Written By: Ana Saturria McGregor
* Make sure to read the disclaimer included at the end of this article closely.
The world is changing fast. There’s no denying that.
For many professionals, what it means to be “at work,” is becoming more flexible than ever.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to send their workers home. Many workers and companies are wondering if they should return to the office at all after so many months. What does being successful at work mean for workers’ general well-being?
The pandemic has forced companies to rethink the way they do business. That includes practices like:
This is about more than working in your pajamas. Or taking breaks to get snacks from your own fridge. Or wrestling your dog between meetings.
Business travels are down, and may never be the same again. Borders around the world are closed until further notice – but people still want to travel.
If you’re working from home, but itching to travel, you may be thinking of questions like:
More and more people can work from anywhere: they are their own bosses or their bosses allow it. At the same time, many countries are not receiving the same number of tourists they used to. Because of this, visas for people who want to stay for longer than a few weeks, and can work from anywhere, are becoming more popular.
These “remote workers,” or “digital nomad” visas give you time to explore a new location. And there’s no need to sacrifice your professional goals in the process or take a sabbatical.
In this article, we'll refer to “remote workers,” and “digital nomads” as different workers. Remote workers have a traditional job and are working from home right now, but didn't use to.
Digital nomads work in areas where they can work from the computer most of the time. Thanks to this, they can work from anywhere. Very often, they’re freelancers.
Remote workers are generally employed by a fixed employer and have a fixed salary. They are free to work from a flexible location.
Twitter, Square, Visa, Google, and other companies are letting their workers stay home. Even some school districts are letting workers stay home for longer. Some companies are even thinking about letting workers stay home forever.
Digital nomads are often freelancers – no fixed employer. This makes them self-employed and location-independent. In most cases, as long as they have the internet and a computer, they're good. Freelancer jobs include graphic designers, consultants, copywriters, language teachers, and web developers. Thanks to automation and videoconference tools, careers that typically require in-person interactions, like a consultation with a doctor or a financial advisor, can easily be done remotely.
If you can work from anywhere, why not cast your net wider and see what else is out there?
Some of the most interesting places in the world have long-term visa options. You can either be a remote worker or a digital nomad to qualify. Some of these visas have been in place for a while, so they're very organized. Others are more recent and are still in development.
Let’s explore some exciting visas offered around the world.
For many Caribbean countries, tourism is their bread and butter. With the COVID-19 pandemic, their tourism numbers have dropped down a lot. The drop in tourism in some of these islands affects not only the big hotels – but thousands of people that make a living because of tourism.
Countries used to receiving a lot of tourists want to welcome people back, but in a safe way. So, some of them are inviting people who are stuck at home working from their four walls to come over for a while. This way, remote workers get to go someplace new and spend money at the local businesses, which saves jobs.
This is not only for tech workers. A teacher from Delaware recently shared his plans to move to Barbados and teach from there. His district is remote, so why not?
If you’ve ever dreamed of getting your work done and getting some beach time right after – or during – your regular workday check out the requirements for these Caribbean visas, and pick your island.
You’ll be taking lunch break swims and perfecting your tan before you know it!
Bermuda isn't too far away from the East Coast of the US and is a popular vacation destination. Recently, Bermuda rolled out a Residential Certification program. This visa lets you live in Bermuda while you work remotely for one year. Many hotels and vacation rentals are changing their prices to offer long-term deals to accommodate those taking advantage of this program.
Interested applicants can submit an application on the Government of Bermuda website. Visa applications open on Aug. 1, 2020. You can include family members in your application. You can even bring your housekeeper or nanny with you.
As part of the application, you need to prove you make enough to support yourself and your family. Your job can be through an employer or freelance. Also, under Bermuda law, Residential Certification holders don’t pay income tax.
You can find out more about how to apply here.
Barbados introduced its remote worker visa very recently. It's a small Caribbean island better known for being where pop star Rihanna was born – she goes back often, by the way.
Some studies suggest that the sun and the beach are good for our mental health. And the government of Barbados is not shy to remind possible applicants of this. Their message is simple: come work from paradise. It’s better for you than staying in your old apartment.
After Barbados announced their remote work visa program, interest in visas for remote workers and digital nomads, in general, has gone up. What's so great about Barbados, you ask? The beaches are beautiful, there are lots of outdoor activities, and it's very easy to get around. The official language of Barbados is English, too – making the transition to paradise that much easier.
