Digital Nomad Visas—So You Want Me to Stay?

by | Feb 14, 2022 | Global | 1 comment

Even before pandemic-driven remote working, there was a move in many countries to encourage Digital Nomads to stay for more than a short time. This seems counter to the idea of a nomadic existence but brings some benefits for both the nomad and the country they are in. Here we explore those tradeoffs and the countries where a digital nomad can stay more than a few months without violating local work restrictions.

Tourism across the globe has plummeted, causing many countries to scramble to fill the gap. A growing trend is to attract remote workers to fill rentable space, who buy meals and increase spending in places that have been devastated by the economic downturn.

Remote Working at a Coffee Shop in Hue, Vietnam by Michael Wagner
Remote Working at a Coffee Shop in Hue, Vietnam by Michael Wagner

The image of being able to work, live, play in an exotic location is a fantasy that has become a reality for many. Flexible hours make it possible to work a few hours in the morning, explore in the afternoon, have a sunset dinner, maybe work a few more hours that night, then do it all over again the next day. That’s a nice routine, especially in a location where you can more than cover your costs.

Yet even if you’re on the beach, the truth is you’ll more likely find yourself holed up in an apartment doing serious work. So you might as well look at the growing options for staying in one place for one year or more. This becomes less nomadic but also helps reduce travel costs.

Technically, a remote worker is in violation of local work rules by generating an income without a work permit. It’s clearly difficult to prove, so the vast majority of Digital Nomads do this without consequence on a tourist visa.

Here are some options to consider that make your work legit and allow you to stay 12 months at a time (or more) with no need for a visa extension. Most of these require proof of income, foreign health insurance, and a certified background check. Also, watch for local tax rules that can result in unintended income tax liability.

Digital Nomad – Europe:

Estonia – the first country to establish a Digital Nomad residency program that originally required the creation of an EU-licensed online business. In 2020 they added the ability to work as a freelancer or remote worker for an employer outside of Estonia and the EU.

Croatia – a recent addition that offers what is actually a residency permit (not a visa) for 6 months at a time.

Czech Republic (Czechia) – has a special business visa for freelancers with an eligible trade license and proof of funds in your bank account. You need to apply in person at a Czech embassy and can take up to 120 days to get approval.

Germany – another residency permit for 6 months up to 3 years. This has relatively high-income requirements, and you must have clients in Germany. It also helps a lot if you speak German.

Greece – recently approved a 50% income tax-cut for Digital Nomads and freelance workers for up to 7 years.

Iceland – another recent addition for non-EU remote workers also motivated by the sudden drop in tourism that allows stays over 6 months.

Portugal – has a more flexible temporary resident visa that has the advantage of allowing you to stay for over 1 year and counts towards permanent residency.

Digital Nomad – The Islands:

Teaching Technology in Cartagena, Colombia by Eileen Brill Wagner
Teaching Technology in Cartagena, Colombia by Eileen Brill Wagner

Bermuda – requires proof of employment and health coverage for stays for up to 1 year. They have also extended the tourist visa from 90 to 180 days for those not wanting to commit to a longer stay.

Antigua & Barbuda – has relatively high-income requirements and proof of health insurance. The visa application fees are also some of the highest.

Barbados – the ‘Barbados Welcome Stamp’ is similar to the Antigua/Barbuda scheme with high-income requirements and high application fees for the chance to work with a view of the Caribbean blue seas.

Cayman Islands – recently added the ‘Global Citizen Concierge Program’ (GCCP) for remote workers but has one of the highest proof of income requirements with a hefty non-refundable application fee.

Mauritius – has one of the easiest visas to qualify for and has no application fee. It is good for 1 year and extendable. Costs are higher than in the rest of Asia but lower than in Europe.

Digital Nomad – Latin America:

Costa Rica – the ‘Rentista Visa’ is easy to secure with a reasonable income requirement. Internet service in the beach towns is not the best, so be prepared to deal with modest connection speeds.

Mexico – one of the Digital Nomad favorites with a flexible tourist visa (180 days) and temporary resident requirements for longer stays. The cities have solid internet, low living costs, and some of the best street food I can remember.

Digital Nomad – Middle East:

Dubai – this is a city that has embraced a strong expat culture from its beginning, almost 90% of the population are foreigners. The remote worker visa has high-income requirements and proof of health insurance. There is also a new 5-year multi-entry tourist visa available.

Abu Dhabi – historically has required a local company sponsor to acquire a work permit. To be competitive with their neighbor Dubai they have added a remote worker visa but have strict certification requirements to prove you have ongoing work as a self-employed worker.

It’s exciting to see the world finally embrace the reality of the internet-breaking down traditional barriers. The idea of ‘work without borders’, no matter where we are, is here to stay!

What’s your Digital Nomad destination going to be this year?

by: Michael Wagner