The post-pandemic future of work is looking rather dreamy from where we are standing. The world’s fresh perspective on remote work is making the digital nomad lifestyle not only possible, but inevitable. This month, two countries announced the first ever digital nomad visa, an unprecedented step forward for the digital nomad movement!
Have you been dreaming about traveling the world? Did you count down the days until your last vacation? Do you long for the beach? The jungle? The mountains? Would you like to skip winter? Spend your evenings dancing salsa in El Salvador? Or your mornings scuba diving in the Seychelles?
If the road has been calling, your time has come. Countries are opening up again. Now that you work from your laptop, and not an office, the world is your oyster.
So what exactly is a digital nomad visa?
When it comes to visas for digital nomads, it all gets a bit complicated. Working and traveling tends to be a bit of a legal grey area. To get a working visa, you typically need to have a fixed job within the country of intended residence. To enter on a tourist visa and then work for an external company is technically illegal.
With a huge section of the workforce joining the ranks of remote workers in 2020, it is no surprise that some countries are jumping on the opportunity to welcome digital nomads. After all, this subclass of travellers is one of the largest growing markets in the travel industry. Over the past few years, destinations have launched all kinds of incentives to lure in digital nomads. These ranged from literally being paid to visit a place as a remote worker, to unique competitions aimed only at digital nomads.
And now there’s a new incentive: the digital nomad visa.
A digital nomad visa allows you to freely travel through a destination, whilst working remotely (and legally!) from your laptop.
What are the benefits of having a digital nomad visa?
Digital nomad visas are a new concept, but being a digital nomad is nothing new. Many countries tended to turn a blind eye when it came to digital nomads. This growing market of tourism has been so appealing to many countries, that they’ve simply overlooked the growing number of ‘tourists’ who covertly worked from their laptop.
So why would you want a digital nomad visa then?
The benefits start to kick in when you want to settle somewhere for a while. Want to live in Bali for a year as a digital nomad? You’ll need to fly in and out six times a year to make it happen! Hoping to stay in Thailand? Expect to be making monthly ‘border runs’ and spend plenty of time standing in line at the visa office.
What initially seems like fun can be a whole lot of time, money, and hassle that you’ll have to deal with on top of your workload.
Who exactly is offering the digital nomad visa?
Estonia and Barbados made headlines this month as they announced that they would be implementing a digital nomad visa. But they’re not the first or the only countries to offer something similar.
We’ve put together 8 exciting destinations that offer flexible working visas. So you can continue (or start!) your digital nomad lifestyle, without breaking the law. Whether you’re an established digital nomad on a temporary standstill. Or an aspiring world traveller, newly freed from the office, we hope you’ll find something helpful in this list!
Barbados is known for its incredible beaches and tropical weather. To boost tourism – which has been greatly affected by COVID-19 – the Barbados tourism board have launched their first official digital nomad visa. They’re calling it “the Barbados Welcome Stamp.” The new visa will allow remote workers to reside in Barbados for up to 1 year. The tagline of the resulting campaign boasts that it will offer you 1 year “in paradise.” If you’re hoping to trade in the busy city for chilled out island life, then Barbados may just be the destination for you.
The fine print: You’ll need to prove you can make at least $50,000 per year to qualify for the visa
Cost of visa: $2000 for an individual, $3000 for a family (dependents, such as spouses or children under 26 are welcome to join.)
Current pandemic risk: Very low. Barbados has had only 100 cases of COVID so far.
How to apply: Visit the official website here.
This small Baltic country isn’t the first destination that comes to mind when you imagine traveling through Northern Europe. Often overlooked Estonia, however, is an uncrowded, well-priced, off-the-beaten-track destination with a growing digital nomad scene.
Outside of the rather quaint major cities, Estonia offers incredible access to nature, with plenty of lakes, sandy beaches, and national parks. There are even thousands of islands belonging to Estonia, each with their own unique landmarks, culture and history. It really is a wild and undiscovered destination.
