The world has changed substantially thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Nowhere is this more evident than in how we travel and where we work. Economic losses continue to mount in tourism-dependent countries as people remain reluctant to travel. With employers having turned to remote work to keep themselves and their employees safe, and having found that it worked successfully, many organizations are now planning to allow their staff to continue operating outside of the office for the foreseeable future. These two needs—(1) tourist destinations seeking to attract visitors, while minimizing the risk of outbreaks, and (2) workers looking for a break from their home workspaces—are both being met by countries offering what have become known as digital nomad visas.
What Is a Digital Nomad Visa?
A digital nomad, as the name would suggest, is someone who lives a nomadic lifestyle and uses telecommunications technology to work remotely while outside their country of permanent residence. Although the term “remote worker” has become increasingly common over the last year, it should be noted that it isn’t perfectly synonymous with being a digital nomad. All digital nomads are, by necessity, remote workers. Yet the latter term can also apply to those who simply operate from their permanent residence instead of an office. Laws differ, but entering a country as a tourist generally doesn’t permit the traveler to work while living there.
A digital nomad visa is the document or program that does give someone the legal right to work remotely while residing away from their country of permanent residence. Note that the phrase “digital nomad visa” often isn’t used by the governments that issue them, with most regions giving their programs a unique name, such as the Cayman Island’s Global Citizen Concierge Program, or using more general terms like “residence permit.” Although these visas may not be targeted explicitly toward digital nomads, if users fits the description it still makes sense to use the term for them.
Some of these programs are available for both workers and students, though they may differ in terms of requirements and costs. For example, the Work From Bermuda Certificate requires scholars to provide evidence of enrollment in a research, undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral program alongside their application, which required for other digital nomads. There are even a few cases where a country will allow an employer to apply for a digital nomad visa for their company, including their entire staff. Dominica’s program, for instance, charges a fee of $800 USD plus an additional $500 USD for each employee for a business of four or more people. For the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on digital nomad visa solely in the context of remote workers and not those looking to study abroad or for a lengthy corporate retreat.
Pros & Cons of Becoming a Digital Nomad
Lengthy periods abroad in pleasurable locales.
Time away from home without using vacation days.
Availability of both staple products and vacation amenities.
Most digital-nomad-friendly regions have excellent WiFi.
Low-to-nonexistent presence of COVID-19 in many locations.
Job must be remote and may require flexible schedules.
High financial and psychological toll from regular switch of locations.
No guarantee of residency in the destination(s).
Difficult to maintain new relationships when regularly on the move.
Isolated from friends—and potentially family—for a lengthy period of time.
The obvious benefit of these programs is that they enable you to enjoy a lengthy vacation while maintaining a stable source of income and without putting your career on hold. Most regions that offer digital nomad visas also already have the infrastructure necessary to support remote workers. In addition to consumer staples and all of the amenities that make these places ideal tourist destinations, several countries tout strong WiFi as a feature of their respective programs. Anguilla, for instance, has two telecommunications network providers that each offer high-speed Internet. Anyone who’s endured a spotty connection during a Zoom call knows how crucial having a good connection can be for remote workers.
Additionally, many of these regions (particularly the islands) are practically safe havens from the coronavirus, due to their remote nature and quick government responses during the onset of the pandemic. It should come as no surprise then that these destinations will also have strict coronavirus guidelines for incoming travelers. Curaçao, for example, is considered a low-risk country, and anyone arriving from a high-risk area must undergo a PCR test within 72 hours prior to departure. It’s crucial for anyone considering working abroad to review and follow whatever is requested by their temporary residence of choice.
However, the life of a digital nomad isn’t for everyone. A major obstacle is that it requires a job that’s both remote and flexible in terms of when you clock in (to account for potential timezone differences). Although these kinds of jobs have become more common in the wake of pandemic, this will be a guaranteed dealbreaker for some. Additionally, regularly bouncing from one country to another can be both stressful—especially in light of the Delta variant’s rapid spread thanks to low global vaccination rates and an easing of pandemic restrictions—and expensive. That’s not even accounting for the potential cost of the visa itself. And if the application for your next destination is rejected for any reason, you could be left scrambling to find a new place to live before you’re forced to leave once your current visa expires.
