Estonia to make applying for and issuing IDs abroad easier

The Estonian government is trying to make applying for and issuing identification documents abroad easier by introducing an electronic application environment and starting to deliver IDs by mail.

The government on 1 August approved objectives on how to improve the accessibility of consular services for Estonians living abroad. “Within the framework of these objectives, the processing of identity documents in foreign representations will be significantly simplified by the introduction of an electronic application environment and the streamlining of the system of delivering passports by mail,” the Estonian foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Within a few years, the citizen should be able to contact the state only once: applying for documents should take place in an electronic environment and the documents, once ready, should be delivered by a courier, if a secure courier service can be ensured,” foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu said.

An Estonian ID card (Estonian Police and Border Guard).

“As a small country, Estonia only has a limited network of foreign representations and citizens must often travel long and expensive distances to apply for documents,” Reinsalu added. He named Estonians living in Argentina as an example: for them, the closest Estonian foreign representation is located a ten-hour flight away in New York City.

The solution to be applied by 2022 or earlier

“Also, citizens must later return to the foreign representation or the closest honorary consul to receive the passport, which is another expense and takes up additional time.”

According to the proposal approved by the cabinet, in the near future, the Police and Border Guard Board will be able to issue passports directly through mail, while it will still be possible to send the document through a foreign representation or an honorary consul.

In addition to identity documents, the proposal also involves the issuing of e-residence cards, which also requires going to a foreign representation in most cases. The plans seek to increase the number of issuance points of external service providers who would issue both e-residency cards as well as identity cards for Estonian citizens.

Estonian e-residency card.

The new solutions would be applied by 2022 or earlier, should the budgetary resources allow it, the foreign ministry asserted.

Cover: A woman holding an Estonian passport (Shutterstock).