Estonia launched its digital nomad visa scheme this week. The visa allows visitors to legally travel in Estonia for up to a year, whilst working for a company based abroad.
The fine print: You’ll need to prove that your income has been more than €3500 per month (gross pay, before tax deductions) for six months previous to applying for the visa.
Cost of visa: €80 for a short stay/ €100 for a long stay
How to apply: visit the official website here.
Current pandemic risk: Low. Estonia has had just over 2000 cases of COVID-19.
Georgia, in the Caucasus region – not the state in America – is a little country bordering Turkey, Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. As a destination, Georgia leans towards obscurity. Contrary to its small size and low profile, however, Georgia has a lot to offer.
The country’s diverse landscape includes large alpine areas, snow-capped mountains, deserts, and rugged coastline. And there’s enough canyon, lakes, ski slopes, and waterfalls to win over anyone with a passion for nature or outdoor sports. It’s also an incredibly affordable destination with some of the friendliest locals you are likely to meet.
For adventurous digital nomads looking to escape the crowds and try something totally new, Georgia is a unique nomad destination. And now you can stay for a year on the new digital nomad non-visa! Yeah, that wasn’t a typo. You won’t need a visa to work and travel in Georgia for up to a year if you’re on the list of approved countries stated on the Georgia Tourism Board website.
The fine print: Only countries on the approved list can work and travel in Georgia on this scheme. There are 94 countries on the list.
Cost of visa: Free
How to apply: Check if your country is approved. Apply, and then simply show up!
Current pandemic risk: Very low. So far there have only been 16 deaths from COVID-19 in Georgia.
Germany, and more specifically Berlin, is hailed as one of the digital nomad hipster hotspots. Its affordable, creative, and edgy vibe has been attracting remote working tribes for years. Cheap apartments, fast internet, artsy co-working spaces, and German beer are also part of the allure!
Germany, being right at the centre of Europe is also incredibly well-connected to other countries. Inexpensive flights and trains leave regularly to plenty of exciting destinations.
To further support their international milieu of creatives and artists, Germany have introduced the Freiberufler (freelancer) visa. The visa allows you to pursue freelance work in Germany. There’s even a special sub-visa specifically for artists wishing to live and contribute to the community in Berlin.
The fine print: You need to be a freelancer, which excludes digital nomads working remotely for a singular company. To be an official freelancer, you will need to show that you have more than one client.
Cost of visa: between €28 and €100, dependent on your country of originHow to apply: You can apply from the German embassy in your own country. The visa can take around 2 months to process. You can also enter Germany on a tourism visa and then switch to a freelance visa by visiting the Ausländerbehörde (foreigner’s office). For more details, this informative article on Medium offers comprehensive advice on how to obtain the visa.
Current pandemic risk: Medium/high. Germany made headlines in Europe for having the most accelerated testing program, allowing them to quickly react to the pandemic and flatten the curve much more rapidly than surrounding countries. So far they’ve experienced 189K coronavirus cases, but had a much lower death rate than neighbouring countries (less than 10,000 deaths).
Costa Rica is one of the world’s most environmentally-friendly and biodiverse destinations on the planet. Known for its beaches, dense jungles, diverse wildlife, and laid back attitude, Costa Rica is incredibly popular with digital nomads.
The capital San Jose has a vibrant buzz, great nightlife, a delicious food scene and a balmy climate that makes a nice escape from the heat of the surrounding tropics. Elsewhere, on the Carribean and Pacific coast, the waves are perfect for surfers and the yoga scene draws in a wellness crowd.
The country is well-set up for work and travel. There’s good internet connection and plenty of co-working spaces, hostels, and scenes to be explored. Even in the more remote areas of Costa Rica, co-working giants such as Selina are making the digital nomad lifestyle more accessible with their growing collection of co-working hostels.
