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Digital Nomads and Remote Workers

Sonya B. Cole - Jul 25 2022
Published in: Mobility
Want to work in an exotic locale overlooking the ocean? What about waking up each morning to a beautiful mountainscape? Digital nomad visas make it possible. Please read the following article to learn more.

With an estimated loss of $1.3 trillion in global export revenue from severely reduced tourism and international travel in 2020*[1], many countries where the tourism industry was battered by the pandemic are replacing their depleted tourism revenue stream with remote work visa programs.

Residing in one country while working for an employer in a different country is not a novel concept, but there were limited ways to do so legitimately until recently. Antiquated visa systems required travelers to define themselves as entrepreneurs or workers and required a company to sponsor their stay — an expensive, bureaucratic route with few guarantees. Instead, most people chose to label themselves as “tourists” but risked fines and/or deportation if caught.

Sometimes referred as “digital nomads” or “remote workers”, this workforce is likely to become entrenched in work practices worldwide for many occupations – making them an attractive sector for traditional tourist destinations. Terms that once seemed only suitable for creative professions are now common vocabulary among corporations, organizations and even government agencies – let’s define them: 

 

Type of Worker

Definition

Cross-border?

Remote Workers 

Individuals who work outside of a traditional office, such as a home or hotel that may be located beyond commuting distance of their employer's office (including in another country).

Digital Nomads 

Workers who use technology to perform their work from any location and sometimes move across borders to combine travel/tourism with work.   

Telecommuters 

Individuals who work remotely (either from their residence or another workspace outside the office, but not a client site) within commuting distance of their employer’s office. Work arrangement can range from 20% to 100% of the full work period. 

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AVAILABLE PROGRAMS

There are twenty-nine countries that have programs that were developed since mid-2020 in response to travel restrictions affecting workers during COVID-19. Under most of these programs, foreign nationals are authorized to work and stay in the country for a specified period of time, provided:

  • Their employer is outside of the country (or they are self-employed);
  • They do not intend on entering the local labor market, performing any work for a company in the country and/or providing any goods and services to a local business; and
  • They meet the minimum annual earnings requirements and/or provide evidence of funds to finance their stay in the country, as required.

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

  • Estonia was the first country to implement a Digital Nomad Visa in 2020, and others followed suit. Other countries will look at these new remote work programs as they evaluate their own potential to draw high earning visitors in an effort to replenish their lost tourist revenue stream and remain globally competitive in attracting foreign talent.While it’s too early to evaluate program success across recent rollouts, countries in the early stages of program development will eventually benefit from lessons learned and in a better position to suitably tailor their own programs.

Countries expected to implement remote work visa programs in the near future include Albania, Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Indonesia, Italy, Slovakia, Spain and Thailand.

  • Watch for renewed focus on technology infrastructure as countries look to market themselves as sought-after destinations for remote workers dependent on a reliable broadband connection. Countries that can provide reliable broadband connection will be more attractive to those seeking flexible work arrangements.
  • Immigration programs designed to attract foreign remote workers and digital nomads will provide a springboard for potential investors and self-starters who cannot access a dedicated immigration pathway – either because they cannot meet its high bar or because an option for work authorization without local sponsorship doesn’t exist. This pattern may push some countries to carve out or expand options for investors and innovators, so they remain competitive in the race for global talent.
  • The higher-skilled workers with high earning potential will continue to be the favored foreign workforce; a continuation of the stark divide between high-skilled and lower-skilled workers. Digital nomad programs require flexible, mobile work arrangements that are generally reserved for high-skilled professionals; yet again, minimum income requirements may squeeze out lower skilled gig workers from these programs.

 

Click here to view the available country programs information.

 

The information contained herein is current as of June 29, 2022. It is offered for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or give rise to an attorney-client relationship between you and our firm. The information: (i) must be regarded as a practical guide for general information and not a process guide for determining the specific immigration requirements of the countries covered, (ii) should not be a substitute for a more in-depth analysis of applicable facts and circumstances (including, without limitation, criminal or health-related circumstances) conducted by competent professionals, and (iii) does not represent an opinion from Fragomen or any of its agents with regard to the laws of any of the jurisdictions concerned. The information herein does not guarantee the outcome or approval of any particular immigration application. These materials are subject to copyright by our firm with all rights reserved and shall not be disclosed in whole or in part in any form to any third party absent Fragomen's advance written consent.  

 

[1] United Nations World Tourism Organization; https://www.unwto.org/news/2020-worst-year-in-tourism-history-with-1-billion-fewer-international-arrivals