Estonia’s e-Residency program is a special kind of migration overseas. It allows foreigners to apply for a secure digital residency in the country, even though they don’t literally live there. Those who enroll in the e-residency program will get a smart card from the government of Estonia. It will be used for digital identification and authorization. The holder of the e-residency permit can:
- digitally sign documents,
- make secure transactions, and
- access secure services.
All this is allowed just like for a resident living in Estonia.
Now, the Government of Estonia has announced that internationals who are lawbreakers or those posing a threat to the public will be denied entry into the e-residency program. The announcement in this regard was made by the Ministry of Interior of Estonia.
The Ministry stated that the importance of ex-post controls is increasing simultaneously to their measures being updated and supplemented. The Ministry gave its comments after the audit of the National Audit Office. The audit revealed that 48 e-residents with Finnish citizenship had accumulated a criminal penalty in Finland while applying for a digital ID under the e-residency program.
It’s a hard task for Estonia to gather all information about a foreigner applying under the e-residency program. But it’s making its best efforts to do so to ensure that those given a digital ID are of good character and are lawful citizens.
In the case of the Finnish citizen discovered during audit, Finland did not provide the data of specific persons. Instead they offered the NAO with a list with the statistics of persons and their crimes. Obviously, this was not a useful information for the Estonian authorities.
The rules set by each country, the EU Council, and international organizations often restrict the transfer of specific data needed about individuals. The sharing of data also depends on what basis they are sought after. But exclusion of people with risky history and lack of integrity is essential to ensure the safety of the people of Estonia.
It’s possible for people with such shady credentials and malicious intent enter Estonia in the Schengen Open Visa Area. It would be hard to exclude them from tens of thousands of e-residents. This concern was expressed by Ruth Annus, the Head of the Citizenship & Migration Policy Department of the Ministry of the Interior.
Estonia continues to work harder to garner better international cooperation so that the country gets maximum information on a person applying for e-residency.
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