When it comes to visas, the government is also encouraging digital nomads to stay. The Costa Rica rentista (residence) visa grants temporary residence for up to two years to anyone earning over $2500 a month.
The fine print: You will need to prove that either you have a steady income of $2500, or have at least $60,000 in your account at the time of applying. Your documents need to be notarized and translated into Spanish. You’ll also need a full background check from your home country.
Cost: $250 USD
How to apply: You can apply at the nearest Costa Rican embassy in your home country. There are also several online legal authorities that can offer help (at a fee) with this service.
Current pandemic risk: Low. Costa Rica has not experienced a very sharp rise in COVID cases, and have only had 87 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
This incredible Scandinavian country has a chilly but charming appeal. There’s breathtaking scenery, magnificent fjords, impressive cathedrals and an incredible variety of wildlife.
For digital nomads who love the great outdoors, it doesn’t get much better than Norway. The Norweigen government has allowed visa-free access into the region of Svalbard, meaning digital nomads are allowed to settle there and work. The downside? You’ll still need a regular visa to get into the rest of Norway.
If you can brave the weather, Svalbard is a truly unique place to base yourself. During the week, you could expect to work from a cute log cabin surrounded by huskies, reindeer and even polar bears. At the weekend, you could go whale watching, hike across mountains and glaciers, sample local delicacies such as seal meat on the Artic Tapas Bus, or seek out natural phenomena such as the Aurora Borealis and the midnight sunset.
The fine print: You’ll need to prove you have enough money to survive out there. Rent typically runs at around $1500 a month in Svalbard and food is also incredibly expensive, as many things have to be shipped in.
How to apply: Simply show up at the airport
Current pandemic risks: Low. Norway has has only 9000 cases so far. In Svalbard there have been no registered deaths from COVID-19.
Mexico is simply bursting with life. It is one of those destinations that has everything and then some. Expect vibrant colors, incredible architecture and spirited people.
And then there’s the food…mouthwatering, robust, spicy…it will take your breath away. And the nature will too. Dazzling sunsets, turquoise ocean, ribbons of soft white sand. Mexico is a mega-beast of a destination with so much to see and discover, you just need to keep coming back.
As a digital nomad in Mexico, you’d need years to see it all. And now you can! The Mexico temporary residence visa allows digital nomads to stay for up to a year, and extend for another three years after that.
The fine print: You’ll need to prove that you have earned at least $60,000 US in the last year
How to apply: Apply through the Mexican consulate in your home country.
Current pandemic risks: High. Mexico experienced a large level of Coronavirus cases and had over 40,000 deaths to date (the 5th highest death toll in the world). Despite this, they are currently operating as usual without lockdown.
The Aussie sun, sea and surf lifestyle has earned it an international reputation as one of the best places to live in the world. Blessed with an incredible range of wildlife (think Kuala, kangaroos, wombats and more), as well as breathtaking beaches, ancient rainforests, trendy cosmopolitan cities, and huge stretches of desolate outback; Australia has a lot to offer as a travel destination.
Big cities like Melbourne and Sydney are typical digital nomad hotspots. But smaller towns such as Byron Bay and Broome have been attracting an international wellness and surfer crowd for years.
Australia doesn’t exactly have a digital nomad visa, but it does offer working holiday visas to a wide range of countries. This means you can work from your laptop, or even pick up a side hustle or two whilst you’re there. Join crowds of backpackers living the van life down the East Coast, pick up some extra work on a farm, or simply live the pure digital nomad life from a scenic location of your choice. The visa can be extended for up to two years.
The fine print: The working holiday visa is only available for people under the age of 30. For Canadians, Irish and French only, the age limit is up to 35.
Cost: $485 AUD
How to apply: online through the official Australian Tourism website
Current pandemic risks: Medium-low. Australia imposed lockdown and border restrictions early on during the pandemic and are now slowly opening up again, recording a low death rate of only 145 people and less than 15,000 cases of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.