Then there’s the social aspect. Although regularly moving from one area to another offers plenty of opportunities to meet new people, it can make it difficult to form long-lasting relationships, while the constant distance can also put a strain on existing ones. Unless a country offers you a chance to apply for a permanent residency visa at the end of your temporary one, there’s little point in putting down roots in an area you won’t be living in after a year or so. And although this lack of ties can definitely be seen as a plus to those who value their independence, anyone thinking about a lengthy period abroad should carefully consider how isolating it might be.
As of July 9, 2021, there are 24 regions that offer a program for temporary remote workers. Although the majority of these are countries, four are British Overseas Territories. Additionally, a few nations, such as Romania, have announced they have digital nomad programs currently in the works. Should their initiatives be approved, these regions will be added to this list at a later date.
The Beyond Extraordinary Anguilla program allows digital nomads to reside in this British Overseas Territory for up to 12 months. Working remotely from the West Indies island will require paying a $2,000 USD (per individual) travel fee, though families of up to four persons will be on the hook for $3,000 USD (plus an additional $250 USD for each additional family member). Prospective travelers will also be required to complete an application form, in addition to submitting several other documents (i.e., proof of employment, copy of a birth certificate, etc.). Approval for the remote work program takes approximately 14 days.
Antigua & Barbuda
Nomad Digital Residence (NDR) is a long-stay visa program offered by the two islands for remote workers for a two-year period. Individuals who apply for the independent state’s NDR visa are required to pay $1,500 USD, while couples and families of three or more will owe $2,000 USD and $3,000 USD, respectively. Up to 11 documents must be submitted alongside an application, including proof of expected income of at least $50,000 USD for each year of the program.
The Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay (BEATS) enables digital nomads to work remotely for one year from any of 16 islands across 100,00 square miles. An application requires a $25 USD fee, a valid passport data page, a medical insurance card, and proof of employment. Processing time for the application is typically just five days. If approved, applicants must then pay $1,000 USD (plus $500 USD for each dependent) to receive their Work Remotely permit.
The island country’s digital nomad program, known as the Barbados Welcome Stamp, established a visa that allows visitors to work remotely for up to one year. The application fee is $2,000 USD for individuals and $3,000 USD for families; a passport-sized photograph, the bio data page of a passport, and proof of relationship of dependents (if applicable) are also required. Additionally, applicants must be able to prove that are expecting to earn $50,000 USD during their 12-month stay.
As the name would suggest, the Work From Bermuda Certificate enables digital nomads to work remotely within this British Oversees Territory for 12 months. Besides an application fee of $263 USD, prospective visitors must also have health insurance, proof of employment, no criminal record, and enough income to support themselves for the full year—no exact amount is specified. Note that family members will also need to pay a fee and apply separately, though all applications must be submitted on the same day. The turnaround time for applications is approximately five business days.
The Cabo Verde Remote Working Program is available to remote workers originating from Europe, North America, the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), and the Economic Community of West African States (CEDEAO). Applicants are also required to have a minimum bank account balance of €1,500 for individuals and €2,700 for families for at least the last six months. Five documents are required for the application, including a passport and health insurance; 10 must be submitted to border authorities in person after arriving at one of the 10 islands, though there is some overlap between the two sets of documents. Application-processing time can last up to roughly two weeks. The visa is valid for six months and can be renewed for another six months.
The Global Citizen Concierge Program is a bit different from most of the other digital nomad offerings, in that it’s targeted more toward wealthier remote workers. Minimum annual salary requirements are $100,000 USD per annum for singles, $150,000 USD per annum for couples, and $180,000 USD per annum for families. These minimums are on top of a certificate fee of $1,469 USD per annum for a party of up to two people, another certificate fee of $500 USD per annum for each dependent,. Then there’s a credit card processing fee equal to 7% of the total application fee. Those who can meet this high entry barrier can work remotely from any of the three islands for two years. Additional application requirements include, but are not limited to, a notarized bank reference, a valid passport and proof of health insurance.
This Central American country’s temporary residency visa, also known as Rentista, offers a two-year remote work opportunity. Prospective visitors are required to have a monthly income of $2,500 USD or to make a $60,000 USD deposit at a local bank; a higher amount may be required depending on the number of dependents. Other requirements include, but are not limited to, the payment of fees, fingerprint records, and a copy of the prospective visa holder’s birth certificate. The permit can be renewed, as long as all requirements are still being met.
