By Salman Siddiqui
If there is one silver lining in the pandemic worth mentioning, it’s probably the rise of the global digital workforce and the smorgasbord of nomad visa choices they have to pick from. Costa Rica this month became the latest nation to join this visa trend.
The Costa Rican president has signed a new law allowing foreign digital nomads to stay in the Central America nation on a year-long visa and work for a foreign company without getting taxed on their global income; the law also allows them to open bank accounts in the country. Apart from having travel and health insurance, individuals applying for the Costa Rican digital nomad visa would need to have a minimum income of at least $3,000 per month while those applying with their spouses would need to earn at least $4,000.
Costa Rican Tourism Minister Gustavo Segura said that the digital nomad visa was going to be the “key to the rebound of the [tourism] sector,” according to media.
BEST TIME TO BE A DIGITAL NOMAD
There are now dozens of countries that offer remote workers the option to live for long periods of time, though some are more exclusive and expensive than the others, with differences mainly in the minimum monthly income requirements.
For example, for The Cayman Islands' Global Citizen Concierge Program, single applicants must meet the minimum income threshold of at least $100,000 per annum on top of certificate fees. But despite the fact that the island nation is targeting a more exclusive and wealthier clientele, investment immigration professionals from the region said that the number of people utilizing this visa has been on the rise since the island nation started to offer it post pandemic.
"Yes, we have seen an increase in the number of global citizens living in the Cayman Islands,” said Sue Nickason, who is the Vice President of Marketing and sales at Dart Real Estate in Cayman Islands. “The Global Citizen program was introduced in October 2020 and since then over 150 people have moved here to live and work for up to two years."
OPTIONS FOR THOSE EARNING BELOW $100K
There are several options available to those who don't earn a high monthly incomes but are comfortable enough to travel and live abroad for months, if not years, at a time.
For instance, Malta offers the almost year-long Nomad Residence Permit to remote workers who earn at least 2,700 euros per month; applicants would need to earn 20% more for each family member they add to their application.
Valentina Sammut, who is the founder and managing director of BIZ Consult Limited, said Malta needs to create awareness about the program among digital nomads since it was recently launched.
"Residency Malta Agency, in collaboration with Identity Malta Agency, has launched a Nomad Residence Permit during pandemic in June 2021. As it is a new program, there are not lot applications yet.
"Malta needs to organize digital nomad events, co-working spaces, workshops and communities," Sammut said.
Panama is another country which recently launched special visa programs for digital nomads; workers have to earn at least $36,000 to qualify for this visa that is valid for around nine months.
CHEAPEST OPTION IN EUROPE
Romania's digital nomad visa has one of the lowest minimum monthly income thresholds; according to the visa law launched in May, foreign remote workers who earn 1,100 euros per month are eligible to stay for months in the country and work for a foreign company.
Other options around Europe include Georgia, where the minimum income threshold is 1,655 euros per month; Estonia (3,504 euros per month); Croatia (2,240 per month).
Spain is expected to launch a special visa for digital nomads soon, giving them the option to stay for a whole year and offering them low-cost stay options at several small Spanish towns and villages with 4G internet; some 30 such towns and villages have already joined the country’s National Network of Welcoming Villages which are specifically marked for digital nomads. However, it is still in the works but the digital nomad visa is expected to be launched soon after the country’s passes the law to that effect, according to media reports.
PORTUGAL SEES INCREASE IN DIGITAL NOMADS
In Portugal, digital nomads can utilize the D7 temporary visa that allows independent workers or those earning passive income to stay in the country for at least a year. Portuguese immigration consultant Tiago Gali Macedo, who is the managing partner of NEXT/Gali Macedo & Associados, said there has been an increase in the number of digital nomads in the country since the pandemic, who utilize not just the D7 visas but also new initiatives launched specifically for them.
"Yes, the pandemic has showed us that we can actually work and be productive from anywhere not only the physical traditional office. Many people have seized this opportunity and moved abroad, namely to Portugal, both mainland and the Portuguese Islands," Macedo said.
He added that "the regional government of Madeira Island has created a specific programs to attract digital nomads". The Destino Madeira, a project promoted by Startup Madeira and the regional government of Madeira island, "has been a success since the date of the announcement. In mainland Portugal, the cities of Porto, Lisbon, Peniche, Braga, Sagres and Coimbra stand out as the main places of interest for digital nomads, and in which several initiatives have already been created for their installation," Macedo said.
Meanwhile in the Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda offers the two-year long Nomad Digital Residence Visa to those earning $50,000 per year; Dominica's Work in Nature 18-month long visa is up for grabs if you earn $70,000 per year.
Other options include the UAE where one can get a year long visa to work from the oil rich gulf state if one can prove a minimum income of 5,000 euros per month.
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