The Sheridan Press
SHERIDAN — A committee of the Wyoming legislature is discussing an “e-residency” program, which would allow computer-based businesses from other states to operate in Wyoming’s business environment and statutes without physically moving to Wyoming.
The Legislature Select Committee on Blockchain, Fintech, and Digital Innovation Technology discussed the concept during its meeting in Sheridan on June 15.
Although the e-residency model has not yet been implemented in the United States, the European country of Estonia has set a successful precedent, according to a December 2021 memo prepared by staff member Clarissa Nord of the Office of Legislative Services.
Through its e-Residency program, Estonia issues non-residents with an electronic identity in the form of a digital ID card to offer secure and convenient services. Under this program, e-residents can set up and manage a business remotely, apply for digital business banking and online payment services, digitally sign and transmit documents, and file Estonian taxes online. companies, Nord said.
Estonia first launched e-residency in 2014 to attract international businesses and increase the country’s international recognition in digital business, Nord wrote. Currently, Estonia has over 84,000 e-residents from 170 countries who have established 16,000 businesses. Estonia encourages business owners, entrepreneurs, freelancers and consultants who want to start a business in the European Union to apply for electronic residency.
It’s important to note what e-residency is not, Nord wrote. It is not a travel document, citizenship or actual residency, but a digital identity through which anyone in the world can set up a business. Electronic residency does not affect or change current citizenship or residency, Nord wrote.
Wyoming has prepared particularly well for its own e-residency program, as legislation passed by the blockchain subcommittee over the past five years – from a 2018 bill allowing the use of electronic documents of company to a 2021 bill defining corporate digital identity – has created a friendly climate for digital businesses, said Raza Khan, a New York-based information technology entrepreneur.
However, only businesses with physical locations in the state can currently benefit from state policies, Khan said. This is where e-residency comes in.
“I myself am interested in a number of policies that Wyoming is developing, but I may not be able to participate in them given where I am geographically at any given time,” Khan said. “At the same time, it’s not like everyone in America can move to Wyoming. I don’t think it’s going to be successful from an infrastructure perspective, despite how beautiful the state is. So I think that this creates this interesting opportunity and demand for e-residency.
Collin Kinniry, an intern for blockchain infrastructure development and research organization Blockchain Commons, said an e-residency program in Wyoming could boost the state’s reputation for enterprise by serving businesses. without a current physical footprint.
“The overriding concern does not need to bring physical businesses into Wyoming,” Kinniry said in written comments to the committee. “The well-founded practice of angling promising businesses to relocate to your state is practical, but it misses the potential for what economic development will become. Physical buildings are no longer necessary for start-ups… E-residency offers the next best companies the opportunity to launch on an easy-to-access platform with less bureaucracy.
Kinniry went on to say that some of the e-residents could potentially physically relocate to Wyoming as they grow and expand.
“Businesses that scale and desire physical spaces already know and are connected to the state of Wyoming,” Kinniry said. “Certainly, Wyoming offers these companies room for growth.”
If the e-residency program progresses, it would be offered to businesses for a fee, which could increase state revenue. Khan estimated that the program could bring in up to $1.2 billion in revenue for the state.
Beyond financial incentives, there are other values for implementing an e-residency program, said Christopher Allen, founder of Blockchain Commons. For example, Allen argued that e-residents could be beneficial partners for startups in the state.
“If you just look at the Estonian example, there are hard numbers of how their own startup ecosystem has doubled or tripled due to the ease with which other companies and organizations can partner with the emerging startup scene. startups,” Allen said. “The synergistic effect of local, American and international businesses working together has had a big impact there.”
No decisions were made at the meeting, and blockchain committee co-chair Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, said there was still much to discuss and consider as the state considered the benefits and the disadvantages of an e-residency program.
“I think it’s a very interesting space, and there’s a lot to explore,” Rothfuss said. “I’m not entirely sure of all the things we can and can’t do, but we have to understand that.”