Digital Nomad: Work Legally for Longer

More than 25 countries have now launched visa programs for digital nomads, allowing these travelers to work legally, longer, and more freely.

The term “digital nomad” corresponds to a 21st-century movement. It belongs to a global socio-economic process, an evolution in the workplace, and a new way of working in which professionals from different areas make their way into the world of work in a different way.

This trend boomed in the wake of the pandemic – again the pandemic was an accelerating factor – in small European and Caribbean nations that depended 100% on tourism, bringing implications for migration policies worldwide.

According to the study The Future of Remote Work: Digital Nomads and the Implications for Immigration Systems by the Migration Policy Institute there are more than 25 countries that have visa programs for nomads. This not only attracts ideas, talent, and capital but also creates a solid foundation by legalizing many people who were previously in limbo and disoriented.

Previously, digital nomads lacked a legal framework to protect them. They were not allowed to work from abroad, but neither were they employed locally, so these visas give solidity and peace of mind to both workers and their employers.

It is important to know that many nomads are still paid in their home countries to maintain citizenship or receive public health benefits.

In March 2021, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) joined this wave of countries and unveiled a one-year residency permit for remote workers. This visa allows foreign professionals to live in Dubai (while continuing to work with overseas employers), a resident card, and even open a bank account.

Although the pandemic is receding or at least not as intense, there are indications that both employers and workers will remain in a flexible system to streamline their operations and maintain their human resources who are increasingly demanding the option to work remotely, from allowing occasional remote work in the same country to working as contractors and freelancers in other countries and even living there for a certain amount of time per year.


What are the visa requirements?

Although each country has its own requirements, there are some general requirements such as proof of remote employment, travel insurance, and minimum monthly income so that visa applicants do not accept local jobs.

There is also an application fee, and, in some countries, applicants can recoup this through benefits such as accommodation, co-working spaces, or internal flights.

Countries such as Italy are working on developing their own visa with the best elements and conditions of existing visas. A document that is expected to be released in September this year and with which they estimate to receive 40 million nomads in its first year, representing 5% of the global nomadic community.

For European countries with a predominantly elderly population, the temporary nomad visa is a way to attract young people who can use it to try out a more permanent life.

The Italian government has been investing in IT infrastructure mainly in rural communities that can be a focus for these nomads because they are pastoral corners that offer tranquility away from the stress of the cities. These places, in addition to benefiting from local consumption by these foreigners, will provide a gateway for local entrepreneurs to make their products known in other latitudes.

For many small countries that have suffered from “brain drain” to larger countries, it is important to attract the right nomads to add value to local communities.  This can be an opportunity for start-ups or entrepreneurs to develop their businesses or offer to mentor local talent.

It is now the countries that are fighting for talent and not the companies and recruiters.

New Challenges

Just as there are opportunities, there are also challenges they will have to deal with such as the rising cost of local living, increased competition for resources, and perhaps a bit of resentment between residents and nomads who use local infrastructure and services but do not pay taxes, as is the case in Bali, Indonesia, and India, which are countries that have been affected by these issues.

Another challenge is the time involved in applying for the nomad visa and the necessary requirements, so many digital nomads still use the tourist visa option that allows stays of three to six months.