital society, and you can be part of it.
Since 2018, Estonia has been toying with the idea of introducing the world’s first Digital Nomad Visa, hoping to find a way to accommodate this growing wave of remote workers. Last month, they’ve finally announced that the visa will be open for applications from August 1st, 2020!
This progressive visa will allow you to live and work remotely in Estonia for up to 12 months, no matter where you’re from. Before you get too excited though, there is a cap of 1,800 visas being allocated each year, and you’ll need to meet a few requirements before you can apply.

Digital Nomad Community

Believe it or not, there’s already a digital nomad scene in Estonia.
Digital nomads have been trickling into Estonia for well beyond the last decade, and although they couldn’t stay for long before they introduced this new Digital Nomad Visa, it was still an appealing country to many. It’s no surprise, though, as Estonia, a country of just 1.3 million people, has a worldwide reputation for its thriving start-up scene. In fact, the likes of Skype and Transferwise both came out of this unassuming country!
Estonia also has great internet - the one must-have for a digital-nomad-friendly location. As well as fast and reliable Wi-Fi in the majority of accommodation, Estonia has a free 4G connection in many of its public spaces too. This even includes beaches and forests, taking the idea of remote working to the next level!
As they always say, when in doubt ask an expert. We just so happen to have one in the SafetyWing team, Enelin, who’s originally from Estonia and now travels the world as a digital nomad. So here are Enelin’s thoughts on the country’s remote working scene and the introduction of this progressive new visa.
‘‘Today's digital nomad scene in Estonia is rather small but active. Those who are here love it! I even have a good friend from the USA who learned Estonian (it's not easy!) and has been living in Estonia on and off for more than 7 years now (cheers, Chris!).
I think Estonia is the perfect place for digital nomads, it has everything: a great tech scene, everyone speaks English, there are loads of cafes and coworking spaces, plenty of services to make your nomad life easy, beautiful nature and tons of cultural events! I’m very proud of Estonia’s flagship visa scheme that will hopefully pave the way for other countries in the world’’.
Tallinn, Estonia’s capital and leading start-up hub is brimming with opportunities for entrepreneurs and founders. The countries' commitment to entrepreneurs is clearly visible in the thriving startup community, networking opportunities, coworking spaces, and tech incubators.

So, how do you go about getting the Estonian e-residency?

Before you start filling in the application form, you’ll need to make sure that you’re eligible in the first place. According to the government website, that means you need to meet the following requirements.
  • You’re a remote worker.
  • You work primarily using telecommunications technology.
  • You’re either;
    - employed by a company registered outside of Estonia,
    - own your own company registered outside of Estonia,
    - work as a freelancer primarily for clients based outside of Estonia.
  • Your monthly income meets the minimum threshold of €3504.
Once you’ve checked that you’re eligible, applying for the actual visa is pretty straightforward.
Simply head to the official government website and fill in the application form. Print it out and submit it to your nearest Estonian embassy along with your €100 fee for a long-stay visa, or €80 for a short-stay visa. It’ll take around six to eight weeks to find out if your application has been accepted, after which you can pick up your E-residency kit, and you’re good to go.
We recorded an entire episode on registering as a company through the Estonian E-residency with Alex Wellman, their Marketing and Communications Team Lead.
As a remote company using the advantages of the online system Estonia is offering, you'll have the opportunity to hire remote talent from anywhere in the world. Make sure to offer the best benefits to your team, such as global health insurance that covers every team member under one plan, no matter where they are in the world.

So, what’s in it for Estonia?

We can only imagine that the main reason for the E-residency is to help strengthen Estonia’s economy. By offering up a place to live for those who have a job based outside of Estonia, the hope is that digital nomads will contribute to the country’s economy without taking anything away from it, like a job. It’ll also help elevate Estonia on the world map, and as this new Digital Nomad Visa trends around the world, it’s likely to boost the tourism scene even more.
Estonia could also benefit from extra taxes from these new regulations, which is one downside to this otherwise flexible visa. Essentially, if you end up staying in Estonia for more than 183 consecutive days, you could be considered a tax resident, and be expected to pay Estonian tax rates on your earnings. An easy fix for this is to make sure you go on a little European holiday every so often to break up your time in the country.
The benefits of this type of visa haven’t gone unnoticed by other countries.
Other European countries like Germany, Portugal, and the Czech Republic already have visas in place to accommodate remote workers for shorter periods of time. Outside of Europe, it’s possible to move to Costa Rica, and even Mexico thanks to their relaxed visa policies. And, I don’t know about you, but Barbados’ new 12-month Welcome Stamp visa program looks pretty appealing to me...
So, is this the start of a more fluid global workforce?
Only time will tell if the Digital Nomad Visa trend will catch on globally. But this pandemic has undoubtedly opened the world’s eyes to a different way of working.

About the author

Lily Jones

Guest Writer
A Lil Guide to a Long Road
Lily Jones is a freelance travel writer and copywriter currently living in London, UK. Starting with a charity expedition through Mexico and Belize at the age of 16, her love for travel and exploration of different cultures only continued to grow and influence her life and work. She managed to turn her lifelong passion into a full-time job — creating travel content and publishing travel guidebooks while staying on the road and working remotely.