Are you interested to become a digital nomad, working remotely and from whatever location in the world you wish to be? If so, joining the ranks of the remote online workforce has just become a little bit easier with a growing number of destinations offering easy to obtain digital nomad visas.
Important note: In this post, I am discussing certain aspects of the digital nomad lifestyle and how the introduction of digital nomad visas in a growing number of countries can help facilitate this dream come true. However, this post does not attempt in any way to provide legal advice. It also does not aspire to be a complete rundown when it comes to all necessary requirements of being a digital nomad, like for example having to register your own business, dealing with insurance, paying taxes and many more aspects. The below simply reflects my thoughts on working remotely and some of the resources in place to become a digital nomad.
Our world is going through a huge transformation, changing the way we live and work. One of the phenomena of the past few years has been the increase in freelance and remote working, which has ultimately led to the creation of the digital nomad.
You are probably familiar with that expression, but in case you are not, digital nomads earn their money online, working remotely and often independently. Most importantly, they also conduct a location-independent lifestyle, which means they can literally work everywhere around the world. Indeed, they often continue to move from place to place, working from hotels, coffee shops, libraries or even the beach (provided they will find a Wi-Fi connection).
According to a recent study, there are around 5 million people fitting the description of digital nomads; and another 17 million is keen to embrace this lifestyle.
The great news is: Today, there is a growing number of opportunities to find a job allowing you to work location-independently. This could either be starting your own online business or work for a company on a completely remote basis. And if there is something positive to come from the global pandemic we are currently experiencing, it will likely be a significant increase in remote job offerings as many more companies realize there are many benefits from working with remote employees.
Thus, once you have found your online dream job or made the big leap to become your own boss, theoretically you could just as well move to the Maldives, a Caribbean island or wherever in the world you have always dreamed to live. Or you keep moving from one destination to another, travelling the world while earning your income online.
The not so great news is: Firstly, there is a fairly long list of important things to consider if you want to become a digital nomad. From finding the right online work to registering your own business, dealing with insurance, paying taxes, managing your bank account while travelling and many other aspects, it is a lifestyle that at the end is less carefree than it might seem at first sight.
On the other hand, these are business aspects and though they need to be thoroughly dealt with, at the end of the day they are coming down to your managing skills to get by with.
However, there is one aspect which is largely out of the hands of the digital nomad and until recently needed to be dealt with a bit of a pragmatic approach.
Because, unless you want to be constantly on the move, living in a different country every few weeks, you must deal with getting a residence permit.
And even if you actually looking to keep travelling as part of your nomadic lifestyle, you remain in a grey-ish area. Because in fact you are not allowed to work on a tourist visa. Although as long as you make your money online and thus are not employed with a local entity, you will get away with it. In fact, many digital nomads live and work on this condition.
Then off course, you will only be able to stay somewhere short term, in most cases around three months, and in some locations even less, after which you will have to leave the country to avoid becoming an illegal immigrant. In case you are not an EU-citizen but want to travel throughout the EU on a foreign passport, you will even have to leave the EU after 90 days altogether as tourist visas to the region are only valid for a maximum of 90 days within a six month period.
While you might think travelling constantly is a dream come true, being on the move permanently can be become exhausting after a while.
Therefore, there might come the time you are looking to settle somewhere longer. Even if not long-term, you might look at a stay somewhere for six or even 12 months.
However, this is where things are starting to get complicated. Because if you want to stay somewhere longer, it means you need to apply for a residence permit.
I am explicitly not saying to apply for a work visa, because this would require you to have a work contract with a local entity. Which you will not have as a digital nomad.
Obtaining a residence permit anywhere in the world means you will have to fulfil a number of often quite demanding requirements, and typically will take a while to obtain.
Recognizing more people are working remotely, and by doing so they do not take away jobs from the local population, more destinations are now interested in providing remote worker friendly environments.
Countries like Estonia, Germany and Barbados are among the first countries to have implemented digital nomad visas to attract remote workers.
What exactly is a digital nomad visa and why should you need one?
Put simply, a digital nomad visa is a visa that allows you to stay in a country for a longer period compared to the usually (but not always) three months on a tourist visa. This could be anywhere from 12 months to no time limit at all (though the latter is quite rare).
If you can proof you are generating your income online, you are now able to apply for a digital nomad visa in several countries. Digital nomad visas are typically easy to obtain and only require a minimum of paperwork.
However, there are different policies and regulations in place from country to country how to apply for a digital nomad visa.
For example, certain countries might allow you to register online while others still require the more complicated (and longer) process of applying in person through a local embassy or consulate of said country.
Therefore, before applying for a digital nomad visa, carefully check local requirements and make sure you are eligible for the visa.
Though technically, you could work as a digital nomad on a tourist visa, there are a couple of important advantages to obtain a digital nomad visa.
It will take away the pressure to be on the road constantly, moving from country to country every two to three months. If you want to work and live in the EU (Schengen area) in particular, you are facing quite strict visa regulations if you do so on a tourist visa.
You will not longer have to deal with the uncertainty of not having a work permit while working abroad.
And finally, it will be easier to find a place to live, especially if you prefer not to stay in a hotel. For example, renting out an apartment even on a short-term basis often requires proof of a work / residency permit.
When are you eligible for a digital nomad visa?
Again, regulations are differing from country to country so to understand if you are eligible to apply for a digital nomad visa you need to check each country’s requirements.
However, as a rule of thumb, the major requirements will be to provide proof of your income. This could be financial statements, bank accounts or you could still be employed by a company who allows you to work remotely (though this company would not be allowed to employ you locally in the country you wish to apply for a digital nomad visa).
You might have to proof your online work is generating a minimum annual income – in the case of the recently established ‘Welcome Stamp’ in Barbados (the equivalent of a digital nomad visa) the minimum annual income requirement is $ 50,000 for the next 12 months.
In addition, in most countries you will also have to proof you have health insurance in place.
Furthermore, you will have to pay an application fee for most digital nomad visas.
Which countries have digital nomad visa programmes?
As for now, countries that offer visas for digital nomads are Barbados, Bermuda, Germany, Estonia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Mexico, Norway, Portugal and Thailand. Others are certain to follow, so keep an eye on the news.
Spain, another favourite for digital nomads does not yet offer a formal digital nomad visa but applying for the country’s ‘self employment visa’ which allows you to stay for a year given your are self-employed and you have sufficient financial backings.
Going forward, being able to apply for a digital nomad visa will make it significantly easier living abroad for some time if you can earn your income online.
Do you want to become a digital nomad? If so, where in the world would you like to live for a certain period?