Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced many professionals to start working remotely, the amount of digital nomads globally has grown exponentially. In fact, MBO Partners estimate that there were around 15.5 million digital nomads in 2021 in the US alone – a 112% increase from 7.3 million in 2019.
With remote work on the rise, many countries have begun offering digital nomad visas to foreigners looking to live abroad while working remotely. In this article, we will take a look at the most popular (and most sought-after) countries around the world that offer long-term visas for freelancers.
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The Benefits of Freelancer-Friendly Visas
Digital nomad visas, also known as remote work visas or freelance visas, are special permits that allow individuals to live and work in a foreign country while maintaining their employment or freelance status. These visas offer different things depending on the country, but some common benefits include:
- Legitimate work status: Digital nomad visas provide legal permission to work remotely in a foreign country.
- Extended stay: Typical tourist visas have limitations on the length of stay, often ranging from a few weeks to a few months. Digital nomad visas, on the other hand, can offer longer durations, such as six months to a year or even more, depending on the specific visa program.
- Flexibility: Remote work visas provide the flexibility to work from anywhere within the host country, allowing nomads to explore different cities or regions without worrying about visa restrictions.
- Tax advantages: Some countries have specific tax regulations that are favorable to remote workers or freelancers, including lower income tax rates or exemptions for foreign-earned income.
In addition to the above benefits, freelance digital nomads have the opportunity to travel the world without needing to take time off of work, making their travels much more financially feasible. Furthermore, some countries may offer a better quality of life, infrastructure, health care, or even more affordable cost of living.
Popular Countries That Offer Digital Nomad Visas
Antigua & Barbuda
The Caribbean nation of Antigua & Barbuda offers a digital nomad visa called the Nomad Digital Residence (NDR). It’s aimed towards remote workers who have the means to support themselves, and includes any family members or dependents joining them. This visa is valid for up to two years for visitors earning more than $50,000 per year, and nomads are required to have a health insurance plan while residing within the country.
One of the most beautiful (and affordable) destinations that offer digital nomad visas is Bali in Indonesia. Their permit is known as the Second Home Visa, and is valid for up to five years, and allows for digital nomads to live and work inside of Bali, provided their employer is located outside of Indonesia. However, one of the requirements for application is proof of funds of over $140,000.
The Cayman Islands offers the Global Citizen Certificate (GCC) for digital nomads looking to live and work on the islands, and is valid for up to two years. In order to qualify, however, individuals must provide proof of a minimum annual salary of $100,000, or $150,000 for couples, as well as set up their own health insurance plan.
Costa Rica is a beautiful travel destination offering pristine beaches and exotic landscapes. Their digital nomad visa is known as the Rentista and is valid for two years, with the option to extend your stay. The most notable requirements are a minimum monthly income of $3,000 and travel insurance coverage.
Estonia is a popular destination for remote workers due to its stunning infrastructure and rich history. They currently offer a one-year digital nomad/freelancer visa allowing foreigners to live in the country while working remotely for an employer located outside of Estonia. Applicants must earn a minimum of $3,800 per month.
Germany offers a freelance visa called the Aufenthaltserlaubnis für selbständige Tätigkeit (or the Residence Permit for Self-Employment). This visa allows foreign freelancers and other self-employed professionals to live in Germany for anywhere from six months to three years. Being proficient in speaking German can be highly advantageous, and applicants must have proof of income, an address in Germany, and must be employed by at least one German client.
Portugal is one of the most digital-nomad-friendly countries in the world, and with its stunning landscapes and vibrant culture, it isn’t hard to see why. Portugal offers a temporary residence permit for independent professionals and entrepreneurs which is valid for one year, with the option to renew for up to 5 years, after which you can apply for permanent residency. Applicants must earn at least $650 a month and must provide proof of private travel or health insurance.
Considering the Cost of Living and Lifestyle Factors
When choosing a country with a freelancer-friendly visa program, considering the cost of living and lifestyle factors is crucial. Here are some aspects to consider when looking to move to another country:
- Cost of Living: It is important to compare the cost of living in your chosen country compared to your home country. Some areas have much higher living costs than others, and it is crucial to calculate whether you will able to afford rent, food, and transportation within the new country.
- Taxes: Some countries offer favorable tax regimes for freelancers, such as lower income tax rates or special tax incentives for foreign workers. However, it is important to check whether your home country requires you to pay taxes regardless of your location, as some digital nomads may find themselves paying double taxes.
- Quality of Life: Lifestyle factors, such as healthcare, safety, infrastructure, and cultural compatibility, greatly impact the overall quality of life for digital nomads. It’s important to evaluate these factors to ensure a comfortable and fulfilling experience.
- Personal Preferences: In addition to the above factors, digital nomads should consider their own personal preferences when choosing a country to settle in. This can include preferred climate, language compatibility, and culture.
Exploring Opportunities and Building Networks
Freelancers can find numerous networking opportunities in countries with large freelancer and digital nomad communities. Joining these communities, whether through online forums, social media groups, or coworking spaces, can provide access to valuable insights, advice, and opportunities for collaboration. Engaging with local professionals allows for knowledge sharing, skill development, and the exchange of professional experiences.
Additionally, attending industry events in new countries is an excellent opportunity for freelancers to expand their professional networks. These events bring together professionals, experts, and thought leaders from various fields, providing a platform to learn about industry trends, showcase skills, and connect with potential clients or collaborators. Active participation in relevant events can lead to new business opportunities, partnerships, and valuable connections.
As the number of digital nomads continues to rise, many countries have recognized the value they bring and have introduced digital nomad visas tailored for freelancers. These visas offer various benefits, including legitimate work status, extended stays, flexibility, tax advantages, and the opportunity to travel while working.
Several countries have become popular destinations for digital nomads, each offering its own unique advantages. From the beautiful beaches of Antigua & Barbuda to the vibrant culture of Portugal, freelancers have a range of options to choose from.