More than 25 nations have introduced digital nomad visa programmes, allowing them to work legally, longer, and more freely.

Digital nomad visas lure workers abroad

Imagine Dubai, and you may envision glitzy skyscrapers, man-made islands, and maze-like shopping malls. Nevertheless, if the local government has its way, the emirate will soon be recognised as a sort of strategic centre between Europe and Asia, where thousands of virtual employees would establish tentative roots.

To lure new talent to the region, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) introduced a one-year residency permit for remote workers in March 2021. The visa enables foreign professionals such as Julien Tremblay, a 31-year-old software engineer from Montreal, to reside in Dubai while continuing to work for foreign employers. It also allows access to a resident identification card and the majority of governmental services. Tremblay, for instance, can legally rent housing and even open a bank account while remaining immune from local income tax.

“When I became a digital nomad [five and a half years ago], there were very few visa options,” Tremblay adds, adding that the UAE’s visa options are a game-changer. “It removes you from the grey area and enables you to be entirely compliant in the location where you are staying. If you intend to become a non-resident of your home country, it is also considerably simpler to demonstrate that you have departed and become an expat.”

Moving Markets

Historically, digital nomads frequently existed in a legal limbo. Technically, they were not permitted to work in a foreign country, but they were also not employed locally. New digital nomad visas establish a stronger basis by outlining a legal framework that gives remote employees and their employers more peace of mind. However, visas are not considered as a means to escape taxes; the vast majority of nomads continue to pay them in their home countries in order to keep citizenship or obtain public health benefits.

According to a new Migration Policy Institute analysis, more than 25 nations and territories have launched digital nomad visas. The pandemic sparked the trend, which originated in tourism-dependent European and Caribbean nations. Now, larger economies such as the United Arab Emirates, Brazil, and Italy are establishing their own projects.

Digital nomad visas are a method for these nations to draw fresh ideas and talent to their shores while also capitalising on the rise of remote employment to pump foreign wealth into the local economy.

Meanwhile, the visas provide stability and the opportunity for nomads like Tremblay to become “slow-mads” – long-stay nomads who spend more time learning about the local culture “instead of treating host countries as transitory distractions.”

Digital nomad visa requirements vary by nation, but often include documentation of remote employment, travel insurance, and a minimum monthly income to guarantee visa holders can sustain themselves without accepting local jobs. This can range from $5,000 (£4,182) per month in the United Arab Emirates to $2,770 (£2,317) in Malta and $1,500 (£1,255) in Brazil.

Additionally, there is an application fee ranging from $200 to $2,000, and the term of stay varies from six months to two years depending on the visa. Argentina, for instance, aims to offer digital nomads on its new visa discounted accommodations, co-working spaces, and domestic flights via Aerolneas Argentinas.

Visas for digital nomads may present numerous enticing opportunities, but they may also introduce new obstacles. According to Kate Hooper and Meghan Benton, authors of a research by the Migration Policy Institute, they can, for instance, cause a rise in local living costs, boost competition for resources, and create “bubbles of privilege.” In recent years, existing digital nomad hotspots such as Bali, Indonesia, and Goa, India, have faced with these difficulties. Having a class of workers who utilise local infrastructure and services but pay no taxes for them can infuriate taxpaying residents.


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