Widely considered the new Silicon Valley because it has 5 times more startups per capita than the European average, Estonia, in July 2020, introduced a digital nomad visa. This visa allows remote workers to stay in Estonia while working for companies registered abroad.
Such workers traditionally faced a lot of uncertainty while working, often outside the bounds of the law. However, in conjunction with the e-Residency program, the visa is transforming how Estonia caters to people who wish to live and work in Estonia as either freelancers or remote workers for companies abroad.
A digital nomad is a person who works remotely for a company that operates in country A while living in a different country B. Most European countries describe a digital nomad as a non-EU citizen who works remotely from the EU. So, in this case, the individual would live in Estonia while working for a company registered abroad or offer their freelance services to clients outside Estonia.
It is important to note that a foreigner in Estonia on an Estonia Estonian Digital Nomad Visa may work for a local employer; however, the primary purpose of their trip must be the remote work mentioned in the visa application.
Digital nomads have typically found it very difficult to work and travel abroad. Often they wind up operating outside the bounds of the law, particularly in Europe, where most countries don't allow digital nomad visas. As a result, working and living in a country has been very difficult for digital nomads until now.
The Estonian Digital Nomad Visa is a one-year-long visa that allows you to work remotely from Estonia as a freelancer or for a foreign company. While you don’t get any of the benefits provided by Estonian citizenship, the Estonian Digital Nomad Visa serves as a building block toward permanent residence in the future as it gives you the ability to acclimatize to the country.
Interestingly, a Digital Nomad who stays in Estonia longer than 183 days in a consecutive 12-month period qualifies to pay taxes in Estonia. Their family members can live in Estonia by applying for the visa under the same conditions. However, the visa can’t be prolonged like other visas; you must apply for a second visa after your first one expires. European law, unfortunately, dictates that your second Estonian Digital Nomad Visa can only last six months, after which you will have to leave the country. There are two kinds of visas: the C-visa and the D-visa.
Often referred to as the short-stay visa or Schengen visa, this visa is essentially an extension of the Schengen tourist visa. It allows you to stay in Estonia for 90 days within a 180 days period, just like the standard Schengen visa.
The primary documents for this application are similar to those needed for the Schengen visa:
This type of visa is a temporary stay permit that allows you to live in Estonia for a year; therefore, referred to as a long-stay visa.
Some of the main benefits of the visa are that you can live and work in Estonia for a year and travel to the other Schengen Member States for 90 days within a 180-day period. The same rules of a regular Schengen Visa apply. You can also apply for two consecutive Type D Visas. However, you must do this before your first visa expires, with enough time for the application period to lapse. The only catch is that you aren’t legally allowed to reside in Estonia for more than 548 days within a period of 730 days.
This rule implies that you would have to travel somewhere else during your stay in Estonia. There is, however, a legal workaround to this. You could use your first Estonian digital nomad visa to travel to any other Schengen country for 90 days, stay in your home country for a month, and travel to other Schengen countries using your second type D visa.
The main documents required are similar to the Type C Visa, but also include:
While it used to be difficult for freelance workers and digital nomads to work online while traveling the world, such programs are going a long way toward easing their lives.
You can apply for the Estonia Estonian Digital Nomad Visa if you meet the following eligibility criteria:
Crucially, there are no criteria based on particular skills, level of education, or employment sector. The application process also doesn't look at your native country. This allows Estonia to attract well-paid talented workers, further boosting the economy and the rapidly growing tech sector in the country.
After reviewing the eligibility criteria and ensuring you qualify, the next step is to fill in the online application form. Once you have filled it in, print the form and sign it. Next, make an appointment at the nearest Estonian consulate or embassy, where you can submit your application. Remember to take multiple copies of your application and all necessary supporting documents. Once you have submitted your application, you can expect the review process to take up to 30 days.
If you already live in Estonia and want to extend your stay, you can apply for a visa at a Police and Border Guard Board Office. You must ensure your current visa duration covers the application processing period in this scenario.
You can complete the application in Estonian, Russian, or English.
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to apply for the Estonian Digital Nomad Visa from outside of Estonia:
First, you need to collect all the necessary documents, perhaps the most critical and time-consuming part of the process. You can simplify this task by creating a document checklist. Once you have compiled the documents, store them safely, and make copies of everything.
