Today is the first day that anyone in the world can apply for e-Residency in Europe. I met up with Kaspar and Mikk in front of a brown, bland, large box of a government looking building. This one is at Sõle 61A in Tallinn, Estonia. The thing gets made fun of by so many people, you’d think some official would at least insist on give it a different color – anything but brown. You’re in a country where the summer sun and winter snow are gorgeous, but everyone laments the – often extended – muddy periods in the middle. This brown seems to evoke this same lamentation.
The doors to the building opened sharply at 9am. In Estonia, things are very punctual compared to the standards I’m used to. Then again you’re reading this from a Persian man (we’re notorious for being late – a 7pm dinner starts at 9pm) who was born and raised in Los Angeles (where everything is a “20 minute” drive away and freeways are more like parking lots).
I was the first person through the door, excited like a child to try this process out. I walked up to a nice woman greeting everyone, told her I wanted to get my e-Residency, and she pointed me to the photo booth. Believe it or not, that’s where I thought the first problem would be. Like, what if she had said “Mis kuradi e-Residency!?” (What the heck is e-Residency!?). But nope, that went totally smooth. +1 for internal trainings.
But back to the photo booth. It was -10 C that morning and I’d arrived by public transport. I was wearing a beanie on my way over, and my hair is much longer than I usually keep it. Point is, I looked like a crazy man who’s hair was standing up after playing with one of those static electricity balls. Don’t lie, you’ve all sported that look. The wide-eyed smile on my face didn’t help me take a serious photo either.
Once I was done taking selfies with the machine (it makes you take three, no clue why), I went back to the same woman and she pushed some buttons on another digital screen. The result was a number on a ticket which was quickly printed and handed to me. After 5 minutes, this number was shown on an overhead LCD display and I went to the desk indicated. I sat across from a sweet woman who took care of the process for me. Now, there was some fun involved.
In Estonia, there’s enough English speakers around that nearly any environment can shuffle people to help translate. But, I speak a tiny bit of Estonian, plus Kaspar and Mikk were watching what was going on, so I didn’t need English help. It took 5 officers huddled around a screen to walk through this e-Residency application process for the first time. Nobody had gone through this process before on their side (firsties!) so I witnessed plenty of faces squinting at the screen. Kaspar quipped that he wanted to take a picture of this for memory sake (it was a pretty funny scene), but he had mercy. Still, that was painless for me, all I had to do was watch and wait – easy.
About 20 mins later this process was done. I was told to wait for another number to be called on the screen (no ticket this time, just had to remember the number) and I’d go to another person to pay.
Now for credit card payment in America we primarily use these terribly insecure magnetic-stripe credit cards which aren’t used in Europe any more. These cards are only convenient for conducting fraud on. Anybody remember the Target hacks? Yea, so in America we are soon getting with the 21st century where everyone will receive credit cards with smart chip in them…over the next 18 months or something. But I digress.
Instead of torturing the kind lady with my credit card, I used cash. Kaspar checked, and it turns out this office didn’t have magnetic-strip credit card readers anyway. But if you ever want to annoy an entire line of people in a European country, go to a grocery store and pull out your magnetic strip credit card. On the plus side, I’ve single handedly helped many Europeans learn about this ancient technology, and shown them my forge-able signature. Perhaps I should try showing folks how an abacus works next.
Anyway, after I paid the cash, I dashed back to the office (got there before 10am, nice!). I’ll wait for my email (or insider information, heh) and come pick up my card. They say this could happen as early as tomorrow. We’ll see! Once I have it, I should be able to start using it right away. First order of business, get my lawyer brother to sign a document agreeing that I’m Batman.