These days, it’s not uncommon to hire a new employee and onboard them without them ever setting foot in the office (remember the office?).

The pandemic has pushed many companies — including the likes of Twitter, Spotify and Slack — to an entirely remote approach, while other companies such as Google, Ford and Klarna are shifting towards a more hybrid way of working.

There’s no doubt about it: remote working is here to stay. Every day, thousands of full or part-time remote positions are cropping up all over the world, across various industries.

At the same time, many countries are moving away from traditional tourism models that rely on a steady stream of short-term visitors, seeking fewer travellers who are willing to stay for extended periods instead.

Enter the rise of the digital nomads… remote workers who take advantage of modern technology to work from co-working spaces, hotels, cafes, beach bars or libraries — anywhere in the world with a WiFi connection!

The lowdown on remote work visas

Although digital nomads are a relatively recent addition to the international workforce, many countries have recognised the need for so-called ‘digital nomad visas’ or ‘remote work visas’ and have implemented specific rules to attract these types of workers.

Visa laws in most countries are not set up to deal with this modern way of working. It’s technically illegal to work from a foreign country while travelling on a tourist visa. Plus, tourist visas usually expire after 30 to 90 days, and it’s not always easy to renew them. Equally, remote workers may not have access to a traditional work visa, which often requires a contract with a local entity or an invitation letter. As a result, these remote workers are stuck in a legal grey area.

This is where the digital nomad visa comes in. These travel permits legalise the status of travelling workers; they are easy to obtain, don’t require lengthy paperwork and a work contract, allow for longer stays and — crucially — enable holders to work while in the country. Meaning these workers can take their job with them wherever they go.

Europe leading the way

Europe has been at the forefront of these policy changes, with digital nomad visas now available in several European countries — including Croatia, Estonia, Portugal and Norway.

Estonia was the first country to create an e-residency programme for foreign entrepreneurs to license an EU-based online business. But since June 2020, it has also allowed other foreign nationals to live and work remotely in the country for up to one year.

Digital nomads from outside the EU can benefit from the Czech Republic’s special ‘Zivno’ business visa (which means ‘trade licence’) and Malta’s Nomad Residence Permit. Although more complicated than some other visas, the Czech Zivno is valid for one year and can be extended, too — ideal for remote workers hoping to spend their weekends exploring the historic towns and mountains of this Central European country. Malta has long been attractive to remote workers thanks to its sunny island lifestyle, widely spoken English and now nationwide 5G service.

Those looking to work among stunning landscapes in the Nordics can take advantage of Iceland and Norway’s remote work visas. Although it’s one of the shortest available (Iceland’s long-term visa is only good for six months), digital nomads can take their families with them without the need for Icelandic IDs. Norway’s unique visa, on the other hand, remains valid for the entirety of the traveller’s life.

As part of its ‘Croatia — your new office’ campaign, Croatia has also recently launched a new remote worker visa programme, which is valid for up to one year and comes with tax exemptions (foreign digital nomads are not subject to pay income tax in Croatia). And Georgia is one of the latest countries to offer a digital nomad visa called ‘Remotely from Georgia’ to help stimulate its economy.

However, when it comes to incentives for remote workers, Portugal takes the crown. Unlike many other countries, Portugal’s remote work visa can be used as a pathway to permanent residency (it can be renewed for up to five years, after which the holder can apply for permanent residency). The stunning archipelago of Madeira even has a designated remote worker hub called ‘Nomad Village’ in Ponta do Sol, where workers can live in independent villas or hotel accommodation and enjoy free WiFi and co-working stations.

Off to sunnier climes

Elsewhere in the world, digital nomads can base themselves amongst the beautiful beaches, diverse landscape, excellent surfing and relaxed lifestyle of Costa Rica, thanks to the country’s ‘Rentista visa, which allows foreigners to stay for up to two years, with the ability to extend it. Mexico — another digital nomad hot-spot — also offers a Temporary Resident Visa that’s valid for one year and can be renewed for another three years.

Dubai has also recently launched a one-year virtual working programme, enabling remote workers to live and work in this desert oasis mega-city. The visa even allows workers to bring their families and access all services like utilities, telecoms and schooling — all without having to pay income tax.

For digital nomads hoping to work in a tropical paradise, there are also plenty of options. The Cayman Islands and Antigua & Barbuda have just announced the launch of their remote working visas — the Global Citizen Certificate (GCC) and Nomad Digital Residence (NDR), respectively. Both are good for two years, although the income requirements for the Cayman Islands are much steeper than other countries (individuals must provide proof of an annual salary of at least $100,000!).

Barbados, Bermuda and Mauritius have also opened their borders to digital nomads with their various one-year visas. And although there aren’t any formal details just yet, Bali has recently unveiled plans for a new digital nomad visa, which could allow remote workers to spend up to five years in the beautiful island paradise.

Maybe heaven really is a place on Earth.

Each country issuing remote working visas will have its own policies, regulations and eligibility checklists in place — and application fees can vary significantly from one location to another. If you and your employees need assistance with visa requirements and the application process, a professional employer organisation (PEO) can help. Get in touch today to find out more about our international employment services.