Estonia is extending the validity period of its digital ID cards

Here’s how that affects e-residents.

Estonia’s Parliament, Riigikogu, has passed a law to extend the validity period of new digital ID cards — and make it possible in future to extend the validity of active cards already issued.

These changes affect all digital ID cards issued by the Estonian Police and Border Guard. This mostly affects e-residents though because citizens and residents can choose an integrated ID card with their photo that works online and offline. Those are already valid for five years so the new law aims to provide everyone with the same validity period.

Estonia’s digital ID cards were previously made with an expiration date after three years, but all new digital ID cards are valid for five years instead. The Estonian Police and Border Guard Board, as the issuing authority, begun implementing this change from 1 May.

The next step is to extend the validity of active cards so that as many existing card holders as possible can also benefit. These cards will of course then have the wrong expiry date printed on them, but as digital ID cards they will at least display the correct expiry on your screen in the ID card utility software.

Although it is now legally possible to extend the expiry of active cards, it will take more time to implement this so we currently expect this change to take effect on 1 November 2018. We will keep you updated — especially as you will need to apply for a new digital ID card in the normal way if your card does expire before then by completing an application at e-resident.gov.ee, paying €100 and visiting a collection point.

We fully understand that this process is a hassle you could do without.

E-Residency was launched in beta mode as a ‘government startup’ so that the programme can be continuously improved while e-residents are already benefiting. We’ve listened to e-residents explain how the process of applying for the digital ID card (or reapplying when it expires) is one of the key pain points that needs to be improved, particularly for people who do not live close to an existing collection point.

At the same time, we have to bear in mind that e-Residency is a secure and trusted government-issued digital identity so quick fixes are sometimes neither possible nor desirable.

The extension of digital ID cards to five years is another positive step in the right direction though and demonstrates Estonia’s clear long-term commitment to continuously improve the service that we are proud to provide to e-residents.

There are a number of other ways that we are working with our partners across government and the private sector to improve issues specifically related to the ease of acquiring and using digital ID cards so we will provide more detailed updates about this in future blog posts.

How this change affects you

  • If you apply for e-Residency from today then you will have a digital ID card that is valid for five years.
  • If you have already applied for e-Residency and are waiting for your digital ID card then it will be valid for three or five years depending on whether it was printed before or after 1 May. Don’t worry too much if you receive a card with a three year expiry though because, as mentioned above, we expect it to be remotely updated anyway by the end of year.
  • If you are an existing e-resident then you will need to apply for a new digital ID card before it expires at e-resident.gov.ee. We recommend applying for a new card at least two months before the expiry of your existing card to ensure you have uninterrupted access to e-services. If this is a problem then speak to your business services provider or us to see what short-term solutions might be helpful, such as Smart ID. If your digital ID card is still active when the remote extension takes place — currently expected on 1 November — then its validity period will last an extra two years. We will keep you updated so that you have enough time to understand whether your card will be extended.
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