Digital nomad visa: countries with the best remote work visas
If you could be reading this sentence anywhere, which country would you choose? That’s the question more than 15.5 million Americans who describe themselves as “digital nomads” have already answered. They join the fast-growing cohort of global expats, “techpats”, freelancers, and entrepreneurs who have taken their professional lives on the road. Below, we cover the countries around the world that offer a digital nomad visa, and the intricacies to be aware of before starting your life on the road.
One thing to note is that when it’s time to transfer funds as part of your move, or remit money back home, CurrencyFair is a safe, reliable and smart way to send money abroad with rates up to eight times cheaper than the banks.
As working from home becomes working from anywhere, digital nomads are taking advantage of the opportunity to earn in the highest paying economy, and live in the cheapest country. At the same time, many countries whose tourism industries were badly hit by the pandemic have spotted the opportunity to fast-track recovery by encouraging digital nomads to settle and spend. To date, as many as 42 countries currently offer a digital nomad visa or have plans to introduce one.
What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad lives in a different country to the one where their business is registered and their employers based. That means most don't meet the requirements to apply for conventional work or residency visas, so they're forced to lead a digitally nomadic lifestyle, moving country as each tourist visa elapses. While the flexibility makes it an ideal lifestyle for freelancers or entrepreneurs, 54% of digital nomads are full-time employees.
Is it illegal to be a digital nomad?
There’s a difference between being “on the road” and “on the run” in terms of tax, residency requirements and visas. Because digital nomads are often working from a laptop in a coffee shop and aren't active in their host country’s labour pool, they can get away with passing as tourists. But in the long-term they need to have a plan for:
To be taken seriously, as well as access cross-border business banking, a digital nomad will need to have a business registered in a specific country. It’s important to be aware of the tax implications of working abroad, double taxation, and at what point you may need to decide where to plant your residential roots in terms of tax liability.
Nomads differ from expats in that they typically move before the issue of residency arises. In essence, most stay as tourists, but the digital nomad visa aims to change that. European Union citizens enjoy free movement across all member states, of course, so don't require a visa or work permit.
The tourist visa is usually up to 90 days in most popular destinations, but the digital nomad visa can be for up to a year. The requirements are tougher, however, and you'll need to show proof of funds, vaccination certificates and medical insurance, among others.
Which countries offer a digital nomad visa?
We’ve focused below on the countries that offer a welcoming visa regime as well as a favourable expat environment. Bermuda, Iceland, the Cayman Islands and Taiwan, for example, all offer visas for nomads, but the high cost of living isn’t practical. These countries, on the other hand, are open for remote business.
Croatia digital nomad visa
This popular summer tourist hotspot launched its digital nomad visa in 2021. The offer: Apply easily online, pay no Croatian income tax for up to a year, and stay in Croatia for up to 12 months. You'll need to provide proof of income (min. HRK 17,822 per month), health insurance, background checks and a rental contract.
Czech Republic digital nomad visa
The long-term entrepreneurship or “Zivno” visa is an established favourite among remote workers. The application process is slightly more complicated, and you'll need to have an eligible trade licence, proof of funds, health insurance, and proof of accommodation.
Malta digital nomad visa
The Mediterranean island offers a one-year Nomad residence permit to non-EU citizens. Malta has steadily grown in popularity in recent years as a tech hub for gaming companies, and it’s the first EU country to offer 5G mobile coverage nationwide.
Estonia digital nomad visa
Estonia became the first country in the world to offer a digital nomad visa through its pioneering e-residency program. Expats can work in the Baltic tech hot spot for up to a year under the scheme. All work must be for companies based outside Estonia and your monthly earnings must be at least €3,504.
Germany digital nomad visa
If you’re planning on living in Germany as an expat nomad, you can work as a freelancer for up to 12 months (renewable) if you provide one of the specified professions under the scheme. If your skillset isn't on the list, apply for a self-employment residence permit instead. You must register with the German tax office and have clients in Germany, a condition that's something of an exception for nomad visas in general.
Greece digital nomad visa
Provided you're regularly earning €3,500 or more per month, you can apply for a Greek digital nomad visa and take your pick from the Mediterranean nations 227 islands. It’s relatively easy to extend your visa into a nomad residence permit once your 12 months are up.
