- Mark Johnson
- BBC Working Life
More than 25 countries have launched exclusive visa programs for digital nomads that allow them to work legally, for a longer period and with more freedom in the places where they settle.
If you think of Dubai, flashy skyscrapers, artificial islands and endless shopping malls will surely come to mind.
But it could also be known as a strategic destination between Europe and Asia. where six sectors thousands of remote workers of the whole world.
In an effort to attract new talent to the region, in March 2021 the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced a one-year residency permit for a digital giant.
The visa allows foreign professionals like Julien Tremblay, a 31-year-old software engineer from Montreal, to live in Dubai and continue working for their companies abroad.
It also gives newcomers access to a residence permit and most public services.
Tremblay, for example, can legally rent an apartment and even open a bank account, as well as being exempt from payment the income tax out of the country.
“When I started as a digital nomad (five and a half years ago) there weren’t many visa options,” explains Tremblay, after confirming that opportunities like the one in the United Arab Emirates are changing the rules of the game.
“They take you out of the legal uncertainty and allow you to fully comply with the taxation of where you live. If you intend to be a non-resident of your country of origin, it is also much easier to prove that you left and they’re an expat.”
In the past, digital nomads often lived in legal uncertainty.
They were not technically allowed to work in a foreign country, nor were they local employees.
The new digital nomadic visas create a stronger foundation, establishing a legal framework that gives more peace of mind to remote workers and the companies that employ them.
And they need not be seen as a strategy to avoid taxes: most nomads still pay taxes in their home countries to maintain citizenship or receive health and pension benefits.
More than 25 countries and territories They have already issued visas for digital nomads, according to a new report from the Migration Policy Institute, an independent US-based organization.
This trend, fueled by the pandemic, began in small European and Caribbean nations that depend on tourism.
But now economies like more United Arab Emirates, Brazil or Italy they are launching their own initiatives.
For these countries, digital nomadic visas are a way to attract new ideas and talent, as well as take advantage of the growth of remote work and inject foreign capital into local economies.
Meanwhile, for rings like Tremblay, they offer stability and the opportunity to be a long-term nomad who learns the local culture “instead of viewing host countries as temporary distractions.”
Requirements for digital nomadic visas vary from country to country, but typically require proof of remote employment, travel insurance and a minimum monthly income to ensure holders can support themselves without taking local jobs.
The minimum income requirements can range from US$ 5,000 per month in UAE up to US$2,770 in Malta or US$1,500 in Brazil.
A fee also applies (between US$200 and 2,000), and the length of stay ranges from six months to two years, depending on the visa.
Some applicants can get that money back with certain benefits; Argentina, for example, plans to offer digital nomads special visa rates on accommodation, co-working spaces and internal flights with Aerolineas Argentinas.
Italy needs 5% of the nomads
Luca Carabetta, a member of the Italian parliament from the Five Star Movement political party, says that Italy is combining the best elements of other digital no-nonsense visas to create its own, which will become a reality by September on the latest.
In its first year it hopes to attract 5% of the global nomad market, estimated at approx 40 million people.
“A digital nomad can give us skills in everything from architecture to engineering, so this is a good way to open our country to technical resources from abroad,” explains Carabetta.
Europe’s oldest country also sees this temporary visa as a way to attract younger residents, who can use it to start a more permanent life in the country.
“Our goal could be to have them as guests in Italy, but also for them to be able to establish themselves here.”
As part of the preparation for the new visa, Carabetta says that Italy has spent more than 1 million euros to strengthen telecommunications networks, improve transport and modernize infrastructure in rural communities in the hope that digital wanderers attracted by remote corners can of Italy to contribute to its economic development.
Meanwhile, cities like Venice and Florence have developed programs to help remote workers land ready when they arrive.
Chile, one of the pioneers
Prithwiraj Choudhury, who researches the changing geography of work at Harvard Business School, says digital nomadism has huge benefits for host countries.
“First of all, the remote worker spends dollars in the local economy,” he explains. “And, more than that, it also makes connections with local business people.”
For Choudhury, sharing skills presents a real opportunity for countries and emphasizes the importance of attracting the right kind of hikers who can add value to the local community.
Give a historical example the Chilean startup program.
Launched in 2010, it provided visas and monetary incentives to foreign entrepreneurs to spend a year in Chile developing their own startups and mentoring local talent.
At that time, start-ups were just getting started in Chile.
Ten years later, thanks to the exchange of ideas, Chilean entrepreneurs have launched companies valued at more than a billion dollars, such as the vegan food technology company NotCo and the food delivery app Cornershop.
“It’s a good example of how you can create an ecosystem if you invite talented foreigners to your country, even for one year,” explains Choudhury.
Increase the competition
The biggest beneficiaries of digital nomadic visas are emerging economies or smaller nations that have traditionally lost talent to larger countries.
“Before, companies used to fight for talent. Now as countries do and the regions.
Choudhury predicts that even the largest economies may soon offer digital non-routine visas to stay competitive.
And those who create the best ecosystem for remote workers are expected to see the greatest benefits.
the negative side
Digital no-nonsense visas offer many promising opportunities, but they can also create new problems.
For example, they can increase local cost of livingincreasing competition for resources and creating “privilege bubbles,” according to Kate Hooper and Meghan Benton, authors of the Migration Policy Institute report.
The researchers cite Bali (Indonesia) and Goa (India) as examples of current digital nomadic destinations that have suffered from these problems in recent years.
If there is a class of workers who use local infrastructure and services but do not pay taxes on them, this can create shame among the residents who use them.
Some experts also question whether there will be much demand for digital no-frills visas.
Soomro of Denmark, founder and CEO of the global mobility database visadb.ioassures that the majority of nomads “still use the tourist visa option three to six months for various reasons, such as difficulties applying for digital nomadic visas.”
Soomro says cumbersome paperwork, expensive medical exams and the need for a certain monthly income (especially for freelancers) could make many nomads more inclined to come in as tourists and cross the border quickly when necessary.
However, after doing so for five years, Tremblay admits he’s glad he applied for the digital nomad visa in Dubai.
“It feels great to be treated like a resident,” he explains.
This software engineer plans to use Dubai as a base in the medium term, that is, until he finds his next home.
You can read this note originally published in English at BBC Working Life.
Now you can receive notifications from BBC World. Download the new version of our app and activate it so you don’t miss out on our best content.
Start investing your money in cryptocurrencies and get Free Bitcoin when you buy or sell 100$ or more if you register in Coinbase