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Digital nomads and visas: What to know about working abroad

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Whether you’re daydreaming of traveling or living vicariously, here’s everything you need to know about working remotely abroad.

Photo from whereslugo via Unsplash

As remote work becomes increasingly entrenched as a new normal, some U.S. workers have become digital nomads, ditching their at-home office to work remotely abroad.

The number of Americans immigrating to Mexico reached a “record high” this year, the Mexico News Daily reported in early November. More than 8,000 Americans have received temporary resident visas in Mexico so far this year — a surge linked to remote workers, the outlet reported, citing data from the country’s Interior Ministry.

Whether you’re trying to understand this new work trend or planning to join, here’s everything you need to know about digital nomad visas and the reality of working remotely abroad.

What are digital nomads and digital nomad visas?

A digital nomad is a person who works remotely from outside their home country, according to Investopedia. By extension, digital nomad visas are visa programs specifically targeted to or often used by these types of people to allow them to legally work abroad.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of digital nomads?

The rise in digital nomads has resulted in a complex mixture of advantages and disadvantages for the workers, host countries and local residents.

For host country governments, digital nomads are often a source of income because they spend money during slow seasons and stay longer than other tourists, Euronews reported. In Europe, educated foreign workers also offset aging populations and “brain drain.”

For digital nomads, working abroad is an opportunity to travel while continuing their career and having a stable income, Investopedia reported. Tax implications of working abroad, however, can be complicated and vary by company and country, International Citizens reported.

For local residents, the presence of foreign remote workers — and their higher buying power — often contributes to displacement and gentrification, Fast Company reported. This “power imbalance” away from locals and toward wealthier foreigners is referred to and criticized as neocolonialism, the outlet reported.

Mexico City has experienced these “pitfalls,” Vox reported. Rising housing costs and growing inflation have only worsened as American digital nomads began arriving. The “stark” racial, ethnic and class disparities between wealthier, whiter American workers and local Mexicans has made these issues “difficult to stomach,” the outlet reported.

What countries offer digital nomad visas?

Almost 50 countries offer digital nomad visas under a variety of names, according to a regularly updated list from Nomad Girl. Many of these countries are warm, tropical and tourism-friendly.

Here are 10 countries from five different regions offering digital nomad visas:

Working remotely from Europe:

  • Malta: A tiny island nation suspended in the Mediterranean Sea between the southern coast of Italy and northern coast of Libya, Malta offers a one-year Nomad Residence Permit targeted at non-European remote workers. Applicants for the $340 visa must prove they have a rental contract and their income exceeds $2,800 monthly.

  • Portugal: A small nation on southwestern European coast known for its beaches, Portugal offers a one-year renewable D7 Remote Work / Digital Nomad visa. The $93 visa is contingent on proof of monthly income and work contract.

Other European countries offering digital nomad visas include, per Nomad Girl and Euronews: Albania, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Montenegro, Norway, Romania and Spain.

Working remotely from Africa:

  • Mauritius: An island nation off the east coast of Africa, Mauritius offers a one-year Premium Visa with no application fee. The visa requires proof of monthly income but specifies no minimum amount.

  • Namibia: South Africa’s northwestern neighbor, Namibia is the first country on the African mainland to offer digital nomad visas. Namibia launched its Digital Nomad Visa in mid-October. The six-month visa costs about $60 and requires the applicant to have a monthly income of $2,000.

Other African and Middle Eastern countries offering digital nomad visas include, per Nomad Girl: Cape Verde, the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and Seychelles.

Working remotely from Asia:

  • Indonesia: The southeast Asian island nation that includes Bali, Indonesia does not offer an official digital nomad visa — yet — but offers multiple tourist visas that unofficially serve the same function, Nomads Embassy reported. The two most popular options are renewing a 30-day on-arrival tourist visa and Bali’s B211a visa renewable for up to six months.

  • Thailand: The southeast Asian country of Thailand offers a 10-year Long-Term Resident Visa with steep education and annual income requirements. However, similarly to those in Indonesia, American digital workers in Thailand will visit on a 60-day tourist visa, which can be renewed in-country for another 30 days.

Other Asian countries offering digital nomad visas include, per Nomad Girl: Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Taiwan.

Working remotely from Central and South America:

  • Costa Rica: The tropical central American country of Costa Rica offers a one-year Remote Workers and Service Providers visa. The $100 visa requires applicants to make at least $3,000 monthly.

  • Mexico: Bordering the southern U.S., Mexico offers a Temporary Resident Visa with a six-month minimum stay and four-year maximum. The visa costs $48 and requires a monthly income of at least $2,108, though this varies by exchange rate.

Other Central and South American countries offering digital nomad visas include, per Nomad Girl and Traveling Lifestyle: Belize, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama.

Working remotely from the Caribbean:

  • The Bahamas: A chain of Caribbean islands and popular beach vacation destination, the Bahamas has a Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay program. Applying to the one-year visa costs $1,025 total and requires a letter from the applicant’s current employer.

  • Barbados: An eastern Caribbean island, Barbados has a digital nomad visa program called the Barbados Welcome Stamp. The yearlong program costs $2,000 for individual applicants and requires an annual income of $50,000.

Other Caribbean countries offering digital nomad visas include, per Nomad Girl: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat and Saint Lucia.

Aspen Pflughoeft covers real-time news for McClatchy. She is a graduate of Minerva University where she studied communications, history, and international politics. Previously, she reported for Deseret News.