The landscape of the working world is ever-changing and increasingly adaptive. Navigating somewhat new territory within that landscape is the digital nomad.
Remote work has proven to be a primary driver for those wanting to strike a more sustainable work/life balance, looking for more freedom away from the rat race and office politics, or yearning to explore new places and cultures.
With more than 35 million people currently making up this tribe of digital nomads (51% from the U.S. alone), it’s evident this work trend is proving to be a popular alternative to traditional office life. Along with new terrain come new laws and regulations.
Digital nomad visas or programs may seem like a difficult territory to cross, but there is a wealth of information out there to inform and guide you. This article will help map out a basic route for anyone considering venturing out as a digital nomad.
What Exactly Is a Digital Nomad Visa?
The digital nomad visa is more like a temporary residence permit than an actual visa. It’s a document that gives you, the digital nomad, the legal right to work remotely in a country for a specified period of time.
In other words, if you’re on a beach in Colombia working on your laptop or sitting in a busy cafe in Lisbon waiting to connect to the next virtual meeting, or wherever, whether self-employed or working for a company, the digital nomad visa allows you to temporarily live in another country while working for an organization based outside of that particular country.
Many countries also offer digital nomad programs which makes the whole process for the remote worker or freelancer relatively smooth and problem-free. These programs have great benefits which include expanding your professional network, not having to be tied down in one place, and allowing you to trek around the globe to meet other nomadic entrepreneurs.
Certain programs involve living for a lengthy period of time in the country and fostering a community of remote workers via shared working spaces and seminars. Other programs offer accommodations and day trips which involve learning about the local culture and integrating more with your temporary country of residence. Then, there are retreats, which usually last for a shorter period of time and involve collaborating with a specific group of people who share the goal of being productive and learning more about work/life equilibrium.
Even though they’re expensive, these programs organize all travel arrangements for you and even provide access to reliable internet connections (the holy grail of all remote workers). You meet other professionals across various industries allowing you to network and expand your business connections.
Where Can You Work, Live and Play?
The following is a list of countries offering digital visas for anyone considering this 21st-century nomadic working lifestyle:
Basic requirements for digital nomad visas are resemblant in many ways, but there might be other boxes you’ll need to tick that vary from country to country. For example, minimum income requirements, length of stay, et cetera may vary.
Many countries listed above are proving to be really popular destination choices for digital nomads, especially Mexico, Thailand, Croatia, Portugal, Estonia, and Malaysia. Prospective digital nomads have to meet certain criteria to be considered for a temporary residence permit to work remotely.
How Do Digital Nomads Get Visas?
Take for example the Croatia digital nomad visa. You’re permitted to work and live there for 12 months without the possibility of extending the visa. Your bank statement will also need to show a minimum of 28,800 HRK(4,544.81 USD).
The Portugal digital nomad visa on the other hand needs proof of a monthly salary that is four times that of the current minimum wage in Portugal (€705). So, you’ll need to earn at least €2,820 (£2,430 or $2,757) per month.
The DE Rantau Nomad Pass is the Malaysia digital nomad visa that became available as of October 2022. Digital nomads will need to prove they are either freelancers sourcing work from outside Malaysia or are employed by a company operating outside of the country. It is possible to extend the visa for another year after the permit expires.
Estonia was the first country to set up an e-residency permit. With the Estonia digital visa, you’ll be able to live and work remotely for up to a year. Potential remote workers will need to prove that they earn up to €3,504 ($3,730) per month, including the last six months before application.
Most digital nomad visas will require
a fee payment
filling out an application form
an appointment with the embassy or consulate
proof of employment or proof of purpose (a document or contract that states that you work for an employer or company outside of the country to which you are applying)
a specified minimum income per month or year (this may include a particular amount in relation to immediate family members, for example, in Cyprus, you will need to earn an additional 20% above €3, 500 per month for a spouse and an extra 15% per child)
a copy of your passport
travel or health insurance
address of temporary residence
In the end, the best digital nomad visas will have a straightforward application process with as little hassle as possible.
Many digital nomads will agree that working along with an immigration lawyer helps you leap over some obstacles in your path. Their invaluable legal know-how will assist you in making sense of the rules that, quite frankly, are being written as you read this.
Officials around the world are becoming more informed as legislation concerning the digit nomadic working life keeps progressing. No doubt, there are a range of financial and legal hurdles to overcome for employers and employees, whether it’s managing team members across borders and time zones or figuring out international tax and insurance laws.
Taxes are another one of those tricky bureaucratic hurdles. Several countries will require you to pay full taxation rates while others incur certain tax deductions or specific rates. Other countries have 0% tax obligations since they presume you’ll be paying your taxes in your home country.
Digital Nomads—A Glimpse into the Future?
The year 2020 kicked off the start of a turbulent decade. With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international travel, many countries saw a drastic drop in revenue brought in by tourism. But working from home (or not in the office) became somewhat of a new “normal”.
Governments have reached out to techpats and other digital nomad entrepreneurs with enticing offers to work and live, temporarily, in their countries to feed the economy and boost government budgets via tax (VAT), import duties, and other fees. It’s reported that digital nomads shell out an impressive $787 billion a year!
With the opportunity to experience the natural wonders and cultural diversity of other places and to escape the hum-drum of office life, it’s no wonder that the digital nomadic lifestyle continues to draw in so many around the world.
More and more countries are reviewing, revising, and establishing visas and residency permits that align specifically with the needs of the digital nomad. If the sky-blue waters of the Bahamas are calling out to you or you’ve always wanted to explore the culture and cuisine of Malaysia, check out your digital nomad visa options, and turn those office daydreams into a working reality.
Written by Nastassia Da Silva