Digital Nomad Visa, which countries have introduced it?


As the global coronavirus pandemic recedes, more and more digital nomads are turning their attention to traveling abroad. So let's look at the digital nomad visas many countries are introducing.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, people have been traveling and moving less internationally. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, international travel by airplane was down 60% compared to previous years, and is still hovering around the 70% mark. However, the steep growth we've seen since 2020 shows that people still want to go abroad, and it gives us hope that more people will do so in the future. This will be true for digital nomads as well.

So what are the biggest concerns for digital nomads when they go abroad?

If we leave aside the very basic things like money and accommodation, the most sensitive factor for anyone traveling abroad is the visa. A visa is either a "confirmation of admission" by a country that a foreigner is allowed to enter, or a "consular recommendation of entry" in response to a foreigner's application for admission. Different countries operate visas in different ways, and there are many different types for different purposes.

For digital nomads in particular, there are two big issues. The first is the length of stay. Usually, a visa will state the length of stay, meaning that you are only authorized to enter the country for a certain amount of time. For example, if you get a tourist visa to travel to the United States, you typically get a six-month stay, which means that six months after you enter the country, your permission to stay in the country has expired. As a result, digital nomads have always had to plan their travel around these visas.

Next, because the concept of digital nomads is so new, their affiliation is ambiguous. While they are engaged in economic activity, it is often not in the country of origin and therefore does not qualify as a work visa. This is especially true for freelancers, who are a large part of the digital nomad population. And if they do qualify for a tourist visa, it is often for a very short period of time.

However, countries are starting to introduce visas for these digital nomads. While digital nomads are on the rise, they're not yet a mainstream way of life, so why are countries starting to introduce visas for them?

Countries with visas for digital nomads

As the number of digital nomads has increased and they have grown, many countries have become more favorable to them. From a country's point of view, they're no different than tourists, and the only difference between them and people who come to travel for tourism and spend and leave is that they need time away from their normal work. In fact, digital nomads are traveling and doing different activities outside of work hours, and the money they pay is revenue for the country.

Plus, they can bring in young talent. As we will see later, Italy is preparing visas for digital nomads and is planning various investments in strengthening its information and communication technology network and improving transportation facilities. Currently, Italy has a high proportion of elderly people and relies on tourism, so it is difficult to expect economic development. Therefore, the country believes that attracting digital nomads is the future direction of the country and will continue to invest.

The following countries currently offer digital nomad visas. Let's take a look at their features and how they differ.

Digital Nomad Visa in Estonia

Estonia is a very progressive country in Europe, actively adopting new systems. Estonia has had an e-residency program since 2014. E-residency is a type of electronic residency that does not give you the right to physically visit or live in the country, but it does allow you to set up a legal entity in Estonia. By incorporating in Estonia, you automatically become an EU company, which gives you easy access to the European market.

To qualify for a "digital nomad visa" in Estonia, you need to work for, or perform economic activities for, a country outside of Estonia, and you'll need to prove that you're working continuously and that you can work remotely. You can find more information on the Estonian government site.

The Estonian visa is valid for one year, which gives you the right to live in the country temporarily. It's also a member of the Schengen Agreement, so you can travel to those 26 countries for 90 days without needing a visa. I've also heard that Estonia has very fast internet speeds compared to other countries and has a very well-developed digital infrastructure.

Temporary visa for digital nomads in Brazil

Brazil is another great country for digital nomads to consider. With the cost of living always a concern for digital nomads, Brazil's low cost of living makes it possible to live in the country for a fraction of the cost of living in other parts of the world, and it also has the added benefit of public healthcare.

First introduced in January 2022, the Brazilian Digital Nomad Visa is a residency permit that allows foreign workers to live and work remotely in Brazil. If you can prove an income of at least $1,500 per month or own property worth more than $18,000, you can apply and pay a $100 fee to get a visa valid for one year. You can extend it for another year for the same amount, and you can only get it in person.

United Arab Emirates/Dubai virtual work visa

The United Arab Emirates and Dubai offer visas for people working remotely. They are based on a one-year period, which can be extended over and over again. They have the advantage of not having to pay taxes because they don't pay local taxes, and they are known to have very well-developed infrastructure. The downside is that the minimum income requirement is very high compared to other countries.

