Want to live & work from a Caribbean island or a historic European city? Special international visas for digital nomads and remote workers are finally here!
Traveling the world while working online from your laptop has been a dream for millions of self-proclaimed digital nomads — including me.
However working from foreign countries while traveling on a tourist visa is technically illegal in most places.
Tourist visas also usually expire after 30-90 days, and it’s not always easy to renew them. What if you want to stay longer?
That doesn’t stop digital nomads from working while traveling, but it can make things complicated, and with travel restrictions due to COVID-19, it’s much more difficult to work & travel internationally.
Visa laws in most countries are not set up to deal with this new class of modern nomads who are living and working remotely around the world.
But that’s finally starting to change, as some countries have recognized the need for and launched so-called “digital nomad visas”, “remote work visas”, or “freelancer visas” specifically to entice foreigners to come work & contribute to their economies.
Many of these destinations are hoping the remote work visas will generate income to help make-up for lost tourism revenue due to the pandemic.
Digital nomads are basically remote workers who travel to different locations on a regular basis. They use modern technology to work from coffee shops, hotels, co-working spaces, or libraries with a WiFi connected laptop or smartphone from anywhere in the world.
Freelancers are self-employed, working for themselves or other companies as independent contractors. Freelancers can travel while they work, or just work from home while living in one place on a long-term basis.
The two are similar, but not exactly the same. The visas listed below can be obtained by both kinds of workers, digital nomads and freelancers.
Estonia became the first country to create an e-residency program that allows foreign entrepreneurs to license an EU-based online business. Then, in June 2020, they also opened up a one-year digital nomad and freelancer visa that allows foreigners to live in the country while working remotely.
Partly due to the dramatic drop in tourism because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the country of Georgia is one of the latest to offer a digital nomad visa called “Remotely from Georgia” to help stimulate their economy. If you’re a remote worker, why not wait out the pandemic and work from a country known for its low-cost of living, colorful cities, and epic mountain landscapes?
Barbados has also just opened its borders to digital nomads and remote workers who are looking to escape the pandemic while basing themselves in a beautiful island destination. The “Barbados Welcome Stamp” is a special 12-month visa for remote workers, which can also be renewed for even longer. Why not live next to the beach and work from home in Barbados!
Bermuda has joined the remote work visa club! Their recently released “Work From Bermuda” digital nomad visa is just an expansion of an older residency program, which allows digital nomads and remote workers to stay in the country for up to a year. Aimed at professionals who normally work from home, they hope the new visa will attract long-term travelers who want to base themselves from an island destination.
In August of 2020 the prime minister of Croatia announced the country is going to start a digital nomad visa program soon. There are no details yet on specifics or dates, however I’ll make sure to post the latest updates here when available!
The following countries have offered special freelance visas for many years now, they aren’t exactly new. However just in case you didn’t know they existed, here are more details!
Spend your weekends exploring the historical towns and mountains of this Eastern European country, and work remotely during the week using their fast internet connection! The Czech Republic offers a freelancer visa called the Zivno. It’s valid for one year, and can be extended too. It’s a bit more complicated than other visas in this list, but it’s doable too.
Germany has its own special freelance visa called the Aufenthaltserlaubnis fur selbstandige Tatigkeit (good luck saying that!). It’s a residence permit that allows foreign freelancers and self-employed people live in Germany for 6-months up to 3-years. One downside is that it can take 3-4 months to get approved for this visa. Plus speaking German, or knowing someone who does, will help a lot.
There are many digital nomads who choose to base themselves in Costa Rica due to the relaxed lifestyle, great surfing, nice beaches, and diverse landscape of volcanoes, waterfalls, and jungle. Costa Rica’s freelancer visa is called the Rentista, allowing foreigners to stay for up to 2-years, with the ability to extend it. This visa allows self-employed people or entrepreneurs to work in Costa Rica, but you can’t be an employee for another company.
Norway has been in the news a lot lately, touted as a Scandinavian paradise with its strong social democratic system, wealth, natural beauty, and progressive population. Lots of foreign digital nomads and remote workers would jump at the chance to move to Norway. And they can, for up to 2-years, with Norway’s Independent Contractor visa.
Spain has a Non-Lucrative Visa which allows foreigners to stay in Spain for at least a year, with the ability to renew. With it’s low-cost of living and mix of beaches, mountains, and relaxed lifestyle, it’s a favorite with many location independent people. However technically you are not allowed to “work” on this visa — they’re looking for people who are “retired” and self-sufficient.
This relatively new phenomenon of countries launching digital nomad visas to attract remote workers was predicted over 20-years ago by Japanese technologist Tsugio Makimoto who wrote that remote working would force nations “to compete for citizens”, and that digital nomad-ism would prompt “declines in materialism and nationalism”.
His prophecy is coming true, and I fully expect to see many more nations opening up their borders to these “citizens of the world” who are able to work remotely from their laptops in the years to come. The future is going to be interesting, that’s for sure!
I hope you enjoyed my guide to countries with digital nomad & remote work visas! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:
Have any questions about remote work visas? Drop me a message in the comments below!