Estonia’s e-notary services change the game for e-residents

E-residents no longer need to visit Estonia to use the services of a local notary thanks to remote authentication of notarial acts

E-residents can use Estonia’s world first e-notary service without visiting Estonia. Photo: Getter Kuusmaa

This blog post was written in collaboration with the Estonian Chamber of Notaries. Visit their website to find out more about the e-notary services.

A lucky coincidence in otherwise unfortunate circumstances: last year, weeks before the global pandemic broke out, the Estonian Chamber of Notaries launched its new platform of online services which included a pilot project for remotely authenticating notarial acts, otherwise known as ‘e-notary’ services. The novel service had been in the pipeline for over 5 years but came to life at the most crucial time. And it is a huge boon for e-residents, who no longer need to travel to Estonia to use the services of a local notary.

From registering a company to paying taxes, most public services have been available online in Estonia for years. Yet, certain processes still must be validated by a notary in order to protect the interests and rights of all the parties and to prevent shady dealings, like money laundering, use of shell companies etc. For example, in order to buy/sell real estate or transfer shares in a company, one must use the services of an Estonian notary to confirm the transaction. Until last year, this could only be done in-person at a notary’s office, which was clearly an inconvenience for e-residents managing their affairs from overseas.

Not anymore.

It goes without saying that during the global pandemic, it was critical to maintain the function of notarial acts so that real estate and business transactions could continue uninterrupted. The initial plan was to start slowly and pilot the new service step-by-step. As we reported on the blog back in March 2020, the initial trial allowed e-residents to use the e-notary service in Estonian Embassies in Helsinki, Brussels, Stockholm, London, and Riga:

However, the unprecedented circumstances brought about by the coronavirus pandemic pushed the government to roll out the remote authentication service to the fullest extent possible earlier than initially planned.

Now, almost all types of notarial acts can be authenticated remotely. The only exception is marriage – you really should show up for that one!

The new service allows real-time online identification using a remote verification service. The whole system is built around the Estonian digital ID card and is thus also available for all e-residents. So, if you are looking to, say, buy or sell assets in Estonia – be it real estate or shares of a company, you no longer have to visit Estonia and show up at a notary bureau. (Of course, you are most welcome to Visit Estonia for other reasons!)

Now, all you need to do is to set up an appointment on https://www.notar.ee/en with one of the many notaries providing remote authentication services and then conduct the transaction remotely via video-bridge. Simply use your e-Residency digital ID card to log in to this portal, where you can:

  • Choose a notary and make an appointment, whether in Estonia or for remote verification
  • Initiate transactions that require a notarial act and enter transaction details
  • Examine draft contracts issued by the notary before the transaction
  • Check the history of all your notarial transactions and invoices
  • Confirm transactions with electronic signature using your e-resident digital ID

Please be aware that in order for the notary to officially identify you, in addition to your e-Residency card, you must present an official ID issued by your country of citizenship, such as your passport. This is an extra layer of identification that employs the Veriff biometric facial recognition system, which uses algorithms to make sure that the person in front of the screen matches the one pictured on his/her ID.

This is not your usual Skype, Zoom or Teams call. The whole process takes place on a secure platform where you can talk to the notary, exchange documents, and ask any questions you might have. Such a solution for notarial services with its functionalities and security architecture is the first of its kind in the world!

Now just take a minute to imagine how useful this new development has been for Estonians and e-residents over the past year. By now, thousands of notarial acts have been sealed without people having to leave their home or travel here from abroad.

Visit the official website of Chamber of Notaries to get more details on how to use the e-Notary platform, book an appointment and make sure you have all you need to perform an online notarial act:

Please note that notaries are not legally obliged to provide remote authentication – so in some cases notaries may refuse to validate a transaction. We thus recommend checking with a notary prior to making an appointment that they are willing to use the remote authentication service. If not, we recommend asking for an explanation or booking an appointment with a different notary.

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