The ability to work remotely from anywhere has become available for many in recent years. These remote workers, or digital nomads as they are referred to, tend to travel to different locations relying mainly on technology to do their work. While travelling the world is very appealing, you do have to deal with laws that might only allow you to live in a certain country for a specific time. That’s why some countries have created a digital nomad visa to attract remote workers.
While the digital nomad description varies, it traditionally refers to people whose job allows them to work from any location, hence location-independent. If your employer is flexible with that, you have an advantage over many others. However, there are many people who lead a nomad lifestyle, meaning they don’t have a permanent address and are on the road most of the time. These people are self-employed as freelancers, meaning they can have many different clients that pay them but there isn’t one central employer.
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That can be challenging as many countries don’t permit people to work while on a tourist visa. Most of these people tend to move frequently, which makes it easier to fly under the radar. A common practice, especially in Asia, is a border run. You leave the country you’re in and go to a neighbouring one to reapply for a tourist visa. While many countries who want your money might look the other way, that process won’t fly in other areas.
In Europe, things are different. You’re permitted to stay in the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days, within a 180-day period. Unlike Asia, you can’t travel to a non-Schengen visa and reapply right away. You must wait another 90 days before you can return. If living in Europe appeals to you, you’ll need to do more research on travel visas before you decide to stay.
It’s easy to see how having a digital nomad visa can make living in a foreign country easier and legal. Whether you want to stay in one place for a while or explore the country in-depth, you have a lot more flexibility when you have the right visa.
Countries that currently offer a digital nomad visa
Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Norway, Mexico and Portugal are the leading countries offering visas for digital nomads. Recently, Barbados launched its own program to attract people to live and work on the island for up to a year. Georgia and Bermuda are also trying to capitalize on the remote workers, by launching their own visa programs in 2020. As the popularity of such programs grows and countries see the benefits of remote workers, we might see more countries follow the lead
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BARBADOS WELCOME STAMP
Barbados joined the list of countries that offer a digital nomad visa with the launch of its 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp program. This remote working visa will allow visitors to say and work remotely on this Caribbean island paradise for up to a year.
By offering a range of flexible office spaces and the fastest fibre network in the Caribbean, Barbados is hoping to attract people who are looking for a change of scenery. The country also boasts excellent healthcare and good schools, meaning your whole family can relocate there.
Those interested in the program have to fill out an application online which should be processed within 72 hours. The fees are $2,000 UDS for an individual visa or $3,000 USD for a family. The visas are valid for one year and those who get them won’t have to pay Barbados Income Tax. In addition to filling out the application and submitting the required documents, applicants must also certify that they will make $50,000 USD a year or have the means to support themselves and any dependants during their stay in Barbados.
COSTA RICA RENTISTA VISA
If island life doesn’t appeal to you, there are other options that offer great weather and a chance to live in paradise. Costa Rica is a stunning and environmentally conscious country. It’s also been a long-time favourite destination for investors and retirees. With its own version of a digital nomad visa, Costa Rica is a great place for those looking for a chance of scenery.
The rentista visa grants temporary residency to foreign nationals for two years. During that time, you need a monthly income of $2,500 USD that is guaranteed for the duration of your stay. In addition, applicants need a letter from their bank that proves they have at least $60,000 USD in their account. The amount can also be transferred to a bank in Costa Rica where you’ll need a commitment letter that states that at least US$2,500 per month will be made available.
Under this visa, you may establish a business or work on your own, but you may not work as an employee. You are also required to live in the country for at least four months per year. After the initial three years, you can reapply for renewal if you meet the guidelines. Eventually, you can pursue a permanent residency or Costa Rican citizenship.
CZECH REPUBLIC ZIVNO VISA
The Czech Republic offers a zivno visa (zivnostenské opravneni) that targets freelance and remote workers looking to live in the country for an extended time. The visa is suited for non-EU citizens who work as contractors/freelancers or run their own business.