Also, a remote residency visa that allows you to stay in Dubai is not the same as a virtual work residency visa in the UAE. The UAE's virtual work residency visa requires you to show proof of an annual income of at least $42,000, while the Dubai remote residency visa requires you to show proof of an annual income of at least $60,000.

Freelancer visa in Germany

The country most commonly represented by freelancer visas is Germany. Germany legally categorizes several professions and a variety of independent work as freelance. This is in order to manage the taxation of people who don't work for a company and work on their own, which is why they issue freelance visas. An additional requirement is to be able to afford adequate pension insurance, so you'll need to provide proof of property or income.

Once granted, these freelance visas are valid for three months, and if you arrive in Germany within that time and complete the administrative formalities, such as registering your address or registering with the tax office, you will be granted a residence permit for three years. However, you won't be able to get a permanent residence permit like in Portugal - you'll need to be able to prove a regular income, and you'll need an employment contract to do so, so freelancers are not eligible to apply.

Self-employment visa in Portugal

In Portugal, you can apply for a self-employment visa with a monthly income above the minimum wage for Portuguese employees, a certain amount of property, and documentation of renting a home in Portugal. These self-employment visas are valid for four months and give you a two-year residence permit. After two years, you can easily extend your residence permit for up to five years, and after five years, you'll be eligible for Portuguese citizenship. If you've lived in Portugal and liked the country, I've seen people settle down with a self-employed visa.

Other countries that offer digital nomad visas include Romania, Greece, and Croatia.

Countries preparing for the digital nomad visa


Italy passed an enabling law for a digital nomad visa in March 2022, and has been working through the administrative process to set up a visa program ever since. Luca Caravetta, a member of Italy's Five Star Movement, said Italy could launch a visa program within the year, combining the benefits of several digital nomad visas and attracting 5% of the world's estimated 40 million digital nomads to Italy.

"There are professionals working as digital nomads in everything from architecture to engineering," Caravetta said, "so the digital nomad visa is a great way to bring skills from abroad to our country." He also sees this as an opportunity for Italy, which has one of the most aging populations in Europe, to attract young people and encourage them to explore the country as a permanent home. "Our ultimate goal is not only to bring digital nomads to Italy, but to make them take root here."

Caravetta said Italy has invested more than €1 million in the new visa program, strengthening its IT network, improving transportation and modernizing infrastructure in rural areas. The idea is that digital nomads, who are attracted to the idyllic Italian countryside, will contribute to local economic development.


Spain is experiencing a similar problem to Italy. According to data from Spain's National Institute of Statistics, more than 3,400 of the country's 8,000 municipalities have been classified as being at risk of permanent closure due to population decline, so attracting digital nomads has been suggested as a way to ameliorate this "empty Spain" problem. In fact, the town of Oliete, which has seen a steady exodus of thousands of people, is now home to only about 300 people, and has reportedly launched a "National Network of Welcoming Villages for Remote Workers" scheme to bring the town back to prosperity.

Spain has enacted a startup law, which allows for the issuance of digital nomad visas, which allow foreigners from non-European countries to live and work in Spain for up to 12 months without obtaining a work visa. The visa can be extended up to two times, with the condition that the recipient must earn at least 80% of their income outside of Spain. In parallel, we are preparing a visa for digital nomads. The legislation has already been finalized and is moving through the administrative process.

National efforts to attract digital nomads

Professor Prithviraj Choudhry, who studies the changing geography of labor at Harvard Business School, said that the benefits of digital nomad visas to countries are enormous. More important than the money that remote workers spend to live, Choudhry said, is that they network with local entrepreneurs.

For example, the Startup Chile program, launched in 2010, provided visas and funding for overseas entrepreneurs to spend a year in Chile to run their startups and mentor local talent. The program has led to the emergence of several unicorn companies in Chile, which Prof. Choudhry cited as "a great example of how the ecosystem can change positively when you let talented foreigners come to your country, even for a year," and argued that the efforts of countries to introduce digital nomad visas are a national competition for talent.

As such, we will continue to see various countries, especially those that are at a disadvantage compared to the big powers in the talent race, introduce digital nomad visas and compete to bring in better workers. If there's a country you've always wanted to visit, keep an eye out for information about it.

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