You can apply on your own, or with your family. Barbados has also waived income tax for those who get the visa. You need to make at least US $50,000 to qualify – employees and freelancers welcome. You can find out more about the Barbados Welcome Stamp – the official name of the visa – here.
It’s not possible to describe or understand Mexico in a few paragraphs. Mexican culture goes far beyond tacos and Día de Los Muertos. This rich culture is filled with history and has lived on for thousands of years. Mexico is also one of the most populated countries in Latin America, with over 129 million people. Time and again, Mexico has captured the imagination of travelers. It has coastal towns, colonial cities, Mayan temples, and much more. Mexico remains popular with both tourists and retirees.
Mexico's Temporary Resident Visa lets you stay for more than six months and up to four years. You can apply as an employee or a freelancer. This extended term allows free entry and exit from Mexico during the time of your residency. As part of your application, you must prove that you can support yourself. You may submit proof of how much you have in the bank, or the income you make through your work. Freelancers need to show they can make a little over US $2,000 a month over the six months before they apply for the visa.
It's interesting to note that if you get a job offer in Mexico and you have this kind of visa, you may take it. Other remote workers/digital nomad visa programs say you must make your money out of the country. This one doesn't.
Make sure you apply at the nearest Mexican consulate. Do an online search for "Mexican consulate [city]" to find the nearest one to you. You can look at the requirements here.
Europe is easy to travel through, has countless natural beauties, and very different cultures. Because of these things, Europe is on most travelers' bucket lists.
European countries had high numbers of cases during the early months of the pandemic. However, in the last few months, European countries have begun to reopen for tourism. Some European countries have welcomed remote workers and digital nomads for some time. Others are getting their own visas for these new explorers ready as they start to reopen.
With a continent this diverse, you're sure to find a country that fits what you're looking for. Here are some of the countries that offer visas for remote workers and digital nomads in Europe:
Estonia has some of the most user-friendly laws for establishing businesses in Europe. Estonia is also very technology-friendly. In fact, many startups in Europe establish their business structure in Estonia.
This small Baltic country is hoping to attract people who can work from anywhere. With that in mind, lawmakers recently made changes in the country's Alien Act. These changes create a visa for remote workers and digital nomads to stay on a longer-term basis.
As of now, only people from a few countries can apply because the country hasn't reopened in full. Some countries' passport holders must include a negative COVID-19 test with their application. Others have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. For a list of countries eligible to apply, check out the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Through its two types, C (short stay) and D (long stay), applicants can live and work from Estonia for up to a year. The application process includes a background check. When you apply, you must also meet the income threshold18 through your remote work. Processing an application takes about 30 days.
If you’re a freelancer, you must make your income outside of Estonia. This means you can't have Estonian clients.
Many of the countries featured in this article – including Estonia – are members of the European Union. As part of the European Union, its member states are also part of a free movement zone called the Schengen zone.19 The visa to one of the member states lets you visit others. So, if you got an Estonian Digital Nomad visa, you could travel to other Schengen zone countries.
Apply for the Digital Nomad visa, and subscribe to the e-Residency newsletter here.
Georgia is an up-and-coming tourist destination thanks to its mountains, culture, and winemaking. It's also near the Caucasus mountains and the Black Sea. In the last four years, Georgia has been taking solid steps to become a more attractive destination for digital nomads. Getting into the country is easy. The Internet is fast. And there's even a local program that partners remote workers with coworking spaces.
The global pandemic has affected Georgia's tourism pretty badly. Georgia has low COVID case numbers, so the government sees digital nomad visas as a safe way to begin reopening the country. Georgians are excited about these visas too – they see it as a way for more people to get to know the country and its people.
The cost of living in Georgia compares favorably to other places. Plus, locals tend to have a welcoming attitude towards newcomers.
The Georgia visa for remote workers and digital nomads is open to all countries. The details are still in the works, but staying for up to a year visa-free is possible for most countries already. When the visa is available, you can expect to have to quarantine and prove your income. Travel insurance that covers you for at least six months is also expected.
Georgia would be a great option for those who are okay going somewhere that isn't tropical. It's also great for those who may have more restrictions elsewhere.
To begin your application to work remotely from Georgia, click here.