Next, you will have to complete the application form online, which is a simple process as long as you ensure that you provide accurate information. You will have to fill in information about yourself and the purpose of your trip.
A few helpful pointers for filling out the form:
You will have to schedule an appointment at the consulate or embassy. You must contact the embassy and request an appointment slot to do this. In some countries, you can book appointments online.
The next step is attending the appointment, which includes an in-person interview with staff at the embassy.
At this stage, you will submit your application form and supporting documents. The embassy staff will question you about the purpose of your trip, and it is recommended that you use your supporting documents to back up your answers.
After the interview, you will have to submit biometric information: the staff will ask for your fingerprints and a digital photo. You can skip this step if you have visited a Schengen country in the last five years.
The final step is paying the visa application fee, which is €80 for Type C and €100 for Type D.
Now all you have to do is wait for the visa to be processed. The waiting period ranges between 15 and 30 days. If you submit the application in Estonia, you may have to wait a shorter time.
If your application is successful, you will receive a notification via call, email, or regular mail. Congratulations!
If your application is unsuccessful, you can always appeal the initial decision.
In addition to the signed application form, there are other documents that you need to carry for your appointment at the embassy. These documents differ based on nationality, job, and position and are required as proof that you meet the eligibility criteria. However, here are some basic documents that are necessary regardless of your nationality:
Examples of the above documents include:
The Estonian Digital Nomad Visa is often confused with Estonia’s e-Residency program; however, these are different. The Estonian e-Residency is a digital identity issued by the government that allows one to manage their company remotely while utilizing Estonian e-government services. The main advantage of the e-Residency is it enables you to navigate bureaucratic issues effectively. The program began in 2014 and has become a shining example of Estonia’s commitment to welcoming business from people living outside its borders.
However, e-Residency can’t be used to travel to Estonia. It doesn’t give you any benefits that a traditional or digital nomad visa does. It is simply a digital ID that lets you manage your online business without bureaucratic challenges.
The key similarity between e-Residency and the Estonian Digital Nomad Visa is that neither confers citizenship or residence. The Estonia Estonian Digital Nomad Visa allows remote workers to stay in Estonia for a year, whereas e-Residency provides a digital identity for online verification. The Estonian Digital Nomad Visa is meant for remote workers, while e-Residency is intended for digital entrepreneurs who want access to the EU single market.
Apart from what we have already covered, you may have some lingering questions regarding the entire process. Some of these could include:
No, the application can only be submitted in person either at the Embassy or the Border Guard Office.
In short, no. Even if you have an Estonian Digital Nomad Visa you will have to follow pandemic restrictions and travel requirements. Therefore, if your home country is not permitted to enter Estonia, your Estonian Digital Nomad Visa becomes useless temporarily.
You must pay taxes once you have gained tax residency. You acquire this status if you have lived in Estonia for more than half of the year (183 days over a period of 12 consecutive months). If you stay in Estonia for longer than this period, you will have to pay tax.
Yes, if you have applied for a long stay (Type D) visa. You can visit any of the 26 Schengen countries in Europe for a period of 90 days within a span of 183 days.
It is only valid for one year without an extension. Hence it won't lead to permanent residency.
No, as it would violate one of the Estonian Digital Nomad Visa requirements that the company cannot be registered within Estonia. On a Estonian Digital Nomad Visa, you can only work for companies registered outside of Estonia.
It costs €80 to apply for a Type C Visa (short-stay) and €100 to apply for a Type D Visa (long-stay).
Now that you have understood all the steps involved in applying for a Estonian Digital Nomad Visa, it is time to start the application process. It may seem like a daunting task, but the process is straightforward when you break it down into various processes: gather your documents, fill out the form, and submit your application.
If you are considering starting your journey as a digital nomad, Estonia is a great option with a rich culture, beautiful landscape, and medieval cities.
Becoming a digital nomad can be a life-changing experience if your job permits. It opens your eyes to the world and gives you unparalleled freedom. Don’t wait; start your digital nomad journey today!
While everything may seem hunky-dory, it’s crucial for you to ensure you are legally compliant. To register your company in Estonia, you need an official address. And that’s where we come in! We have launched Xolo Leap, an easy way for you to focus on your business while we handle the never-ending paperwork. Learn more here!
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