Croatia’s program isn’t a visa, but still is targeted toward digital nomads. Temporary stay within the country is available for an individual and their close family members for up to one year, without possibility of extension—though a new application may be submitted after six months. Prospective visitors must submit several documents alongside their application, including “Form 1a” if filing in person. Applicants will also have to prove regular income of 16,907.50 HRK ($2,671.14 USD) per month or 202,890 HRK ($32,053.65 USD) for the full year, plus an additional 10% increase per family member. Additionally, there is a fee of between 420 HRK ($67.93 USD) and 880 HRK ($139.03 USD), depending on the method of application.
This Dutch Caribbean island offers the @HOME in Curaçao program, which is available to remote workers for six months and can be extended for the same amount of time. Outside of a $294 total for fees, the application also requires a copy of a passport photo, proof of solvency, and proof of health insurance. Processing time is approximately two weeks. All applicants must file individually; families may also apply for the program but they must do so under the main applicant and any dependents will cost an additional fee.
The Czech Republic’s freelancer visa, Zivno, is a bit trickier to acquire than most on this list. In addition to a variable fee, proof of a minimum income of 124,500 CZK ($5,750.58 USD), and the typically required documents (passport, proof of accommodation, criminal record, etc.), applicants must first receive a trade license for one of the jobs on this this list. That means juggling remote work with a local career, albeit a temporary one. Applicants will also be required to pass an immigration interview. The visa lasts for one year and being approved can take between 90 to 120 days.
Dominica, also known as the Nature Island of the Caribbean, provides an 18-month Work In Nature (WIN) Extended Stay Visa for digital nomads. Applicants must present proof of expected income of $50,000 USD, in addition to paying a $100 USD application fee and either $800 USD single or $1,200 USD family visa fee. Several other documents, including the bio data page of a passport, a bank reference letter, and proof of health insurance, must also be submitted alongside the application. Afterward, an approval letter will be sent within seven days.
On Aug. 1, 2020, Estonia launched an official Digital Nomad Visa that allows remote workers to remain in the country for up to one year. Applicants must submit proof of a €3,504 minimum income and pay €80 or €100 state fee for Type C (short stay) or Type D (long stay), respectively, visa. Additional requirements include having a valid travel document, health insurance, and passing a background check. Applications must be submitted in-person at the nearest Estonian Embassy or Consulate and the processing time is typically 15 to 30 days.
The Remotely From Georgia program enables digital nomads and their families to work within the former Soviet state for one year. The project is available to travelers from up to 95 countries, including the U.S. and the European Union members. The list is essentially comprised of all nations whose residents were able to visit Georgia without a visa for up to one year prior to the start of the pandemic. Applicants only need to submit an online application form and provide financial proof—the exact amount isn’t specified—along with any other requested information.
Germany’s residence permit is granted to freelancers and other self-employed workers to reside within the country for three months, though this can be further extended by up to three years. In addition to the visa application form and paying a €60 fee, digital nomads are required to include photocopies of numerous documents with their application—including, but not limited to, a passport, two biometric photographs, a cover letter, and a portfolio of previous freelance work. The application must be submitted in person to the nearest German Embassy or Consulate. Before applying for the residence permit, prospective travelers must secure a German residence and register it with the local Resident’s Registration Office. Afterward, they must open a German bank account, register with the Tax Registration Office, and secure German healthcare.
The long-term visa for remote workers program is available to digital nomads from any country that doesn’t require a visa to travel to Iceland and is not available to any that are part of the EU, the European Economic Area, and/or the European Free Trade Association. The visa can be issued for up to 180 days, so long as applicants can prove a monthly income equivalent to 1,000,000 ISK ($8,085.38 USD) for singles or 1,300,000 ISK ($10,511 USD) for couples. An application must be submitted for each applicant, and the 12,200 ISK ($98.64 USD) processing fee must be paid separately for each one. Additionally, applications will also require a passport photo (no older than six months), copies of a passport, proof of health insurance, proof of purpose of stay in Iceland, and potentially a criminal record check. All application must be submitted in person or via mail to the Directorate of Immigration at Dalvegur 18, 201 Kópavogur.
