Digital documents: ID-card, digital ID, residence permit card and e-Resident digital ID

Digital documents are documents that can be used to perform personal identification, confirm transactions and give signatures in electronic channels. A number of digital documents are used in Estonia – the most common of which is, of course, the mandatory ID-card for Estonian citizens. In addition to the ID-card, there is also a digital ID, residence permit card, e-Resident digital ID and diplomatic card.

It is worth knowing that all these cards work in the same way in electronic terms:

  • To read the card you need an ID-card reader.
  • To use the card, you need to install ID-software on your computer.
  • ID-card instructions and tips apply to all digital documents.

What is the difference between digital documents?

Digital documents are primarily distinguished by what principles and to whom they are issued. A good hint is generally the name of the card: digital ID is for digital identity identification (and is also suitable for use in parallel with the ID-card); the residence permit card is for non-citizens living permanently in Estonia; the digital ID of the e-Resident allows foreigners not living in Estonia to use Estonian e-services, such as signing in to bank accounts, registering and managing companies, etc.

Only the ID-card is eligible as a travel document! For more information on the different cards and their issuing options, please see the Police and Border Guard Board website.

There are also two mobile tools for electronic identification:

Make your electronic life safer!

Today, most of the communication between the state and authorities is via the Internet. Most of us cannot imagine how to organise our lives in the event that we lose the capability to sign in to our bank account, pay bills online, manage services, etc.

Therefore, it would be a good thing to have at least two digital ID tools in place. This allows you to use another to close accounts, request new documents or perform other life-related tasks when one device is lost, stolen or broken.

If you use an ID-card on a daily basis, you should also subscribe to a digital ID; you can also join mobile-ID and/or install it on your smart device (even on a tablet!) Smart-ID.

Read more:

  • Digital documents: ID-card and its uses

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    ID-cards are identity documents mandatory for Estonian citizens and citizens of the European Union who are permanently residing in Estonia. ID-cards are valid for up to five years and are issued by the Police and Border Guard Board.

    What can you do with an ID-card?

    • Use it as a physical identity document.
    • Identify yourself digitally.
    • Access e-services (e.g. the Internet Bank, e-Tax and e-invoices).
    • Use it as a loyalty card at a number of places.
    • Sign documents digitally.
    • Encrypt documents.
    • Vote electronically.
    • Use an e-mail address provided by the Republic of Estonia.
    • Use it as a travel document in the European Union and the European Economic Area.

    Useful tip:

    If you use your ID-card on a daily basis, we recommend that you also order a digital ID. This way you can store your ID-card in a safe place and do not have to worry about it getting lost or damaging the chip due to constant use. Digital ID allows you to use the same e-services as your ID-card, but it cannot be used as an identity document.

  • Digital documents: digital ID and its uses

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    A digital ID is a digital document that can be used in parallel with an ID-card. Since a digital ID does not feature a photo, you can only use it electronically.

    A digital ID card is a national document that is valid for five years. You can apply for it at the Police and Border Guard Board.

    Similarities with ID-cards:

    • Digital identification
    • Digital signing
    • Document encryption
    • Use of e-services
    • E-voting
    • Same ID-software
    • Access to an e-mail address

    Differences between digital IDs and ID-cards:

    • Digital IDs cannot be used for physical identification.
    • Digital IDs cannot be used as travel documents.

    Useful tip:

    It is recommended that everyone who uses an ID-card on a daily basis also order a digital ID. This way you can use e-services with your digital ID and store your ID-card in a safe place.

  • Digital documents: residence permit card and its uses

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    A residence permit card is a mandatory (for foreign citizens) national identity document. It is issued to foreigners who apply for or have a residence permit or the right to reside in Estonia and who are not citizens of the European Union. The card includes the user’s personal data, residence permit data, photo and fingerprint images.

    Resident permit cards are valid for up to five years, but no longer than the user has been granted a residence permit or the right to reside.

    Similarities with ID-cards:

    • Use of e-services
    • Digital identification
    • Digital signing

    Differences between residence permits and ID-cards:

    • Residence permit cards cannot be used as travel documents outside Estonia.
    • Residence permit cards include a contactless chip with the user’s fingerprint and photo. ID-cards do not have contactless chips.

    Useful tip:

    You can seek help with using a residence permit card electronically from the instructions for ID-cards.

