Did you know that besides using your Estonian digital ID, there is also another solution for signing documents? The good news is that it is also available to e-residents as an app called Smart-ID. Some of the reasons to prefer Smart-ID are its speed, convenience – and it works even if your digital ID card has been lost or has expired.
Smart-ID is a mobile app that enables you to authenticate your identity online and digitally sign documents using a set of PIN codes. It works just like an Estonian digital-ID card, except you never need to worry about plugging your card into a computer because you can complete the same actions also through your smart phone or tablet instead. Smart-Id work regardless of whether the e-service you are using is on your computer or the same smart device that you are using with Smart-ID.
Smart-ID instantly recognises who you are – you have to use your Estonian digital ID card (for example the e-Residency card) in order to set it up before you can use it. After that though, you don’t need to carry your card and card reader anymore. You can leave it at home and continue to enjoy the benefits of digital ID through Smart-ID on your phone or tablet instead.
The story of Smart-ID
As part of Estonia´s digital revolution, Estonia decided it would start issuing all its ID cards already in 2002 as digital ID cards by integrating a secure chip. When plugged into a computer, they would provide cards holders with online authentication and digital signing through a unique set of PIN codes to be entered on screen. This system was developed by the state with various partners, principally a private company called SK ID Solutions (which later also developed Smart-ID. Their name can be seen in the service prompts when digitally signing documents on your computer)
In 2017, SK ID Solutions unveiled an even more advanced digital ID tool that retained the convenience of using a mobile phone but detached it from the hassle of tying it into a mobile phone contract. It’s an app-based solution called Smart-ID that works on Apple and Android mobile phones and tablets. You still need to use your digital ID card to authenticate yourself when setting it up, as well as to re-authenticate yourself after three years of use when your Smart-ID expires, but between then you never have to touch your card to use most e-services in Estonia. That eliminates one of the most significant issues encountered with e-Residency at present, which is that you lose access to e-services if you lose your card, until you can get a new one issued at an Embassy.
Extending your digital access to Estonian e-services
Renewing your e-Residency digital identity is the same process as applying. This means that there is a need to pick up your new digital ID card from an embassy or alternative pickup point and prove your identity in person. As long as the lockdown and travel restrictions stay in force, the renewal process will be very difficult or even impossible for some e-residents who do not live in a location with a pickup point, or who are otherwise affected.
E-Residency has come up with a solution to make sure that e-residents are aware of an alternative way to extend digital access to some Estonian e-services past the expiry date of your digital identity card — the abovementioned Smart-ID. It’s a convenient and secure long-term solution to help e-residents extend access to and more easily log into many Estonian e-services.
Smart-ID app can be downloaded iOS devices through the Apple app store and Android devices through the Google Play store. It is free of charge and does not take up much space or much data on your phone. Once you’ve downloaded the app, open it up and click ‘Register’ then follow the on-screen instructions to authenticate yourself and sign up for Smart-ID as an e-resident. You can repeat this process and set up Smart-ID on as many devices as you like, such as your mobile phone and a tablet.
Next step is to authenticate yourself once using your digital ID card before you can access e-services such as banking. Afterwards, your digital ID card needs to have active certificates when you set up Smart-ID (i.e. it cannot already have expired) so if you are concerned about the time it might take to renew your digital ID card and you need uninterrupted access to banking and other digital services in the meantime, then you are strongly advised to activate Smart-ID straight away. NB! Your Smart-ID will be valid for three years after you create it or re-validate it so make sure you do this just before your current digital ID card expires if you want to save yourself some time before your next trip to an Estonian digital ID pick up location.
Here are a few digital services e-residents can undertake using Smart-ID:
Please let us know if you have any further questions! You can also read more on the e-Residency blog: https://medium.com/e-residency-blog/e-residency-card-expiring-soon-smart-id-to-the-rescue-1bc6bdd0e7e0