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Estonia: E-Residency May Be Granted to Foreign Investors

(June 6, 2014) On April 24, 2014, the Government of Estonia approved the concept of e-residency, which would allow non-resident foreign investors to use Estonian government online services, open bank accounts, and register businesses in Estonia without visiting the country. (Estonian Government Accepted E-Residency Concept, FINANCE ESTONIA (Apr. 25, 2014).) Profits from the Estonian virtual residents’ investments will be exempt from Estonian taxation if reinvested in the Estonian economy. (Virtual Residence Permit for Foreign Investors Introduced in Estonia [in Russian], NEWSRU.COM (May 23, 2014).)

To obtain e-residency status, applicants will be required to pass a background check, similar to the requirement in the visa application process, and provide his/her biometric information. Application review, identity verification, and the issuance of the ID cards will be conducted by Estonian embassies abroad. It is expected that after the proposed changes are approved by the legislature, the law will enter into force by the end of 2014. (Id.)

According to a plan presented at a government meeting, 10 million people will be able to receive Estonian residency by 2025; the current Estonian population is 1.4 million. (Kalev Aasmae, “This Is So Freaking Huge Man, It’s Insane” – The Plan to Let Anyone Become European – Digitally, ZDNET.COM (May 24, 2014).) Addressing the issue of this proposal’s compliance with European Union regulations against terrorism financing and money laundering, a government official stated “e-residency is [a] privilege, not a right, and if a person’s business activities don’t abide by the country’s laws and regulations, that privilege will be taken away by the state.” (Id.)

The actual amount of investment required to obtain EU residency via Estonia was not announced. At present, a foreign investor can apply for a temporary residence permit in Estonia after investing at least €65,000 (about US$88,500) in an Estonian business. It was reported that the Ministry of Internal Affairs recommended simplifying the issuance of permanent residence permits to those entrepreneurs who invested more than €1 million in Estonia. (Virtual Residence Permit for Foreign Investors Introduced in Estonia, supra.)