Hungary digital nomad visa
Budapest is a popular and affordable city with digital nomads. Hungary’s white card visa allows you to stay and work there legally. Launched in November 2021, the visa lets any digital nomad earning a minimum of €2,000 a month stay for up to one year.
Italy digital nomad visa
With tourism numbers badly affected by the pandemic, Italy took the proactive step in 2022 of introducing tax incentives for digital nomads to establish legal residency. As a digital nomad, you can get a self-employment visa for up to two years and qualify for 70% detaxation on income.
Portugal digital nomad visa
The low cost of living and usually benign climate in Portugal have made it a popular spot for digital nomads. There’s even a dedicated nomad village in Madeira at Ponta do Sol. Portugal offers a temporary resident visa for one year, renewable for up to five years with a route to permanent residency. The minimum earnings threshold is low at just €600 a month.
Does Spain have a digital nomad visa?
Despite the attraction of low-cost Spain for remote workers, the country has yet to introduce a nomad visa. Most digital nomads take advantage of the non-lucrative visa, which allows you to stay for up to six months without having to register. It doesn’t allow the holder to work, however.
Georgia digital nomad visa
Digital nomads really looking to get off the beaten track can try the Remotely from Georgia programme. This allows freelancers to settle in the eastern European state for up to one year, provided they earn at least US$2,000 a month. More than 2,700 nomads so far have taken up the offer.
Caribbean digital nomad visas
Several islands are diversifying their economies with digital nomad programs to attract visitors outside the winter tourism season.
Bahamas: an attractive option for digital nomads from the United States, the Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay (BEATS) visa allows stays of up to 12 months, with the possibility to extend for three years.
Barbados: if your earnings are above US$50,000 a year, you can qualify for the Barbados Welcome Stamp and stay for up to one year. That might put your finances to the test, however, given that the cost of living on the island (and most Caribbean islands) is high.
Antigua and Barbuda: a similar program with the same minimum income threshold operates in Antigua, although this nomad digital residence programme is valid for two years.
Anguilla: if you can accept the high (US$2,000) application cost, Anguilla’s digital nomad visa promises “work, life and bliss” for up to 12 months.
Dominica: swap powdery beaches for rainforest and you can work in nature in Dominica for up to 18 months as long as your annual income is above US$50,000. Dominica has one of the lowest costs of living among the Caribbean countries offering nomad visas.
Other island getaways for remote work
For nomads who want to take remote working to the extreme by basing themselves on an Indian Ocean archipelago, there are two options.
Mauritius offers a free premium travel visa for one year, with an easy online application service.
The Seychelles offers a one-year workcation retreat visa and you can choose from 115 islands when deciding where to plant your hammock.
Central and South American digital nomad visas
Costa Rica: a perennial favourite among American expats, Costa Rica allows for stays of up to two years through the rentista programme for any digital nomad with earnings over US$2,500 per month.
Mexico: provided no work is undertaken for Mexican companies and income is above US$2,595 per month, nomads can stay in Mexico for up to one year (renewable).
Brazil: a temporary visa targeting digital nomads was introduced in 2022. It allows stays for up to one year based on a US$1,500 income requirement.
Countries without a digital nomad visa
One of the ironies of the digital nomad phenomenon is that few of the most popular destinations have a formal programme in place. For example, neither Colombia nor Vietnam currently offers a digital nomad visa, so remote workers are forced to slip under the radar using a tourist visa.
Nomads in Thailand have typically taken advantage of the 60-day tourist visa that's refreshed regularly by a “visa run” to a neighbouring country. However, the Special Tourist Visa introduced in 2020 allows for up to 270 days.
The thousands of nomads who flock to Bali in Indonesia may no longer have to leave and return every 60 days once the planned five-year digital nomad visa is introduced. As if living in affordable Bali wasn't enough, the visa will allow nomads to work tax-free in the tropical paradise too.
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This information is correct as of July 2022 This information is not to be relied on in making a decision with regard to an investment. We strongly recommend that you obtain independent financial advice before making any form of investment or significant financial transaction. This article is purely for general information purposes. Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash.
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