Estonia is extending the validity period of 32,000 digital ID cards

From 1 November 2018, if you have a valid digital ID card that was issued for three years then you can receive a bonus two year extension.

TL;DR — If you have a digital ID card with a validity period of three years and it hasn’t yet expired then follow the instructions when you log into Estonia’s ID card software (DigiDoc4) from 1 November and you’ll receive a bonus two years before it expires. ‘Digital ID cards’ are used mostly by Estonia’s e-residents, but a smaller number of citizens and residents also choose to use them in addition to their ‘regular’ ID card.


Back in May, we told you that Estonia’s Parliament, Riigikogu, passed a law to extend the validity period of new digital ID cards (like those held by e-residents) from three to five years and also make it possible in future to extend the validity of active cards already issued.

As a result, all Estonian digital ID cards granted since 1 May 2018 have been valid for five years.

And here’s the update: From 1 November 2018, if you have a digital ID card that was granted prior to May (and is still valid) then you will also be given the option to extend the validity period of your digital ID card from three to five years.

About 32,000 people are able to benefit from this and the majority of them are e-residents, although some citizens and residents of Estonia also choose to have a digital ID card and will also be able to extend the validity period of it. If this includes you then you will see the option to do this online when you log into the latest version of the Estonian ID card software.

We’ve compiled the answers to any questions you may have about this process below, but if you feel anything is missing then leave us a comment at the end of this article and we’d be happy to update it with more information.

  • Who does this apply to?
  • So what exactly is a ‘digital ID card’?
  • Why is this validity period being extended?
  • How does the extension process work?
  • Do I have to extend the validity period
  • But then won’t the expiry date printed on my digital ID card be inaccurate?

Who does this apply to?

Anyone with a valid Estonian digital ID card that was granted before 1 May 2018.

If the validity of your card has already expired then you have to renew it. If it was granted on 1 May 2018 or afterwards then it already has a five year validity.

If you are an e-resident, then you were ‘granted e-Residency’ on the day that the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board emailed you to say that your application is approved. It’s not the day you were told your card was ready to collect nor the day you collected your card.

The Estonian Police and Border Guard Board is the issuing authority for Estonia’s digital ID cards.

Your current expiry date is printed on your card and shown on screen when you log into the DigiDoc software.

Those who can extend their digital ID card validity period will be notified by the latest version of the DigiDoc software, DigiDoc4, and also receive an email through their @eesti.ee email address. Regardless of whether this update applies to you or not though, if you don’t have DigiDoc4 then you should download it here and if you don’t see your @eesti.ee emails then you should redirect them to another email of yours by logging into the state portal, eesti.ee. We don’t want you to miss any other important notices in future.

A quick note for Apple users — DigiDoc4 is still in the process of being added to the Apple AppStore. At present, it may not appear to be available for everyone, but you can actually find it now if you search for it within the AppStore.

These changes relate to Estonia’s ‘digital ID cards’, not ‘ID cards’ that have the cardholder’s photo and work offline too. All identity documents issued to e-residents are digital ID cards and so too are some (not not all) identity documents issued to citizens and residents.

So what exactly is a ‘digital ID card’?

As a digital nation, all of Estonia’s citizens, residents and e-residents have a digital identity for verifying themselves online and accessing e-services.

We all have one digital identity for life, even though the technology that we use to log into that identity does need to be updated over time — for security and regulatory reasons.

We use the term ‘digital ID card’ to refer to documents issued by the Republic of Estonia that are intended solely for the purpose of logging into your digital identity. This includes the documents that Estonia issues as e-Residency cards. Interestingly though, anyone in our digital nation — including citizens and residents — can apply for a digital ID card like the ones used by e-residents.

From the age of 15 though, all citizens and residents of Estonia must have an ‘ID card’ anyway. This also enables them to log into their digital identity, but it includes the card holder’s photo and works as an offline ID too.

In Estonia, many of us now use our digital identities so frequently (for both our work and personal lives) that having a digital ID card in addition to the ID card is very convenient. Both cards are still used for logging into the same digital identity though because, as mentioned, everyone still has just one of those for life.

As a side note, we sometimes get asked by non-Estonians living temporarily in Estonia with a residence permit about how they can apply for e-Residency before moving abroad. The ID card issued to them for their residency is no longer applicable once their residency ends, yet they can only apply for e-Residency if they are a non-resident. So if they want uninterrupted access to their digital identity then the solution is to apply for a digital ID card as a resident and then they are allowed to keep that after leaving — before switching to e-Residency before it expires after five years.

So when we talk about ‘digital ID cards’ being extended from three to five years, we are talking about Estonia’s digital-only ID cards — mostly held by e-residents.

Why is this validity period being extended?

As mentioned, the law has already been changed so that all new documents issued by the Republic of Estonia have a validity period of five years.

The change was approved by Estonia’s Parliament, called ‘Riigikogu’, earlier this year.

Everyone else with an active digital ID card applied prior to this on the condition that they were receiving a card that is valid for three years.

This remote extension of active cards is an added bonus to help more people save time and money. It’s a unique and interesting technical challenge that hasn’t been done before, but also won’t be needed again.

If the extension applies to you then consider it as a gift from the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board!

How does the extension process work?

You can extend your digital ID card’s validity period by an additional two years if:

  • It currently has a validity period of three years (because it was granted before 1 May 2018).
  • It is still valid (so hasn’t expired) on 1 November 2018.
  • You know your PIN codes.
  • You are using the latest version of Estonia’s digital ID software, which is DigiDoc4 and can be downloaded here.

If these all apply to you then once you log into DigiDoc4 with your digital ID card then you will see a yellow line at the top of the screen inviting you to extend the validity by clicking ‘Extend’.

All the instructions will be on screen during the process, but Estonia’s ID card helpline has also compiled a very extensive FAQ about the process that is available here. On that page, you can also click ‘ASK FOR HELP’ in the lower right corner if you encounter any issues that you can’t find an answer to. Finally, if necessary you can call the ID card helpline on +372 666 8888.

You should close down all other programmes and windows so that your computer is only processing the extension — and don’t remove your digital ID until it is complete.

If you have used your digital ID card to encrypt documents then make sure you decrypt any that you need afterwards before you begin the process. Once the extension is confirmed, you can encrypt documents again, but not access any documents encrypted previously.

Also, this bit is really important: You will be given new PIN codes during the process so be prepared to write them down or store them somewhere securely (and not with your digital ID card) as they can not be retrieved again later.

We hope you complete the process smoothly in one attempt, but if there are any problems then just bare in mind that you have to start the process again and finish it within 30 days of your first attempt. If not, your digital ID card will become invalid.

Do I have to extend the validity period?

No. As mentioned, this update is a bonus and is not mandatory. If you do not start the process to extend your digital ID card then it will still be valid until the original date displayed on the document.

Won’t the expiry date printed on my digital ID card be inaccurate after the extension?

Yes, but that’s not a problem.

You will see the real expiry date (with the extra two years added to the validity period) online anytime that you log into the DigiDoc software.

And it’s online that matters when using a digital ID card.