In the era of digital nomad visas, how do you define exactly what “work” is?, Lifestyle News

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It seems like a no-brainer: as the world reopens from Covid-19 lockdowns, countries that have seen their tourism industries devastated by lack of visitors are rolling out the red carpet for digital nomads.

The trickle that started with Estonia, in 2018, has now become a flood, with the Harvard Business Review recently stating that there are currently 46 countries and territories that offer visas specifically designed for digital nomads (or pretty alternatives). close), from Anguilla to Vietnam.

The attraction is obvious. Not only are these visitors likely to stay longer and therefore inject more money into local economies, but their needs are also less likely to strain services in areas prone to overtourism.

Visas designed for digital nomads – which typically last six months to a year, though some last two years – tend to exempt visitors from income tax as long as they don’t earn their money in the country or that they don’t take local jobs.

Moreover, the ranks of the homeless should continue to grow; the health, well-being and productivity benefits of remote working are now well understood – by both employer and employee – after months of work-from-home orders, and those who love to travel are realizing that staying put for a significant period of time is better for the environment than rushing here and there in bursts of activity.

Three of the latest countries to at least consider the idea of ​​offering specific visas for digital nomads are Indonesia, Portugal and South Africa.

Among the measures to bring visitors back to Indonesia was the announcement this month that a long-term visa for remote workers – which had been in the works since before Covid-19 hit – would finally see the day. Holders will be allowed to stay in Indonesia for up to five years without paying tax in the country as long as their income comes from elsewhere.

“Now that the pandemic is managed and that all ministries are involved and cooperating on the health side of the immigration office, we believe that this is the right time to revive this idea,” the Minister of Tourism said. , Sandiaga Uno. We’re sure there’s a multitude in Bali who would agree.

Digital nomads are one of the types of workers targeted by Lisbon as ‘Portugal speeds up issuance of immigrant visas’ […] to help tackle a labor shortage and revive the economy,” Reuters reported on June 15.

“Digital nomads will be granted residency or temporary stay visas,” the report argues, though the need to bolster the tourism and hospitality sectors may be more pressing.

“The Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Ana Catarina Mendes, said that a new type of visa has been created, the jobseeker’s visa, which allows the entry into Portuguese territory of foreign nationals wishing to work up to 180 days”.

Lisbon is so keen on attracting workers that it even promises British transplants all the rights enjoyed by Portuguese citizens, despite Brexit, the news agency reports. Britain has its own labor shortages, of course, but the Algarve has attractions that Blackpool does not.

In South Africa, “industry leaders […] are convinced that the antidote to the ailing tourism sector is the acceleration of digital nomad visas,” Euronews reported in April. “This ambitious visa regime would allow remote international workers to stay in the country for more than 90 days and up to a year in total.”

Discussions are ongoing, but it has been suggested that the first mainland African digital nomad visa will also contain attractive allowances for dependents.

Not every visa designed for remote workers will be called a “digital nomad visa” and a myriad of complexities obscure the legal extent to which countries accept the wandering worker or not. Take Thailand, for example, which is among the Asian countries on the Harvard Business Review list.

The article suggests that the country already has a visa that digital nomads can use for up to two years. However, as far as this column can tell, no specific remote work visa currently exists, although Chiang Mai has gained pre-pandemic rep as ground zero for the nomadic crowd.

The closest thing available is the US$375 Smart Visa, which was created to attract skilled labor, investors and entrepreneurs in selected sectors. It looks like this could be changed to apply to digital nomads who are in possession of a work contract of six months or more.

Perhaps one of the trickiest issues in designing a nomadic worker visa today is defining exactly what “work” is and where it takes place.

ThaiEmbassy.com – which, despite its name, is run by a Thai law firm – gives examples of the kinds of people who are already doing business in Thailand without a work visa, to try to determine whether each is breaking the law on ‘immigration. Is the digital nomad who works on his online store in a co-working space on the wrong side of the law?

Are foreigners sourcing handicrafts from Thai markets and exporting them; the website designer who offers his services to other digital nomads in Chiang Mai; the foreigner who sits in his Bangkok apartment and teaches Chinese students via Skype; or the businessman who travels to Phuket for a few weeks and does business on behalf of his company? Maybe.

What about the travel blogger who writes about Thailand?

“Yes, it’s work and it could be a problem,” says ThaiEmbassy.com. “This work could have been done by a Thai person. Moreover, in order to produce the blog, the blogger uses information, sources, material and images from Thailand to sell it in the international market. Finally, the content of the blog may harm Thailand’s security and image. The blogger definitely needs a work permit to do this.

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And it gets murkier.

“When the blogger is an international travel blogger who writes not only about Thailand but about many other places and they are not staying too long in Thailand but as part of a longer trip to several countries, we allow this case without a work permit. But when the blogger mainly focuses on Thailand, he needs a work permit. Even if the blogger does not earn money from his blog, he still uses his knowledge and abilities with Thailand-derived content, so he needs a work permit.

Whether the authorities embarrass themselves with one of these petty criminals, however, is another matter. Still, it’s good to know where you stand, even if you don’t intend to sit still for more than a few months at a time.

Thailand to drop pre-arrival check-in and outdoor mask requirement

Speaking of Thailand, the government has announced that it is lifting the pre-arrival registration requirement for foreign visitors, which is expected to help the country’s tourism sector recover.

From July 1, visitors will no longer have to upload copies of vaccination papers, insurance policies and other documents online to receive a Thailand Pass, a process that has been plagued with problems and delays. Arriving foreigners still need to prove they have been vaccinated or provide negative Covid-19 test results, but they will no longer need to have an insurance policy.

The outer mask mandate is also dropped, so those famous Thai smiles will be on display again.

Vanuatu to welcome international tourists again after severe restrictions

Thailand has reopened to tourists in stages, but Vanuatu is doing so at the same time.

“From July 1, international tourists will be able to return to Vanuatu, a country of 300,000 people three hours from Australia, which has seen some of the world’s toughest border restrictions during the pandemic,” reports The newspaper. Guardian.

The tiny South Pacific nation – which depended on tourism for 40% of its GDP – is desperate for visitors, but there’s a catch: a lack of deals with foreign airlines.

“Currently, travel to Vanuatu is only possible via Air Vanuatu, the country’s beleaguered national carrier, which has only two aircraft for its international operations,” reports The Guardian. “There are fears that if anything were to happen to the heavily indebted national airline, Vanuatu would return to being a hermit nation.”

This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post.

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