Digital nomad working outside

Estonian government to create first visa for ‘digital nomads’

Image credit: Dreamstime

The creation of the visa could allow holders to work and travel in Estonia for a year and gain access to the Schengen Zone of 26 European states, allowing them to work remotely while travelling.

Since gaining independence a century ago, Estonia has rapidly developed its tech sector and now counts itself as one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world. Estonians can access a wide and growing range of public services online, as well as ‘borderless banking’, and in 2005 the country became the first to allow its residents to vote online in national elections.

In 2014, it became the first country to offer “e-Residency”. Non-residents of Estonia are able to apply for a digital ID card which enables them to access the same public digital services as residents and to digitally sign legally binding documents online. In November 2017, the Estonian government announced that the number of e-Residency applications had grown so quickly that they had exceeded the country’s domestic birth-rate.

The e-Residency program is a major strand of Estonia’s movement towards the concept of “a country without borders”.

Continuing with this movement, the Estonian government has now announced that it will be creating the world’s first “Digital Nomad Visa”.

Estonia’s Ministry of the Interior will be working with Jobbatical – an Estonia-based international job matching company – on this programme. According to Jobbatical, 92 per cent of its customers are current or aspiring digital nomads, although a number of barriers prevent them from working and living this way. Visa complications appear to be the primary obstacle.

During the primary advisory period, the Estonian government will consult on their proposed definition of a digital nomad: a location independent worker who is able to do most of their work online thanks to technological advancements. Following this phase, the Ministry of the Interior will draft a bill to pass this into law.

A Digital Nomad Visa could allow holders to work and travel in Estonia for up to 12 months. It would also give them access to the Schengen Zone for up to 90 days, allowing them to travel across 25 other European states which have abolished passport controls at their mutual borders.

“Migration policy has to take into account the fact that in today’s globalised world, people are more mobile, often combining work and travel,” said Killu Vantsi, legal migration adviser to the Estonian government. “Estonia is at the forefront of e-solutions and our e-Residency programme has already become very popular among digital nomads, allowing them location-independent access to Estonian e-services.”

“It is therefore not surprising that the digital nomad community has suggested creating a special visa to facilitate the entry of digital nomads to Estonia.”

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