Digital nomads are always on the hunt for amazing places to work while traveling, soaking up the local culture while also being able to be productive.
Nobody knows exactly how many digital nomads there are in the world but suffice to say the number over the last decade has gone from just a handful of people to upwards of millions—with many more new nomads joining the movement after COVID-19, as they can now work remote (or in other words, work from anywhere).
Governments are starting to take notice—like Estonia—and have created digital nomad visas and incentives for remote workers who travel while working.
Officially known as the Republic of Estonia, Estonia is a beautiful country that borders the Baltic Sea in northern Europe. Since the 13th century AD, Estonia has been ruled by the Germans, the Danish, the Swedish, the Polish, and the Soviet Union, but since 1991, Estonia has been its own democratic nation. It’s well-known for being one of the most digitally-advanced nations in the world—elections in Estonia have been held on the Internet since 2005, and Estonia was also the first nation to offer an e-Residency program, which allows non-Estonians to gain access to Estonian services like banking, payment processing, taxation, and company formation.
Estonia’s capital city, Tallinn, is also its largest and most populous. It’s one of the most well-preserved medieval cities in all of Europe, but it’s also famous for its startup culture—Tallinn boasts the most startups per person out of all of the cities in Europe. Other important Estonian cities include Tartu, Narva, Pärnu, Kohtla-Järve, and Viljandi.
Estonia boasts beautiful medieval architecture and natural landscapes, making it one of the most charming countries in Europe. Despite its stunning beauty, it’s still one of the least-populated members of the European Union, making it an absolute hidden gem!
Estonia’s beautiful culture incorporates aspects of indigenous Estonian traditions with the traditions of other European countries, like Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. Estonian is the official language of Estonia, but significant portions of the population also speak Russian, English, Finnish, German, and Swedish.
One of the coolest Estonian traditions is the holiday Jaanipäev, a midsummer celebration that traditionally involves building huge bonfires in the countryside to celebrate the summertime and ward away bad luck. Traditional Estonian food is similar to other Baltic and Nordic cuisines, and includes dishes like pickles, cold meats, potato salad, pirukad (fried buns filled with meat, rice, and vegetables), and black rye bread.
Estonia’s beautiful medieval architecture is one of its best selling points. To experience the best that Estonia has to offer, be sure to visit the Old Town of Tallinn, whose architecture is largely the same now as it was during the 14th and 15th centuries.
Other amazing Estonian architecture can be found at Narva Castle and the Old City of Tartu. To enjoy Estonia’s beautiful natural landscapes, visit Narva Joesuu, which is known as Estonia’s most beautiful beach, and the Tartu University Botanical Garden, which was established in 1803 and is one of the oldest botanical gardens in all of Europe.
Estonia’s climate is quite temperate, with temperatures averaging in the low 20°F range during the wintertime and the low 60°F range during the summertime. There are over 1500 lakes in Estonia, the largest of which is Lake Peipus. Lake Peipus lies on the border between Estonia and Russia, and is a popular place for fishing and other recreational activities. When Estonia was part of the Soviet Union, its natural areas fell victim to pollution by the Soviet army, but ever since 2004, national parks have been established, which are designed to preserve the natural, cultural, and biological heritage of Estonia’s forests, coastlines, rivers, and wetlands.
As one of the most technologically advanced countries in the European Union, Estonia is a great place to conduct business. The average Internet speed is 25 Mbps in Tallinn and 50 Mbps in Tartu. If you work in the tech industry, Estonia is a particularly good place to work in—it has a vibrant startup culture, and is the birthplace of companies like Skype, Fortumo, and TransferWise.
Estonia’s newly-launched digital nomad visa is one of the most exciting new opportunities for remote workers and freelancers! As of August 1, 2020, eligible remote workers can apply to live and work in Estonia for up to one year through their digital nomad program!
Most long-term visas require local employment. This has been a problem for digital nomads, who have a remote job and simply want to live in a location like Estonia for a span of time.
The idea behind a digital nomad visa is the sound reasoning that it shouldn’t matter where you are, as long as you can support yourself. It’s a government recognizing what digital nomads have known for years.
In other words, the digital nomad visa legitimizes the lifestyle by saying you can live in a country legally for a period of time and you can work from your laptop there.
Digital nomad visas are a relatively new development in the world of international travel. Countries like Costa Rica, Mexico, Portugal, and the Czech Republic have digital nomad visa programs, but their programs are mainly targeted towards freelancers. Estonia’s program is unique because entrepreneurs and teleworkers employed by foreign-registered companies are also eligible.
Given Estonia’s status as one of the most digitally-advanced nations in the European Union, this presents an incredibly exciting opportunity for anyone who’s interested in combining their passions for travel, remote work, and technology!
The Estonian digital nomad program allows you to live and work in Estonia for up to one year. If you want to stay for longer, you can apply for a second digital nomad visa, which will be valid for up to six months. After that, you will be required to leave Estonia.
If you stay in Estonia for more than 183 consecutive days within a twelve-month period, you will be considered an Estonian tax resident, and will be required to declare and pay taxes in Estonia.
No matter how long your stay, you must have a health insurance contract that guarantees the payment of medical expenses in the event of injury or illness during your time in Estonia.
If you have a long-stay D visa, you can stay in other countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days within a period of 180 consecutive days.
Finally, if you have a spouse and/or children, they may apply for digital nomad visas under the same conditions as your visa. However, decisions about spousal visas are made on a case-by-case basis, so a spousal visa is by no means guaranteed. Estonia does recognize the validity of same-sex unions, so if you have a same-sex partner or spouse, they can safely apply for a visa to accompany you.
There are a few eligibility requirements that you need to meet in order to qualify for Estonia’s digital nomad visa. You must be able to work independent of location and perform your duties using telecommunications technology (telephone, Internet, etc.).
You also must have an active employment contract with a company registered outside of Estonia, or your own business that is registered outside of Estonia, or work as a freelancer for clients that are outside of Estonia. Finally, you must provide documentation that proves that your monthly income has met the minimum threshold of €3504 (gross of tax, approximately $4138.75) for the past six months.
Once you’ve established that you’re eligible for the Estonian digital nomad visa, the application process is fairly simple and straightforward. It can be filled out online here. There are two digital nomad visa options—the C visa is a short-stay visa, whereas the D visa is a long-stay visa valid for stays up to one year. Once you’ve filled out your application form, you need to print it out, sign it, and take it to the nearest Estonian embassy for processing, along with all necessary supporting documents.
These documents must certify that you can perform your work duties independent of location using telecommunications technology. They must also certify that you are contracted to work for a foreign-registered employer or a foreign-registered company of which you are a shareholder, or that you are a freelancer or consultant. You must also provide documents certifying your income for the six months preceding the date of your application, including the amount, regularity, and sources of income.
Finally, you must provide a description of your study and professional life course. Once you’ve submitted your visa application to the nearest Estonian embassy, it should take between 15 and 30 days to finish processing.
Depending on whether you apply for a C visa (short-stay) or a D visa (long-stay), the application fee for an Estonian digital nomad visa varies. C visas cost €80 ($94.49) and D visas cost €100 ($118.11).