The process of applying for this type of a digital nomad visa is more complicated than some of the other ones listed here. If you’re interested in applying for the zivno visa you’ll have to start at the consular office in your country. The application process, much like the others, requires proof of income. The minimum for one person is 15,000 Kč per month or minimum of 20,000 Kč per month as a married couple.
In addition to the required documents, you’ll need proof of accommodation lease in the Czech Republic. Expect an immigration interview that is part of the process. As the process can be confusing and frustrating, you might consider employing an immigration expert that can guide you through it.
ESTONIA DIGITAL NOMAD VISA
Estonia is one of the latest countries making waves with the launch of a digital nomad visa. Priding itself as one of the most digitally advanced countries, Estonia was the first country to offer an e-residency visa. It allows entrepreneurs to create and run an EU-based business online from anywhere in the world, but it does not extend to residency.
The digital nomad visa, however, is directed at remote workers and freelancers, allowing them to live in Estonia while legally working for an employer or as a freelancer for clients mostly outside of Estonia.
Estonia plans on issuing 1,800 visas a year. Applicants must meet the monthly income threshold of €3504 (gross of tax) over the last six months, an active employment contract and valid health insurance.
The process is simple. Fill out the online application form, print and sign. The state fee is €80 for a Type C (short stay) visa and €100 for a Type D (long stay) visa. Applicants should then make an appointment at the nearest Estonian Embassy or Consulate to submit your application. Bring copies of any required supporting documents. Applications are reviewed within 30 days.
GERMANY FREIBERUFLER VISA
Germany’s freelance visa (called freiberufler visas) is for the self-employed in a wide range of fields. It applied to people in “liberal” professions that can include technology, artists, writers, teachers, marketers, engineers, architects and self-employed doctors and other professionals. It can be extended for up to three years.
There is a subset of the freelance visa called the artist visa. It’s only applicable in Berlin, but it’s open to painters, musicians, writers, actors and others in the relevant industry. Check the complete list of required documents required here as the list is very particular. For information on different visa programs and who is eligible to apply see this website.
The process of getting the German version of a digital nomad visa is detailed but straightforward. Applicants need to submit their application at the German Embassy or Consulate in the country of their residence at least three months before the planned travel date. The visa application fee ranges between €50–110.
MEXICO VISA DE RESIDENTE TEMPORAL
Mexico is another great option for digital nomads with its temporary resident visa (Visa de Residente Temporal). The visa allows holders to stay in the country for one year and can be renewed up to three times more. However, this visa doesn’t allow you to remain in Mexico for longer than four years.
As with the other visas, applicants must demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to support themselves for the duration of their stay. Mexico’s requirement is a balance of $27,000 USD for the year prior to application and a monthly income of a minimum of $1,620 USD.
This visa category limits where you make your money and you may not be allowed to conduct lucrative activities, such as employment, in the country. This website provides additional information if you think Mexico is the right place for you.
PORTUGAL D7 PASSIVE INCOME VISA
With plenty of charm, history and culinary options, the beautiful country of Portugal is a great place for digital nomads. The country’s D7 Passive Income visa is like that of Costa Rica’s. Applicants must demonstrate that they can support themselves during their stay and that there is a steady source of income.
The visa allows holders to stay in Portugal for one year and can be extended two years at a time. After living in Portugal with the D7 visa for five years, you can apply for residence providing you can pass the Portuguese language test. This website is a great place to start looking for more information on the D7 visa.
While the D7 is not just a digital nomad visa, it suits those that want to live in a different country while self-employed or working remotely for a flexible employer. The visa application is relatively affordable (between €45.90 and €276.80 per applicant) and straight forward. The visa holders are entitled to the benefits of Portuguese residency. This includes access to education, recognition of diplomas and qualifications, healthcare, social security, trade union protection, the law and the courts of law.
SPAIN NON-LUCRATIVE RESIDENCE
Similarly, to Portugal’s D7 visa, Spain’s non-lucrative residence visa allows holders to live in Spain for a year. It can also be renewed for an additional two years at a time and can lead to permanent residency.
While like many of the digital nomad visa stipulations in other countries, you’re not allowed to carry out professional activities that generate an income in Spain. Your source of income must be generated out of the country.
