Digital nomads and visas: what you need to know about working abroad

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Whether you dream of traveling or live vicariously, here’s everything you need to know about remote work abroad.

Photo by whereslugo via Unsplash

As remote work increasingly becomes a new norm, some American workers have become digital nomads, abandoning their home office to work remotely abroad.

The number of Americans immigrating to Mexico hit a “record high” this year, the Mexico News Daily reported in early November. More than 8,000 Americans have received temporary resident visas in Mexico so far this year — an increase linked to remote workers, the outlet reported, citing data from the country’s Interior Ministry.

Whether you’re trying to figure out this new work trend or considering joining, here’s everything you need to know about digital nomad visas and the reality of remote work abroad.

What are digital nomads and digital nomad visas?

A digital nomad is someone who works remotely from outside their home country, according to Investopedia. By extension, digital nomad visas are visa programs specifically targeted or often used by these types of people to allow them to legally work abroad.

What are the pros and cons of digital nomads?

The rise of digital nomads has resulted in a complex mix of advantages and disadvantages for workers, host countries and local residents.

For host country governments, digital nomads are often a source of income as they spend money during off-peak seasons and stay longer than other tourists, Euronews reported. In Europe, educated foreign workers are also compensating for aging populations and “brain drain”.

For digital nomads, working abroad is an opportunity to travel while pursuing their careers and having a stable income, reports Investopedia. However, the tax implications of working overseas can be complicated and vary by company and country, International Citizens reported.

For local residents, the presence of remote foreign workers — and their higher purchasing power — often contributes to displacement and gentrification, Fast Company reported. This “imbalance of power” between locals and wealthier outsiders is being labeled and criticized as neocolonialism, the outlet reported.

Mexico City experienced these “pitfalls,” Vox reported. Rising housing costs and rising inflation have only gotten worse with the arrival of America’s digital nomads. “Sharp” racial, ethnic and class disparities between wealthier, whiter American workers and local Mexicans have made these issues “hard to digest,” the outlet reported.

Which countries offer digital nomad visas?

Nearly 50 countries offer digital nomad visas under a variety of names, according to a regularly updated list from Nomad Girl. Many of these countries are warm, tropical and tourist-friendly.

Here are 10 countries from five different regions offering digital nomad visas:

Remote work from Europe:

  • Malta: A small island nation suspended in the Mediterranean Sea between the southern coast of Italy and the northern coast of Libya, Malta offers a one-year nomadic residence permit aimed at non-EU remote workers. Applicants for the $340 visa must prove that they have a rental contract and that their income exceeds $2,800 per month.

  • Portugal: A small country on the southwestern coast of Europe known for its beaches, Portugal offers a one-year renewable D7 Remote Work / Digital Nomad visa. The $93 visa is contingent on proof of monthly income and an employment contract.

Other European countries offering digital nomad visas include, according to Nomad Girl and Euronews: Albania, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Montenegro, Norway, Romania and Spain.

Working remotely from Africa:

  • Mauritius: An island state off the east coast of Africa, Mauritius offers a one-year Premium visa with no application fees. The visa requires proof of monthly income but does not specify any minimum amount.

  • Namibia: A neighbor to the northwest of South Africa, Namibia is the first country on the African continent to offer digital nomad visas. Namibia launched its Digital Nomad Visa in mid-October. The six-month visa costs around $60 and requires the applicant to have a monthly income of $2,000.

Other countries in Africa and the Middle East offering digital nomad visas include, per Nomad Girl: Cape Verde, the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and the Seychelles.

Remote work from Asia:

  • Indonesia: The Southeast Asian island nation that includes Bali, Indonesia does not yet offer an official digital nomad visa, but does offer several tourist visas that unofficially perform the same function, Nomads Embassy reported. The two most popular options are the 30-day tourist visa renewal on arrival and the Bali B211a visa renewable for up to six months.

  • Thailand: Thailand, a Southeast Asian country, offers a 10-year long-term resident visa with high education and annual income requirements. However, like in Indonesia, American digital workers in Thailand will travel on a 60-day tourist visa, which can be renewed in the country for an additional 30 days.

Other Asian countries offering digital nomad visas include, per Nomad Girl: Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Taiwan.

Remote work from Central and South America:

  • Costa Rica: The tropical Central American country of Costa Rica offers a one-year visa for remote workers and service providers. The $100 visa requires applicants to earn at least $3,000 per month.

  • Mexico: Bordering the southern United States, Mexico offers a temporary resident visa with a minimum stay of six months and a maximum of four years. The visa costs $48 and requires a monthly income of at least $2,108, although this varies with the exchange rate.

Other Central and South American countries offering digital nomad visas include, per Nomad Girl and Traveling Lifestyle: Belize, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama.

Working remotely from the Caribbean:

  • The Bahamas: A chain of Caribbean islands and a popular beach vacation destination, the Bahamas has a Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay program. The one-year visa application costs $1,025 in total and requires a letter from the applicant’s current employer.

  • Barbados: An island in the Eastern Caribbean, Barbados has a digital nomad visa program called Barbados Welcome Stamp. The one-year program costs $2,000 for individual applicants and requires an annual income of $50,000.

Other Caribbean countries offering digital nomad visas include, per Nomad Girl: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat and Saint Lucia.

Aspen Pflughoeft covers real-time news for McClatchy. She graduated from Minerva University where she studied communications, history and international politics. Previously, she reported for Deseret News.

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