Tucked away in the Baltics, located between Latvia and Russia, Estonia is a picturesque and charming country that has become a popular destination. It launched its long-awaited Digital Nomad Visa in August 2020. With a strong entrepreneurial culture, Estonia was already offering an e-residency visa, allowing remote workers to quickly open an Estonian company from abroad. Now, the digital nomad visa meets the needs of a wide range of workers and travelers. While Estonia might not have been on your list as a digital nomad, there are many reasons why you should consider it.
The Digital Nomad Visa is a temporary residence permit that allows you to work remotely for a foreign firm or as a freelancer while you are based in Estonia. There are two possible visas, the C visa, which is for a short-term stay (up to 90 days), and the D visa for a long-term stay (365 days). The good news is that it’s very accessible to almost everyone. The first requirement is to prove that you work using telecommunication technology—that you are a digital nomad. Internet or cell phone bills, invoices, website screenshots, and computer purchase receipts are accepted. Then, you must fit into one of the three following categories:
- You have a work contract with a foreign employer/company.
- You are a partner/shareholder in a company registered abroad.
- You offer freelance or consulting services to clients established abroad and have a contract with them.
Lastly, one needs to have proof of private insurance while applying (depending on your tax status, you might be able to join Estonian’s health insurance later on.) There is also a minimum salary requirement that you must meet while applying: A combined income of €3,504 (gross of tax) for the last six months. This requirement might be easier to fulfill for those living in higher-paying nations, but one could hope that it would change over the next few years.
However, the good news is that applying for the digital nomad visa will remain affordable for most: The state fee for a D visa (365 days) is €100 and for a C visa (90 days) is €80. Most importantly, passport holders from any nationality can apply, and there is no cap on the number of visas delivered, nor is there a specific window to abide by. Applications take on average 30 days to be processed.
How to Apply
You must apply for your visa at an Estonian consulate or embassy. The embassy or consulate of your choice does not have to be the home of your passport country. Or, if you don’t have access to one where you are, you could also directly fly to Estonia as a tourist and complete it locally at any Police and Border Guard office. If you plan to move with your family, you may also add your spouse and children to the application. Estonia has some excellent international schools that are more affordable than other European countries.
How It Works
Estonia is part of the European Union and the Schengen Area, so a one-year digital nomad visa could allow you to travel in the Schengen Area, depending on your nationality. If your passport allows you to follow the 90 days out of 183 days rule, you could arguably spend 90 days in Estonia and another 90 in France right after. Because you are using Estonia as your home base, you could continuously travel anywhere in the Schengen zone after spending 90 days in Estonia. This could also affect your tax status: digital nomad visa-holders who stay in Estonia for more than 183 days in a consecutive 12-month period are considered Estonian tax residents and should declare and pay taxes in the country.
Depending on your passport country, there might be bilateral agreements. The Estonian government has set up a service to address these issues more in-depth. You may direct your tax-related costumes to the Estonian Tax and Customs Board by emailing them: firstname.lastname@example.org. In most cases, becoming a tax resident would open the door to many perks, including health insurance. However, if you do not wish to become a tax resident, you can leave after 183 days on the territory and come back after.
Remote Work Culture
Estonia has a passion for technology and it is one of the most digitized countries in the world. From healthcare to education, most administrative procedures can be done online rapidly and efficiently. All residents are issued a state-issued digital identity called eID. People use their eIDs to pay bills, vote, shop, access their health information, etc. Because bureaucracy can be daunting for digital nomads when first settling in a new country, it is good to know that Estonia will offer you a very smooth process.
By extension, Estonia’s dedication to technological advances is a very fertile ground for entrepreneurs and start-ups. Visa-holders can also work remotely for an Estonian company or employer—which allows for further networking. Digital nomads will have numerous options when it comes to coworking in the country’s main cities and regular workshops and events planned. While the digital nomad visa does not offer you permanent residency or citizenship, the networking opportunities could open the door to a more permanent European expatriation.
Quality of Life
The digital nomad visa already ticks a lot of boxes for a lot of nomads, but life in Estonia also offers an excellent quality of living. Nature-lovers will love the fact that half the country is made up forests and residents are encouraged to hike, and camp in the national parks which are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Living in Tallinn would allow you to take walks by the Baltic Sea while also having access to a dynamic modern downtown.
Public transportation is also free for residents in Tallinn and most parts of the country, making it easy to travel. On average, the cost of living is much cheaper than in the rest of Europe. The other Baltic countries, as well as Scandinavia, are at your door. Estonians are multilingual, and English is widely spoken. Ultimately, the digital nomad visa would allow you to immerse yourself in a supportive professional environment while having a great life experience in a very welcoming country.
Heloise Wilson is a freelance writer and actor. She splits her time between New York and Europe while searching for the juiciest tomato to eat.
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