The Nomad Residence Permit allows digital nomads to work remotely within the archipelago for one year. It can be renewed, but only is available to residents of countries outside of the EU. Family members of remote workers must apply via a separate application. Applicants must meet a gross monthly income threshold of €2,700, hold a valid travel document, have health insurance, acquire a valid property rental or purchase agreement, and pass a background check. Once the application and all required documents have been submitted via email, instructions will be sent to pay a €300 administrative fee for each applicant.
The island nation’s Premium Travel Visa offers one year of remote working abroad and can be renewed. The best part? The Premium Travel Visa is 100% free, with no fees of any kind. Applicants will still need to prove a minimum monlthy income $1,500 USD for each applicant as well as $500 USD per month for each dependent younger than 24 years old. Additionally, prospective travelers are required to submit multiple documents alongside their online application, such as a valid passport, proof of travel and health insurance, and a copy of their marriage certificate (if applicable). Applications are processed within 48 hours after they are submitted.
The Temporary Resident Visa allows digital nomads to work remotely within Mexico for a period between 180 days and 4 years. Prospective travelers will have to prove a monthly income of $2,720 CAD ($2,166.11 USD) or an average monthly bank balance of $45,334 CAD ($36,102.41 USD) during the previous 12 months—though the exact amounts can vary depending on the circumstances of their application. Remote workers are also required to include a passport or valid travel and identity document, a 3.9 cm x 3.1 cm headshot, and a migratory document pertaining to their legal migratory status in Canada (only for applicants who aren’t already Canadian citizens) alongside their visa application form. The Family Unity Application, which has its own documentation and economic solvency requirements, enables a digital nomad’s kin to join them abroad. The application also has a base consular fee of $56 CAD ($44.60 USD), though this can increase if additional services are required.
The British Overseas Territory’s Monserrat Remote Work Stamp is valid for one year of remote working. The stamp requires proof of an annual income of $70,000 USD and there’s a $500 USD fee for single travelers or a $750 USD fee for families of up to three dependents (plus a $250 USD fee for any additional dependents). Also required: Proof of valid health insurance, a copy of passport biographical data, a passport-size photo, a police record, and proof of employment or a business incorporation certificate are also required. Processing takes seven working days after the application is submitted.
The Independent Contractor Visa provides two years of residency within Norway for remote workers. The visa costs €600 and requires proof of an annual income of at least €35,719. The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) has an online checklist of required documentation, such as a passport, two passport-size photos, and proof of a having Norway residence, that must be turned in alongside the application and the completed checklist itself. Applications and all required documents must be submitted to the nearest Norwegian Embassy or Consulate.
Portugal offers an independent workers visa that is valid for one year. It can be renewed twice, each time for an additional two years. The visa itself costs €83 and there’s also a resident permit fee of €72. In addition to the visa application form, prospective residents must provide a valid passport, two passport-size photos, valid travel insurance, proof of residence (if applicable), proof of having sufficient income to support oneself (or a term of responsibility signed by a Portuguese citizen or resident), proof of owning a business entity (or a contract for providing services), and declaration by an authority that the applicant is qualified to be employed in their sector (if applicable). There is also a separate residence permit for family reunification purposes.
The Seychelles Workcation program enables digital nomads to work remotely from any of the 115 islands that comprise the archipelago for as little as one month or as much as one year. There is a €45 fee and prospective travelers must also provide a valid passport, proof of being an employee/business owner, proof of income (exact amount unspecified), and a valid medical and travel insurance policy along with their application. Family members can also join an applicant as ordinary visitors, so long as they meet all requirements and submit birth and/or marriage certificates (whichever is appropriate).
Taiwan is a unique case, in that the Taiwan Employment Gold Card isn’t technically a digital nomad visa. It’s a four-in-one card, combining an open-ended work permit, resident visa, alien resident certificate, and a re-entry permit. This card allows workers—remote or otherwise—to reside in Taiwan for one to three years and costs $100 USD to $310 USD, depending on the applicant’s nationality and the duration of their stay. Applications typically take 30 days to receive approval, but this can increase to 50–60 days if additional documents are requested. Qualification is based on assessment of an applicant’s professional skills; prospective travelers aren’t required to already have a job in Taiwan when applying. In addition to a passport and photo, digital nomads will need to provide additional documents, based on the skill applied under.