Estonia – The small country with a big heart for digital nomads

You might have thought the digital nomad lifestyle was just a passing trend but think again. Every year more and more people are making the leap and jumping on the digital nomad bandwagon.

In fact, founder of Nomad List, Pieter Levels predicts that by 2035 there will be 1 billion digital nomads and remote workers across the globe.

This figure might seem ridiculous at first but If you think about the increasing internet speeds, rising house prices, decrease in marriages and so on, it seems entirely logical.

Another thing you might have heard about recently that sounded crazy was the introduction of the digital nomad visa in Estonia.

Maybe it has left you thinking, why Estonia? And do I really need a visa to be a digital nomad?

The World´s First Digital Nomad Visa

In early 2018, a large community of digital nomads met with Estonia´s Minister of the Interior to discuss the creation of the world´s first digital nomad visa.

In 2019, Estonia will be the first country in the world to issue a digital nomad visa. The visa will allow digital nomads to live and work in Estonia for up to a year. The country sets to issue around 1,400 digital nomad visas.

And surely, we can only expect to see this number rise.

But, Estonia?

For such a small country, Estonia has a lot to offer. It is fast becoming a digital nomad hotspot.

The coastal capital city of Tallinn has one of the most beautiful old towns in Europe, full of history and medieval architecture.

And what do I like most about Tallinn?

It seems the rest of the world is yet to discover it. Now´s the perfect time to visit Tallinn before it becomes overrun with tourists and digital nomads.

Estonia is also part of the Schengen zone which means you can expand your horizons much further and enjoy worry-free travel around the other 24 Schengen zone countries, a huge advantage if you are from a non-EU country.

Estonia – The Digital Society

Estonia isn´t just a beautiful country. It is also probably the most digital advanced society in the world.

Estonia has been dubbed the ´Silcon valley of Europe´.

Once a member of the USSR, Estonia gained its independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Only a few years later, e-governance, e-tax and i-voting came into play.

Estonia is most likely the only country in the world where 99% of the public services are available online, 24/7. The only services you can´t do online are marriages, divorces and real estate transactions.

DID YOU KNOW??

Estonia is the bithplace of unicorn startups : Skype, Transferwise, Playtech and Taxify?

All of this has led to Estonia becoming a hassle-free environment for business and entrepreneurship.

I bet you didn´t know that Estonia ranks in third place in Europe for the number of start-ups per capita, thus making it not such an unusual choice as a digital nomad location after all.

Digital Nomads Vs. The Law

If you are already a digital nomad, you no doubt know about the complications of legally moving to and working in another country.

Taxes, banking and not actually have a set address are just a few of the problem’s digital nomads face.

We´ve already talked about the reality of being a digital nomad . Being a digital nomad looks all pretty and shiny on the outside, but it sure comes with its own set of challenges.

Have you ever landed in a new country, and the airport official asks you want your job is? What do they say when you tell them you work online? You´ll no doubt be given a strange look, and hopefully that´s all you´re given. You hope that they let you on your way. But, what would you do if they said you would be breaking the law by earning money while in their country?

estonia nomad visa

Are digital nomads really breaking the law?

This is still very much a grey area. It was a completely different story in the past when the laws regarding working in a foreign country were created. Smart phones didn´t exist, neither did online job platforms which set digital nomads up with hundreds if not thousand job possibilities.

Being a digital nomad is still a relatively new concept and right now, there aren´t many options when it comes to visas options for digital nomads. If a visa is needed, the most common procedure is to live in the chosen country on a tourist visa.

Nowadays, starting a new job or creating a business can be done anywhere using the internet. Therefore, people can move easily from A to B and manage their work from anywhere but this results in governments missing the chance to tax what they may see as ´illegal´ workers.

Sooner or later, governments around the world will need to adapt and recognise the digital nomad lifestyle, just as Estonia is doing. It seems that Estonia is one of the few countries which is recognising the changes in the way we work.

What is the digital nomad visa?

The new digital nomad visa will allow digital nomads to live legally in Estonia for one year.

Estonia Visa estonia nomad visa

The visa should be available sometime in 2019. Although the details are still being finalised. Proposed benefits for the visa include:

  • Residency in Estonia for 365 days
  • Travel access to all other European Union countries for periods of up to 90 days

It has also been mentioned that in the future Estonia could offer helpful packages for digital nomads which would include healthcare and education.

It is hoped that the program will bring in many more workers to Estonia, resulting in a huge boost to the economy.

It gives digital nomads the opportunity to live and work legally in a country.

A country without borders

While some countries are building walls, some are welcoming in foreigners with open arms.

Estonia was the first country in the world to offer e-residency visas and has been doing so since 2014.

The government issued digital ID cards allow entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world to establish and manage a location-independent business completely online.

In 2017, the e-residency scheme had over 11,000 applications.

The benefits are quite incredible.

estonia nomad visa

The aim of the e-Residency program is to make life and business easier for freelancers, digital nomads, business owners, international partners, and any other non-resident who has a relation to Estonia.

The e-residency scheme allows people to:

  • Establish and run a company online
  • Conduct banking online e.g. make electronic bank transfers
  • Have access to international payment service providers
  • Digitally sign documents (annual reports, contracts) within the company as well as with external partners
  • Verify the authenticity of signed documents
  • Encrypt and transmit documents securely
  • Declare taxes online
estonia nomad visa

Is this not opening a gate for tax dodgers and money launderers?

