The recent push to work from home has transformed the way that companies operate on a global scale. Employees are no longer confined to office spaces and the ability to take work wherever we choose is now normality, not an unachievable privilege. Moving out of the company office and into cafes, libraries, and coffee shops has become much more commonplace. But if there’s no longer a need to work in a single location—why not venture a little further—perhaps relocate to an entirely different country?
For many digital nomads, there’s one little word stopping us from packing up our whole lives and heading directly to the airport. Visas. All tourist visas expire eventually and resident status is not so easy to get in most countries. However, many countries have caught on to the remote work trends and have introduced a new kind of visa, one tailored for the lifestyle of a digital nomad.
What Is a Digital Nomad?
Where once a visitor to a country had arrived for either business or pleasure—this new breed of digital nomad arrives for both. Digital nomads have been trapped in what is often described as a legal grey area since the launch of the very first laptop. Due to the requirements of a contract with a local entity, remote workers are unable to apply for a traditional work visa. Similarly, a tourism visa does not cover all facets of what it means to be a digital nomad.
This can lead to a whole lot of head-scratching and pouring over official government websites. Ultimately, for the majority of cases, digital nomads are able to solve their visa problems with one of two solutions—a traditional tourist visa or a dedicated digital nomad visa.
Can I Work Remotely on a Tourist Visa?
The simple tourist visa should be the first port of call for all digital nomads and remote workers looking to work in unfamiliar territory. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to whether or not it is possible to work as a digital nomad or remote worker on a tourist visa. Every country offers their own unique set of rules and regulations surrounding visas. Applicant nationality, length of stay, and type of work all play a role in deciding work permissions.
A traditional tourist visa covers a short period of time with the average length stretching a potential trip to three months. In most countries, digital nomads on a tourist visa will not run into any issues, but this can and should be checked on the respective government websites. A three-month visa is a great solution for those looking for a workcation in their chosen country, but this doesn’t cater for everyone. Remote workers looking to take their time and enjoy one particular country will be unable to live and work remotely with a tourist visa for very long.
What is a Digital Nomad Visa?
The global shift in remote work attitude has forced the hand of governments around the world, encouraging them to allow remote workers to stay in the country for extended periods. It’s with this mindset that more than 20 different countries have launched digital nomad visa programs. These allow for remote workers to pack their bags, pick up their laptops, and stay in a country, often for as long as one year.
Digital nomad visas are a fantastic solution for those of us looking to stay in the country for longer than a tourist visa currently allows. For example, if a tourist visa allows for three months and a remote worker is looking to stay for a total of six months, a digital nomad visa can be applied for. Similarly, if a country does not allow a digital nomad to work remotely on a tourist visa, a dedicated digital nomad visa can be the perfect solution.
How Do Digital Nomad Visas Work?
The terms and conditions of digital nomad visas differ from country to country, each with its own policies and regulations in place. Some countries will allow for a digital nomad visa to be swiftly applied for online. Others will require contact with an embassy or consulate to submit their application. Fees to issue a digital nomad visa may be required with charges ranging from free to as much as $2,000.
Once received, a digital nomad visa will function much in the same way that a standard tourist visa allows. This is, of course, with the additional permissions of a long-stay with remote work permissions. A digital nomad visa is not a standardized product and as the remote working world changes, so do the solutions available. All of the latest information surrounding each individual digital nomad visa can be accessed from the respective government websites.
Will I Be Eligible for a Digital Nomad Visa?
The eligibility criteria for a digital nomad visa are different depending on the country of choice with each taking into account nationality, income, and visa history. In addition to personal details, nomads will also be screened for threats to both the security and health of a country. When applying for a digital nomad visa, applicants must include the following:
- An eligible, valid passport
- Proof of a steady remote income
The required income level is one of the biggest differences that digital nomads will find when applying for these visas. For example, the Cayman Islands requires a minimum annual salary of $100,000 USD for singles compared with Norway’s requirement of €35,719.
Which Countries Offer a Digital Nomad Visa?
Digital nomads are still a new trend and not all countries are currently able to offer the forward-thinking visas. Estonia was the first country to offer a digital nomad visa, identifying the potential early on in 2020. The list of countries able to offer this type of visa has rapidly grown with the following countries all offering some form of digital nomad visa:
- Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Croatia, Curaçao, Czech Republic, Dominica, Dubai, Ecuador, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montserrat, Namibia, Norway, Panama, Portugal, Romania, Saint Lucia, Seychelles, Spain, Taiwan, and Thailand.
How Do You Get a Digital Nomad Visa?
There’s no quick and easy answer for how to get a digital nomad visa with few countries offering the new remote working visa. Digital nomads should always first look towards the tourism visa where they can, but a digital nomad specific visa does offer additional benefits. With longer stays available and solutions to remote working in specific cases, the digital nomad visa can be the best choice. To find out more about each country's different digital nomad visas, go to the government website to learn more about the requirements.