Case study: Using e-residency as a pathway to physical residency in Estonia
Although e-residency (https://www.e-resident.gov.ee/) does not give automatic rights to entering Estonia, it can have tremendous benefits if your goal is to physically relocate to Estonia. The basis for relocation could be a visa or a residence permit and we will focus on them using a case-study from real life - e-residency can be a real advantage. This article does not apply to EU residents who have a much easier path to relocating to Estonia. Also as a word of caution - e-residency is not a magic bullet or a quick fire way for relocation - it is a great tool/advantage if you really want to move to Estonia and are willing to follow a planned path.
In our case study a person and their family (spouse and a child) wanted to relocate to Estonia. The applicant had an existing business and after incorporating a company in Estonia we helped to start the transfer of the business to the Estonian company by making relevant agreements, opening a bank account and starting to get business income for the Estonian company. Starting to earn money with your Estonian company is of key importance.
As a side note it is important to add that immigration to Estonia is limited by the yearly quota that we have and it is quite small - usually it fills up in the first months of the year. Some situations do not go under the quota like IT-related business/work or also some nationalities like Japan, UK and USA. In our case we had a person working in the IT field.
Once you have your business and you are generating a turnover we strongly advise to apply for a long-term visa for up to 1 year. It can be either for business purpose or for employment in your own company. For that to happen you need to register your short-term employment with the Police and Border Guard and then apply for a long-term visa. It is crucial here to show that your business is able to pay the required average salary of Estonia (published here: https://www.stat.ee/en/find-statistics/statistics-theme/work-life/wages-and-salaries-and-labour-costs/average-monthly-gross-wages-and-salaries ). In our experience a totally new company not receiving and income from clients will struggle to get the short-term employment registered. If the company is not making any money yet then there is an option to apply for a long-term visa based on being a board member of your company - in this case you need to draft a confirmation letter from your company to you as the board member.
As another side note you should also know where to apply - a limited number of our embassies accept long-term visa and residence permit applications and they can be found here: https://www.vm.ee/konsulaar-viisa-ja-reisiinfo/viisainfo/viisataotlusi-menetlevad-eesti-valisesindused .
Working for at least 9 months based on short-term employment and paying the required salary open a chance to apply for a residence permit for up to 2 years based on the short-term employment. This cannot be extended unfortunately so if you wish to seek a solution for a longer time then we suggest applying for a residence permit based on working for your company and without short-term employment registration. This could become realistic after about 6 months of living in Estonia thus showing your commitment to living here and paying taxes. Even under the residence permit (issued for up to 5 years) the average salary requirement remains (after 3 years of continuous residing based on the residence permit it can be exchanged to another one based on settling permanently and then the salary requirement is significantly reduced).
The whole process described could take up to 1 year but in case of commitment and real interest it can be successfully achieved. We also cannot cover every possible aspect (every case is always different) but hopefully you now have a general framework of the options.