You may know this country as the Czech Republic. In different circles, the names are used interchangeably. Many consider Prague one of the most stunning cities in Europe. Czechia is in the middle of Europe, so it's a good base point to start exploring the rest of the continent.
If you're a remote worker or a digital nomad, the visa you're eligible for has a slightly different name. Czechia's long-term business visa lets you stay for longer than a regular visa. You have to show you have health insurance, a place to stay, and make enough money.
Spain has a variety of climates, a pleasant lifestyle, and the fastest growing economy in the EU as of last year. Spain is an old favorite of European travelers. It's also been issuing visas for independent workers for some time. In the Spanish regime, they're called autónomos.
Spain's Non-Lucrative Visa program allows workers to live and work in Spain for up to a year. The main condition is that you can't make any of your income in Spain.
After the first year, you can renew your Non-Lucrative Residency for two years. You can include family members as part of your application. Over time, this type of visa may lead to permanent resident status if you qualify.
As part of your application, you must prove you have health insurance and make enough income. Once you get into the country, you have to register with the local authorities. To be eligible for renewals, you must spend a specific number of days of the year in Spain.
One drawback of this visa is that you will have to pay Spanish taxes – unless your country has a tax treaty with Spain.
You must file your application at your nearest Spanish embassy or consulate. For general guidelines on how to apply, click here.
Germany's had a visa program that welcomes freelancers for years, and it’s simply called a freelancer visa. Once you have it, you can extend your German freelancer visa for up to three years. Germany is modern, has a strong economy, a high standard of living, and is a leader in the continent. German laws outline who qualifies as a freelancer. To qualify for a freelancer visa in Germany, your work must be a “liberal” occupation. Some of these occupations fall in the fields of healthcare, law, languages, and business - it’s a pretty broad definition. You can see a list of broader areas of work here.
Like in other countries, you must submit proof of income. Germany also requires that you show proof of having a retirement plan if you're over 45. But, Americans don't have to do this. Your proof of income must include contracts that show you will have enough work during your time working in Germany. A more comprehensive list of documents to submit and application costs can be found here.
Most countries with visas for digital nomads require proof of insurance. There’s a difference between travel insurance and health insurance, though.
Travel insurance covers mostly emergencies and other incidentals like losing your luggage. Contact your current health insurance provider to find out about international coverage. Most major insurance companies have international partners.
Each country includes an income threshold you must be at to qualify for a remote work visa. Some countries require higher incomes than others. The more family members come with you, the higher the threshold is. Keep that in mind when you look at your options.
Think about the kind of lifestyle you can afford in that country with the money that you make now. This may affect where you live, what you can buy, and what you can do in your free time.
To get an idea of the differences in the cost of living between cities, Numbeo30 is a great resource.
*Because each individual's legal, tax, and financial situation is different, the information here is not intended as tax or financial advice. Please see the legal disclaimer at the end of this article and consult a tax professional or financial advisor with your specific questions.
When you’re applying for your visa, make sure you understand what taxes you may still owe back home. You should also find out if you will owe taxes in your new home.
Americans have to file taxes on their worldwide income, no matter where they live and for how long. Make sure you talk to a tax professional, financial advisor, and/or CPA to learn more.
How comfortable are you moving to a place where you don’t speak the language? It’s easier to get by in some places without the local language. In other places, it may be close to impossible.
Learning a few basic words goes a long way to establish trust with locals. It also helps with finding local, more affordable products and getting to see more of “the real” country.
If you have the option of being location independent, embrace it! Be grateful that you have a say in where you want to live. Try to stay open-minded. Think about the opportunity to move abroad on one of these visas as an adventure, a gift to yourself.
The worst that can happen is that you hate it and decide to go home – in which case, no harm done. Or a pandemic could hit and you’re stuck at your new home. Although by now you probably know how to handle the latter.
A simple search on Facebook for “digital nomads” will render dozens of groups. Some are location or gender-specific. Make sure you review the guidelines, but this could be a good way to network with others before you take the big leap. Reddit also has the r/digitalnomad subreddit – which is definitely worth checking out!
There are more opportunities to become location-independent doing meaningful things than ever before. Writing is only one of them. Sign up for a free course on freelance copywriting here
If you can be location-independent with your work, the world really is your oyster.
So where are you going?
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