To apply for the non-lucrative visa, applicants should start with an appointment at the Spanish Consulate/Embassy in your area. Spain requires applicants to have an annual income produced outside of Spain of at least €26,000. In addition, a police background check, health insurance and medical certificates are required for the application. Make sure to visit your local Spanish Consulate website for detailed process information.
BERMUDA AND GEORGIA
Bermuda and Georgia are the latest countries creating digital nomad visa programs to attract remote workers. At the time of publication, the information about programs for these two countries is still very limited or the programs had not yet opened for applications. I will provide updates as they become available. Meanwhile, here is what we know.
Bermuda has launched a new residency certificate program to allow remote workers and students to live on the Caribbean island for up to a year. Applicants must be over 18, have health insurance, supply proof of employment and/or enrollment in an educational program, and show sufficient means and/or a continuous income source. If Bermuda is calling your name, you might want to fill out the application.
Georgia has also announced a new visa program targeted at self-employed, remote workers interested in living in the country for six months or longer. It is a program aimed to stimulate the economy and slow reopen its borders. The visa is set to launch in September 2020 with more details to be announced. For more information and the online application go to this site.
BONUS: NORWAY (SVALBARD)
Norway’s digital nomad visa is unique in that it only applies to Svalbard, an archipelago between Norway mainland and the North Pole. Famous for long, cold winters and being one of the most expensive places in the world, this destination will not appeal to everyone.
Anyone can live in Svalbard, regardless of their country of origin. The visa has no expiry date meaning you’re not limited to how long you can stay there. However, those interested in moving there must have a job and a place to live. Health care and welfare are available, but only for Norwegians and for workers employed by a Norwegian company.
If you’re up for a challenge and like to live in a unique place then Svalbard could be an ideal location for you. Visit this site for more information, although it’s limited. You’ll have to do more digging if you think this place is calling your name.
Pros and cons of a digital nomad visa
Here are some of the pros and cons of applying for a digital nomad visa. While it might be a great idea in theory, you might find that in practice it holds less appeal.
With a digital nomad visa or an equivalent, you are legally allowed to live and work in a different country. By living there, you can experience is like a local and get to know the destination in a way that most tourists never have a chance to do. Immersing yourself in a foreign culture and language can be an extremely rewarding experience. Plus, you’ll make new friends and discover another part of yourself.
If you’re looking for a chance of scenery, this is a perfect opportunity for that. You can escape the dreariness of winter in a warmer climate, relax in the jungle or the country side or explore old cities with excitement. The experience is guaranteed to change you for the better.
The process of applying can be lengthy and costly, especially if you have hire someone to help you. Depending on where you are currently living, the minimum income thresholds might be unattainable to you. The new destination might also have a higher cost of living. It’s important to research how much you’re going to need for accommodations, food and transportation.
It’s also important to check the laws and regulations before you decide to apply for a visa. Not all countries, for example, have favourable attitude towards people of the LGBTQ+ community, often making same-sex relationships illegal. While living in a foreign country, especially for an extended time, you must comply with the local laws. Make sure those laws don’t put you in danger.
Final thoughts on the digital nomad visa concept
Working remotely in a different country is more possible today than it has been before. There are many factors that go into the process of applying for a digital nomad visa that factor into your decision. As the regulations vary between countries, not all visas will appeal or work for everyone. That’s why it’s very important to do your research and understand the process. Often it might even make sense to hire a reputable third-party expert that can help you navigate the process, especially if you don’t speak the language.
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It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of living in a different country, but your decision should be based solely on your situation not what works for others. While living and working remotely is great, you also should consider how easy it is to travel in and out of a country. If you choose a place in the EU, you’ll be able to travel (to an extent) within the Schengen zone providing you meet the minimum stay required of the county that issued your visa. Pay attention to the limitation as a misstep could revoke your visa status.
So, if you are thinking of living temporarily in a different country, find the visa that appeals to you best. If you have the means and the opportunity, living in a different country can be an amazing opportunity. It’s also a chance to see the world.