This is a guest post from Curtis Duggan, Founder and Editor of Wayviator.com.
Digital nomad and remote workers visas are opening up the world for remote workers in 2022
Remote work is shaking things up
For many people, remote work has opened up new possibilities and opportunities fortravel, relocation, adventure, and exploration. Marc Andreessen is calling the remote work movement an "earthquake" — hundreds of millions of people gaining the newfound freedom to locate themselves anywhere physically will fundamentally reshape society.
One thing is for sure — people will be checking out the world and sampling what different countries have to offer far more than they used to.
The Great Reopening is coming to life with the waning in the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.
Moreover, this renewal is happening alongside a decisive, permanent shift towards ubiquitous Work From Anywhere ("WFA") corporate policies at large and small companies. These trends will usher in a new age of travel.
At Wayviator, we've been tracking a significant trend at the national level — governments are issuing proper visas and residency permits to allow people to work medium- to long-term in their country. This plan may sound like an obvious, good idea to attract visitors, but this concept is relatively new. For example, in 2019, there were virtually no "remote work visas" of any kind.
Inputting together a list of fifty of the top visas and residence permits around the world that are geared towards remote workers, I've started to see some ways they differ — but also some common themes that show up in the criteria of virtually every visa program.
The Differences in Remote Work and Digital Nomad Visas
The programs do come in different flavors, and there are several critical points of differentiation that distinguish the visa programs from each other:
Length of stay
Program durations vary. Some are as short as 90 days and others as long as two years. Bali is working on a remote work visa that theoretically will allow people to stay for five years, entirely tax-free.
Many digital nomads hop around from country to country and don't require anything more than a tourist visa, a wink, and a nod. However, in the next wave of remote work migration, there will be a new generation of travelers who welcome the opportunity to properly secure a longer-term visa and the ability to feel settled in one place for a long time.
Not all remote work visas are created equal regarding local taxation obligations. Now, I'll add the usual caveat that I am not a lawyer or an accountant, so please don't take this as formal tax advice!
OK, with that said — some visas essentially allow you to work in a foreign country without getting taxed domestically!
This tax relief comes in varying degrees. Dubai, in the UAE, for instance, does not charge income tax on its remote workers. But that's because everyone in the UAE is exempt from income tax.
Croatia, as another example, does charge income tax domestically (like most countries)but is waiving it for digital nomads (as long as they are working for foreign companies and not local Croatian companies). Other digital nomad visas will simply consider you a resident and tax you accordingly like they would be any other expat.
Path to Residency or Renewal
Most digital nomad visas do not offer a path to residency, but a select few are making that option available. It's essential to be mindful of eventualities for your medium- and long-term plans. What will you do if you want to continue living in a place but your remote work visa term is ending?
When you begin a new phase, it's exciting to think about how you will set sail — but remember to have a plan for where your next port is. Most remote work visas and digital nomad schemes are inherently temporary.
Two Common Themes in Every Digital Nomad Visa
We've covered some of the ways that digital nomad visas are different from each other. Now, let's talk a little about two requirements that seem to be common themes, like clockwork, whenever you look at the requirements of various digital nomad and remote work visas.
Proof of income
It's fair to say that the remote work and digital nomad movement doesn't change the fundamental calculus of any nation. In allowing visitors, remote workers, and expats into its country, governments are not looking to take on excessive health care or welfare costs for people who can't support themselves.
It may sound harsh — but that's just the risk profile of nations trying to balance their budgets and deliver services to their residents with taxpayer money!
Proof of income is a requirement of remote worker visas. The good news is that the bar is relatively low in most places. We know that everyone's situation is different, but the proof of income requirement is usually a few thousand dollars. By far, the highest threshold is the Cayman Islands, where proof of $150,000 in annual income is required. Many are far lower than this, and here are some examples:
- Antigua and Barbuda: $50,000/year
- Brazil: $1500/month
- Costa Rica: $3,000/month
- Latvia: about $3,000/month
- Montserrat: $70,000/year
- Portugal: €635/month
So it's clear there is undoubtedly a range. Still, most knowledge economy jobs above the junior level should be able to clear the bar — and there are many options where the bar is relatively low relative to median salaries!
Proof of health insurance
Raj Choudhury of Harvard Business School published a study of digital nomad visas. The article included a comparative chart of each visa, with columns delineating the various requirements of each visa. The final column is called "Proof of health insurance required?" — the inclusion of this column is comically redundant.
Every single dot in this column is filled in to mean "Yes, health insurance is required" — except Mexico, which still requires health insurance in some states.
Health and travel insurance is required for every single digital nomad and remote work visa. However, one problem I see (and am glad to see the folks at Insured Nomads addressing) is that health insurance for remote workers and digital nomads needs to be unique. For example, the insurance you buy to conduct remote work abroad shouldn't be the same class of insurance you get if you are heading on an all-inclusive vacation or Mediterranean cruise for two weeks.
Remote worker/digital nomad life is fundamentally not suited for the kind of "emergency travel" insurance that most people grab when they want to cover themselves for a short trip abroad.
When selecting health insurance to comply with a digital nomad or remote worker visa application, I urge you not to just check the box with an extended plan from your default provider. Instead, think carefully about what it means to purchase international health insurance.
Consider a digital nomad visa when planning a remote work journey in 2022 or 2023
New countries are releasing digital nomad visas almost every month. One of my favorite places to visit, Montenegro, on the Adriatic Sea, just released a two-year tax-free digital nomad visa. The prospect of working from this underrated Balkan paradise is so tempting I might just have to look into applying for one, given how much I love those wonderful Montenegrin towns like Kotor and Budva.
An easy way to determine if insurance is needed is to download the Google Chrome extension, Peanut. When you’re searching for flights and hotels, it will pop up and notify you whether insurance is needed for your destination, plus a lot more.
I hope you've learned a little about what digital nomad visas can do for you and how proof of income and valid health insurance will almost certainly be required anywhere you go!
About Curtis Duggan
Curtis Duggan is the founder and editor of Wayviator.com, a website dedicated to helping people be better and smarter about remote work. He also recently published a new book called How To Be a Digital Nomad and Work Wherever You Want. Curtis has led remote and hybrid companies for over ten years, including one that was acquired in early 2020. Curtis believes that the shift to remote work in the most profound societal shift since the Industrial Revolution.
About Insured Nomads
Insured Nomads is the first to take an integrated traveltech, fintech and insurtech solution to the world for remote workers, globally distributed teams, expats, and travelers. Their purpose is to make travel as safe and smart as staying at home. They do this by providing health insurance with exceptional medical benefits in tandem with wellbeing, safety, security, and advanced tech-enabled solutions for ease of payment for healthcare, emergency response and evacuation. Insured Nomads is available through affinity relationships, direct, embedded and through select brokers and partners for groups and individuals.
Information on integration, collaboration and partnership contact Brett Estep: firstname.lastname@example.org