With the introduction of the e-Residency program almost 6 years back, Estonia became talk of the town for all the digital nomads working throughout the world. And with the just-launched Digital Nomad Visa, Estonia is ticking all the right boxes for the digital nomads, freelancers and entrepreneurs.
For the uninitiated, the e-Residency program lets you have an EU based business without permanently moving abroad. You get a government digital identity and status. And, that lets you legally own an EU based company and tap into the digital business environment of Estonia. So, you can start and grow your company with easy access to EU customers as well as the EU startup funding. And you can do all these, while you travel across the length and breadth of EU.
Sounds interesting, right?
The newly introduced Digital Nomad Visa not just continues what started 6 years back, but raises the whole digital nomad game up a notch.
This visa not only broadens the horizon of the e-residency program already in place, but also adds the option of working from Estonia itself.
Scope of work in Digital Nomad Visa
The DNV visa offers up to 12 months of stay in Estonia to people, who already have non-Estonian work. With this visa, they will be able to stay and work in Estonia, without going through the legal hassles of a work permit.
Most of the countries don’t have a solid, clear work regulation especially in volunteering and virtual work. And you could even get your visa cancelled if you were to found working even digitally.
However, it is pretty understandable that you may need to take some work calls during your holidays abroad. And the Digital Nomad Visa makes it legal so that your work doesn’t make you transgress any kind of law. In addition, Estonia being a Schengen area country, you can travel to any other Schengen country with that visa.
So, be it to telecommunicate in your job targeting Estonia or to survey the scope of business in Estonia digitally, you can be there for up to a year without any legal hassle.
Are you eligible?
The purpose of the DNV is to attract talent from around the world who can work irrespective of their location. And their eligibility criteria are mostly to ensure you are indeed a “digital nomad”. The eligibility criteria are pretty demanding. However, if you meet the following criteria, you may start applying for the digital nomad visa right away.
- Your work is location independent
- You can continue your work completely remotely with only telecommunication
- You already have an employment contract with a Non-Estonian company, or your own company is registered abroad or you are a freelancer with mostly non-Estonian clients.
- Your last 6 months’ per month income is more than the minimum threshold, prescribed by the government. The current threshold stands at €3504(gross).
Also, you need to have sufficient health and medical insurance to cover your costs towards your health.
So, if you meet these criteria, you may apply online immediately or you can contact your nearest Estonian embassy.
How usual are those eligibility criteria
While the other criteria are pretty reasonable and obvious, the monthly income threshold is quite steep. The minimum monthly income threshold stands at €3504, which is much more than the mean income of €1407 (2019 figure) or even the median income of €1143 per month. So the requirement of minimum threshold income is nearly 2.5 times the national mean salary.
To put that into perspective, the other EU countries expect the high skill migrants to have a minimum salary, 1.5 times the national mean salary.
However, if you are moving into a country even temporarily, it will not be good to burden the country at the very start. That is why the minimum threshold is there, so that the negative impact from migration can be minimalized.
The economic reason behind the Digital Nomad Visa
Estonia is promoting Digital Nomad Visa due to the possible financial and economic implication. More e-residents are more digital nomads contribute to the local economy positively. As the eligibility criteria dictates, most of the clients of the digital nomads should be from other countries. Hence, a positive cash flow happens in the Estonian economy. Also the cost towards the stay and daily expenditure of the digital nomads help in the local economy.
So, an influx of digital nomads contributes to the local and digital economy in multiple ways.
A lot of countries are trying to attract the millennial digital nomads who are generating enough money for themselves and the local economy. Although lots of countries like Mexico, Costa Rica, Portugal and Czech Republic have similar visa programs, they are mostly for freelancers. This digital Nomad Visa not only includes the freelancers but also includes several other kind of successful professionals creating a very large pool of potential migrants.
Type of Visas
Two types of visas are available for digital nomads.
Type C visa costs €80 and allows short term stay u to 9 days.
Type D visa coasts €100 and allows up to 12 months of residence in Estonia with visa free travel in the Schengen area.
Do you need to be a skilled migrant?
All the EU countries usually grant visa to the skilled migrants, i.e the master of any craft, highly educated and working in a white collar job.
But now with the introduction of the Digital Nomad visa, you can start living in Estonia irrespective of any kind of educational or skill level and profession.
So if you are working for a foreign company and have a scope of telecommunication only work in Estonia, or you are partner of a foreign company, you are eligible to apply for the visa. That way you can easily explore the vibrant startup culture Estonia is currently waking up to.
How to apply
Once you are clear about your plans, you may start applying for the digital Nomad visa.
- First, review all the eligibility criteria carefully.
- Fill the DNV application form online, take a print and sign after all details are furnished correctly. The state fees are €80 for type C and €100 for a type D visa.
- Contact your nearest Estonian Embassy /consulate and submit your application on the stipulated date. Also remember to bring all the documents to prove your eligibility.
- Your application with be considered for eligibility and grant of visa within 30 days of your application.
If you are already in Estonia for travel or any other purpose, and would like to obtain the DNV visa, you can also apply there in Estonia. You have to contact the office of the Police and Border Guard Board regarding this. And if you are applying there, check whether you have enough time in your hand for the application processing period to be over.
Granting of the Visa
Ensure you have the necessary documents required for all the eligibility criteria. Submit those on request or with the application whenever required. However, even if you are in possession of all the correct legal documents, you will not the granted a visa immediately. A background check will be conducted like any other visa application. If all other processes go smoothly, you will be granted a Digital Nomad Visa, valid for one year.
Does Digital Nomad Visa help in permanent residency
The Digital Nomad Visa resembles a work visa and work visa can be seen as a starting point towards gaining a permanent residency. However, in reality, there is no connection between a digital nomad visa and a permanent residency. The approval of a digital nomad visa does not make you a candidate for a permanent residency. And it also grants no special benefit in any other potential status change.
Covid -19 Impact & current scenario
Due to the current pandemic, the borders are only open to EU member countries, Schengen area countries and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. However some third world country residents can also be allowed to apply on a case by case basis, if they are from the low infection and low risk list of countries, prescribed by the Estonia Foreign affairs ministry.
Q1. Is there any country of origin based or industry-based restriction in the eligibility criteria?
A1: No, there are no restrictions based on your country of origin or the industry you work in.
Q2. Is there a limit on the number of Digital Nomad Visas to be issued?
A2: There is currently no limit on the number of visa to be issued. You don’t need to hurry. Just get your papers and documents ready and apply.
Q3. If my application is successful, will I be notified and how?
A3: If your application is successful and you are granted a Digital Nomad Visa based on your documents, prospects, and eligibility, you will be notified by the embassy or consulate. You will need to visit the Estonian embassy/consulate or the Police and Border Guard office. After verifying your identity, you may pick up your Digital Nomad Visa from there.