No! Absolutely not. Estonia is not a tax haven. Estonia has had no problems in the EU with regards to business taxation. The e-residency scheme is definitely not a short-cut to criminality.

Estonia has become a great base for starting businesses mainly because the tax system allows them to have a strong capital foundation, and improves the ability to invest.

Let’s look at how Estonia maintains control.

  • A police background check is required before e-residency can be granted.
  • Anyone who is given e-residency and sets up their own business will be subjected to the same high-level transparency as all citizens and residents who have
  • To open a bank account, it is up to the bank to thoroughly vet the e-resident and decide if they are eligible or not.
  • Lastly, anyone who breaks Estonian´s business laws will have their e-residency revoked.

E-Residency vs. Digital Nomad Visa

The introduction of a digital nomad visa can only see more tech-savvy entrepreneurs making their way to this country as this means digital nomads will now have a place where they can live and work long-term.

As discussed before, one of the biggest struggles for digital nomads to make is official. The fact is that no policy exists to support digital nomads in most countries.

Most of the time, digital nomads have no other option but to live in a country on a tourist visa. But what happens at the end of the tourist visa?

Estonia Visa estonia nomad visa

Most digital nomads have to pack up and move on to another country or they leave and re-enter again on a tourist visa. Neither are ideal situations, but right now, there is no legal way to do it any differently.

If you´re an aspiring digital nomad with entrepreneurship skills – make sure you keep your eye on Estonia – the small but digitally advanced country.

Do you want to become an e-resident? Appy HERE


“Even though there are only a little over a million of us, thanks to Estonia’s capabilities, we can make ten million payments, perform ten million requests and sign ten million contracts in just ten minutes. Even ten times larger states cannot beat us. But the good news is that it is possible to join our exclusive club of digitally empowered citizens.”
Kersti Kaljulaid
President of Estonia

Would you be interested in the world´s first digital nomad visa? Share your experience, thoughts or comments below!

READ INTERVIEWS WITH REAL DIGITAL NOMADS AND HOW THEY DID IT HERE

Nominal Nomad

What´s your opinion about this?

  1. FASCINATING! So my wife and I haven’t made it to the point in our business where we can consider ourselves nomads. We’re still trying to build up our client base locally, but the goal is to be able to travel and work from anywhere. I’m glad I read this because I had been previously thinking about Warsaw, Poland as a possible location. They’ve got their own Silicon Valley setup over there, and various video game development companies. I’ll definitely have to keep Estonia in mind.

    • That’s fantastic, sounds like you’re on the right track. Good luck with your move, Poland or Estonia – both have a lot to offer! Thanks for your kind comment

  2. Wow that’s really interesting! I hadn’t thought about the difficulties of dealing with visas as a digital nomad, but it sounds like the new visa in estonia would make that a perfect place for someone new to digital nomad life to go.

  3. Awesome read! Being originally from Latvia, I’m so proud of our northern neighbor 🙂 You’re right, the country has been doing an amazing job since the fall of the USSR to reinvent and position themselves on the global market. A friend of mine has recently become an e-citizen and I am definitely going to be looking into that option as well 🙂

  4. I have to admit, when thinking about other countries to live and work in, this wasn’t even on my radar. What an interesting read, for sure. I’m glad you wrote this to give such amazing insight to what I’d call a really unknown country.

    • Isn’t it? Not many people consider Estonia but this is an exciting opportunity! Thanks for your comment

  5. Woww! That’s such a wonder piece of info, specially for digital normads. I am so trilled to learn the way Estonia is welcoming foreigners to live there, and do business when many countries in the world is creating stricter rules and restrictions on immigrants! Thanks for sharing

  6. This article is jam packed with awesome information! First, I didn’t even know what a digital nomad was (I’ve followed your blog so now I can read up on this more!) Secondly I never realised Estonia was so far advanced in technology. It honestly would have never occurred to me. This was a really interesting post and I am definitely looking forward to reading more from you!

    • I know, right? We never hear much about Estonia and so many great companies were started there.
      We are so pleased to read this comment, thank you so much for following our blog. We’re really happy that you’re enjoying it.

  7. Have you been to Estonia? If so, is it a good place to network with other digital nomads? My husband and I are currently traveling around Europe house sitting and working online. We’ve been keeping our eye out for networking opportunities, but so far have been clinging to the south of Europe to escape the cold of Northern Europe! Do you think it’s worth braving the weather in Estonia?

    • We haven’t been to Estonia, yet! We also prefer hotter climates but as Estonia is a somewhere that is definitely geared up for cold weather, we wouldn’t rule it out!

  8. This is so neat! It would make sense to do something like this with everything growing at the pace it is.

  9. Wow, a digital nomad visa?!? What a novel concept, I can’t wait to see how it’s used. Sounds like a great opportunity for those that work in digital fields.

    • I guess untill governments start wanting to tax digital nomads, the only option is to travel as a tourist

  10. I had never even heard of e-residency or thought of a need for a travel nomad visa. A very interesting read even though I have no intentions of being a travel nomad. Good post!

    • Thanks Lynee! I think it’s only a matter of time before governments start setting rules for digital nomads.

    • Thanks for your comment. It’s nice that you’re interested in it, even if it might not be for you!

    • Haha no problem! It’s a really exciting opportunity and Estonia is definitely worth visiting!!