Expert panel presents Estonia’s Digital Nomad Visa at Latitude59

Industry and Government experts on the benefits of Estonia’s groundbreaking new visa for remote workers

From L to R: Huebner, Kruustük, Annus, and Vatter on stage at Latitude59 2020

Estonia’s flagship startup and tech conference Latitude59 took place two weeks ago here in Tallinn.

In a previous blog post, I gave a general recap of the event and how the e-Residency community took part in full force both physically and digitally. We co-hosted the Meet Estonia relaxation and networking area along with Invest in Estonia, Work in Estonia, and Startup Estonia. A few of our e-residents were stars of the stage and press, including Vicky Brock, CEO of Vistalworks. Some of my colleagues took part in virtual mentoring sessions with entrepreneurs from around the world.

And last but not least, we hosted a popular panel discussion on Friday afternoon on the global rise in remote working and how Estonia’s Digital Nomad Visa is leading the charge to take advantage of this phenomenon.

E-Residency Managing Director Ott Vatter chaired a panel of expert guests, including Ruth Annus from Estonia’s Ministry of Interior, Kristel Kruustük, CEO of Testlio, and e-resident Christoph Huebner, co-founder and President of EERICA (Estonian e-Residents International Chamber Association).

The panel discussed the trend of remote working and how COVID-19 has accelerated it. Working from home or on the road is the new normal. Yet, a big problem is that so far many people living the digital nomad lifestyle do so on tourist visas and therefore outside the legal boundaries of a country’s migration and labour laws. A show of hands in the room showed that the vast majority of people present have at some point worked in a foreign country while only legally being there on a tourist visa!

With its new Digital Nomad Visa, Estonia is legitimatising the right to stay in Estonia and work remotely for an overseas employer, company, or clients for up to 12 months.

Annus explained that the Estonia Government:

“designed the digital nomad visa together with the (business) community. We asked — what do you actually need? We found out that remote working and tourism combined is a lifestyle that is not covered in our legislation and in most countries’ laws. Why do we need to ask people to work on the spot, being physically present, when they can work remotely? Usually people work on a tourist visa, but this is not allowed. A tourist visa is not meant for working.”

And it’s not just the right to work that is a legal issue, but other important employment considerations like taxes and health insurance too. Annus noted that the Government of Estonia is aware of these issues and is currently discussing how the Estonian tax and insurance system will apply for holders of the digital nomad visa. (Side note: we are hoping to have answers some time in Fall/Autumn and I will post a blog explaining them in detail as soon as possible.)

It is unsurprising that Estonia is not just thinking about these problems but also leading the way in trying to solve them as well. After all, the digital nation has already transformed the way a country serves people beyond its borders through programmes such as e-Residency. And now with the new visa, its transforming how people in the world choose to work.

Huebner explained that the success of the e-Residency programme for Estonia gives some indications about the advantages such a visa can also provide, including financial benefits, economic growth opportunities, and raised cultural awareness:

“I come to Estonia up to a few months a year for business, I pay corporate taxes here and spend money into the local economy. I also spread awareness of Estonia around the world as one of its biggest fanboys. Through meeting other e-residents and digital nomads around the world, I have also found new business opportunities — like just recently starting to build an insurance broker specialised in global health insurance right here in Estonia.”

While there are still some legal barriers in the way to work through, the announcement of Estonia’s new visa has led to other countries launching their own versions. As Annus said in the panel:

“The world is competing for talented people with innovative thinking… The indirect influence (of a visa) is even bigger. The more Estonia is known in the world as an innovative country, the more people want to come here, invest here and our companies get the opportunity to export the services as well. So combined with e-Residency and maybe at some point with the startup visa programme, we can have a nice package of e-state services that helps to make Estonia bigger.”

You can watch the panel here:

For more information about the Digital Nomad Visa:

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