  • Digital documents: e-Resident’s digital ID and its uses

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    An e-Resident’s digital ID (i.e. an e-resident card) is a digital document issued to foreign citizens, which can only be used electronically. The card’s validity period is five years.

    Estonian e-residents can be foreigners who want to be able to use Estonian e-services – for instance, open a bank account or register their company in Estonia (and ensure access to e-Tax, bank accounts, the Commercial Register, etc.).

    E-residency does not grant its user any other rights besides the opportunity to use digital services. It does not entail Estonian citizenship or tax residency, it does not grant a foreigner an Estonian residence permit or a permit to enter the European Union, neither does prior e-residency grant any advantages upon applying for Estonian citizenship or a residence permit.

    Similarities with ID-cards:

    • Digital signing.
    • Use of Estonian e-services (access to the Commercial Register, Internet Banks, the Tax Board, etc.).

    Main differences between e-Resident’s digital IDs and ID-cards

    • E-Resident’s digital IDs are not physical identity documents.
    • E-Resident’s digital IDs cannot be used as travel documents.
    • An e-resident’s right to enter Estonia/the European Union depends on their country of origin: an e-resident’s card does not grant or confirm this right.

    Useful tip:

    An e-Resident’s digital ID enables foreigners to register and manage businesses in Estonia and thus also in the European Union without leaving their country of residence. Estonia is unique in the world for its e-opportunities. In addition to being able perform nearly all operations electronically, a significant part of (business) information is publicly available to all those who are interested. This ensures a convenient, transparent and reliable business environment and supports startups and small enterprises.

    e-residendi kaart
  • Applying: applying for ID-cards and other digital documents

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    Digital documents (incl. ID-cards, digital IDs, residence permit cards and e-resident’s digital IDs) are issued by the Police and Border Guard Board. Applications can be submitted at both service points and self-service points.

    From January 2023. it is possible to get new ID cards not only from the Police and Border Guard Board, but also from shops. Detailed information on the website of the Police and Border Guard Board.

    E-resident’s digital IDs can also be conveniently applied for via the e-residency website.

    All digital identity documents are subject to state fees, i.e. issue fees.

    If you are abroad, you can also apply for documents and collect them at foreign missions of the Republic of Estonia. Keep in mind that document applications are only accepted by Estonian embassies while documents ordered can also be collected from Estonian honourary consulates.

  • PIN and PUK codes: general information

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    PIN and PUK codes necessary for using digital documents are issued with the card.

    If you have:

    Upon receiving a new ID-card or code envelope, you should immediately change the PIN codes. You should also change your PIN codes if you suspect that these might have become available to someone else or it appears that you have difficulties remembering your codes. You should read the recommendations regarding the security of PIN codes.

    You need PIN codes each time you wish to use your ID-card electronically; they help to protect you from identity theft. The aim of the PUK code is to ensure that it would be possible to create new PIN codes if there is a problem with PIN codes. So keep your PUK code safe!

    NB! Read about what to do if your ID-card is missing or stolen!

  • Certificates: suspending ID-card certificates

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    If your ID-card, mobile-ID, etc. is lost or stolen, you should immediately suspend the certificates related thereto in order to be protected from identity theft.

    You can suspend the certificates of ID-cards and other digital documents via telephone:

    • by calling +372 677 3377.

    NB! You will be asked to provide your name and personal identification code.

    In order to reactivate suspended certificates you need to go to a Police and Border Guard Board service point: certificates cannot be reactivated by phone.

    If you are certain that your ID-card is indeed stolen, you should notify the police and have your ID-card and related certificates declared invalid.

    Did you know that in the case of theft you should also suspend the certificates related to your mobile smart device?

  • Certificates: What are they and why do I need them?

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    Certificate means the electronic evidence that ties a person (e.g. with their ID-card, mobile-ID, digi-ID) to the right to perform legally binding acts (making bank transfers, signing contracts, etc.). In other words, the certificates are necessary to give us the reassurance that an activity or transaction was performed or a signature was given, etc. by the right person.

    The person whose ID-card is in the reader is identified immediately when you try to initiate an activity requiring identification. For example, you log in to your bank account or launch the ID-software on your computer. However, having an ID-card is not enough to gain access: every activity that may have legal consequences for you is tied to certificates for security purposes.

    • You can read more about certificates and their security here.
    • Terms of use for certificates can be found here.
    • A guide to getting rid of excess certificates can be found here.