An introduction into Estonia’s 3 ID systems

One of the things you discover when you move to Estonia is the number of different ID systems available. I’ve written before about how needlessly complicated things seem when you’re a newcomer – it isn’t just a matter of getting an ID card, but you need:

  • An ID code
  • The ID card/Residence permit card
  • A smart card reader
  • Digidoc software
  • 2 x PINs for doing anything with your card

So when you go to log in to an online service and see the options of logging in with your ID card, your mobile ID, your online banking details, or sometimes a username and password, it’s hard to know where to start.

How do you know what’s connected, and what to use when?

In this article, I’ll take you through the three main ID systems, what they’re for and how to use them.

ID Kaart

Your ID card is your identification and is, unsurprisingly, used to prove your ID, as well as to access a range of services. Estonians have a ‘true’ ID card (which some use as a travel document within the EU), while expats like Australians need to get a residence permit, which is an ID card and visa all rolled into one.

Unlike a driver’s license in Australia, though, this isn’t just a plastic card with see-through sections and other fraud-prevention devices. It also has a chip, which means you can insert it into your computer (or smart card reader) and use it to connect to digital services and sign digital documents.

When you’ll need to use it:

  • Signing into any government services online
  • Signing documents online
  • Proving your identity IRL

Note that any time you use your card to access online services or sign documents, you’ll also need a smart card reader and one of the PINs that came with the card (PIN 1 is generally for logging into services, while PIN 2 is for digital signatures).

Smart ID

Smart ID is an ID system that was established by the big banks here. Unlike Australia, where you just have a username and password, here you have a user ID and the Smart ID app, which you set up with two PINs.

When using online banking, the way it works is:

  1. You enter your user ID into your online banking.
  2. It displays a code and asks you to confirm said code with your Smart ID.
  3. There will be a notification on your phone, which you can view to open the Smart ID app.
  4. The Smart ID app will open, displaying the same code as your computer. Here you enter your PIN 1.
  5. Once you enter your PIN, you will be automatically logged in in your browser.

If you want to make a payment, it will then ask you to confirm with the app again, and you’ll need to enter your PIN 2.

If you’re using a banking app, you’ll generally have access to some data, such as your account balance. However, if you want to do anything, you’ll be asked to confirm with Smart ID, and will need to switch apps to enter your PIN.

What’s interesting about Smart ID is that although it was originally created for banking, the banks seemed to think they could give the ID-card system a run for its money and have linked it to a range of online services. This means that if you’re with one of the major banks here, like Swedbank, SEB, Coop, Luminor or LHV, you can use your bank user ID and Smart ID verification to sign into services like the population register or e-Tax and e-Customs.

If you’re like me, and can’t remember the PINs associated with your ID card because you never use them, this is a very convenient fall-back option.

Mobiil ID

Mobiil ID is another app, but rather than having a specific purpose (like banking), this one is designed to take the place of an ID card, so you can do everything that you would do with an ID card without having to use a smart card reader.

Mobiil ID was set up by the major mobile networks (in Estonia, they are Elisa, Telia and Tele2), and you need to sign up via your mobile provider. Like the other ID types, you need yet another PIN 1 and PIN 2 to use it.

With Mobiil ID, you can:

  • Sign documents digitally
  • Make bank payments
  • Use online services

After talking to my colleagues, it also seems to be the most common option used by the locals.

So do I use it? No.

The reason? Just laziness. At the moment I can do everything I need with my Smart ID/ID Kaart combo, so why would I add another app to the mix? The other thing is that I would need to physically go into a network store and get a new SIM card to set up the app, which is more effort than I’m willing to expend.

Having said that, Drew still has no IDs set up, as he isn’t technically a resident yet (there should be a post on this at some point), so perhaps he can be the Mobiil ID guinea pig?

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