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New Digital Nomad visas (updated): More countries see restless internationals as key to prosperity

(Editor’s note: Some countries such as Hungary and Mexico have digital nomad visas, but we can’t in good conscience recommend them because of crime or authoritarian governments.)

The question we get more than any other is “What’s the easiest route to living in Europe long-term?” In the past, we would have directed you to our Golden Visa archives or our posts about freelance visas. But for the past two years, very attractive countries have started seeing digital nomads as long-term economic assets and image boosters and are issuing digital nomad visas.

That’s because many are skilled developers, entrepreneurs, social media marketers and influencers pulling down serious jack. But you don’t have to be all about the money. You, like our Beth Hoke, can make a living doing what you love to do, in her case, writing, teaching English and hustling clients while she experiences the best Europe has to offer.

But there’s more to it than that. A lot of less-developed countries see digital nomads as a way to instantly boost their talent bases, according to this Wall Street Journal post.

“Countries are now competing for talent, just like companies used to compete for talent,” the WSJ quotes Prithwiraj Choudhury, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, as saying. Choudhury estimates more than 24 countries worldwide now provide digital-nomad visas.

By the way, Japanese technologist Tsugio Makimoto predicted this trend back in 1997, years before wifi and fast Internet connections were really a thing. You can see more about his book, “Digital Nomad,” here. As of late 2022, there’s a new wrinkle – the Digital Nomads who believe the nation state and national identity are obsolete. You can read about that here.

So let’s look at the latest developments. We’re updating this post as they come online.

The following list is in the order of the newest to the oldest:

Germany

While Germany doesn’t have a Digital Nomad visa per se, it does have a freelance visa that allows Digital Nomads to live and work legally in the country. Called Aufenthaltserlaubnis für selbständige Tätigkeit, it’s available to non-EU citizens who want to stay in the country for up to one year.

But this being Germany – and this being a temporary residence visa – there’s nothing easy about it. There’s an application process that includes submitting lots of documents, in-person interviews and proof that you fill an economic void within the country and will benefit the economy. Which honestly, isn’t hard if you have hard skills because Germany has a huge talent deficit. And you must prove you can support yourself, pay your rent and insurance with a 450 euro cushion per month. Did we mention that everything is in German?

Here are the details.

Here’s how Lily Cichanowicz got her freelance visa in Berlin.

Italy

Italy’s strategy when it comes to Digital Nomads has been to, well, promise a lot, and deliver very little. Italian officials had talked about a 1 billion euro fund (where does all the money come from?) to lure Digital Nomads to the country’s estimated 2,000 ghost towns – villages in remote regions that have lost most of their populations to urban centers. As part of that project, the plan was to run broadband in to rural areas, according to Forbes. (We heard this before in rural American towns and nothing happened there, either.)

Now, details are stating to emerge as all parties in Italy’s coalition government agree this is a good idea. The digital nomad visa proposal was initially included in a draft decree in March 2022, part of a COVID economic recovery bill that includes the goal of directing them to Italy’s depopulated rural areas.

The BBC quotes a member of parliament from the Five Star party claiming Italy is almost there on the details of the final visa. The post quotes Luca Carabetta as saying the Italian law will combine “the best elements of other digital nomad visas” and launch by September at the latest. And Carabetta makes the rather eye-opening claim that Italy will attract five percent of all the DMs in the world – an estimated two million – in the first year!

That proposed legislation now includes a digital nomad visa good for up to one year. It could be available to non-EU talent “who carry out highly qualified work activities through the use of technological tools that allow them to work remotely, autonomously or for a company that is not resident in the territory of the Italian state.”

Euronews is reporting Digital Nomads will have to meet “a long list of requirements.” DMs would have to pay Italian taxes and have private health insurance.

The BBC post points out that Venice and Florence are already positioned to integrate Digital Nomads. And the Wall Street Journal has a post that includes an interesting initiative in Pontremoli.

More as we know more.

Italy also has the visto per lavoro autonomo, a self-employment visa that’s really tough to get, or so our Italy-based expats tell us.

Republic of Cyprus

As of March, 2022, Cyprus just increased the number of Digital Nomad visas they’ll grant to 500 from 100. (Hey, it’s a small island, and half of it is Turkey.)

Digital Nomad visas in Cyprus are for highly skilled internationals working for foreign employers. The visa is granted for one year, with the right to renew it for another two years. You need to show proof of net income (not gross) of 3,500 euros per month, medical coverage and you have to have a clean criminal record from your country of residence.

Your family can come with you, but they won’t be allowed to work.

Like most Digital Nomad visas, you can apply for this after you arrive, but no later than three months.

You can see all the details here on the official Cypriot government website, which include requirements for appointments and which records you need to provide to which government authorities. The fee to apply is 70 euros.

The website and rules are actually detailed, helpful and clear and you can down load all the documents and application forms.

Latvia

In February 2022, Latvia became the latest Baltic state to start the process of opening to Digital Nomads after neighboring Estonia pretty much created the concept lo’ these many years ago with its e-residency for foreign entrepreneurs. Latvia’s proposed Digital Nomad visa would offer quite a bit of latitude, allowing you to stay one year (with an optional one-year extension) and work either as an employee of a foreign company or as a self-employed whatever it is you do-er. But you’ll have to prove you earn 2.5 times the monthly income of the average Latvian, which is equivalent to about $2,000.

Of course, just like in every country, the Digital Nomad visa is meant to attract highly skilled internationals who add more to the economy than they take. And the visa is only available to foreign nationals employed by companies in the 37-country Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). That includes all the countries in the EU, United Kingdom and the United States.

Here’s a balanced look at what it’s like to be a digital nomad in the capital Riga.

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Norway

How did we overlook Norway? Because of its annual festivals, we knew that there’s a far-north outpost of this Scandi country– the northernmost permanent settlement on earth – that welcomes anyone without a visa, though you have to have a job and a place to stay. Svalbard is home to the world’s northernmost brewery, church and uni … and is not everyone’s cup of aquavit. Though Sifted has an interesting post that says Svalbard is currently one of the more popular Digital Nomad destinations – in the Top 10, anywho.

Here’s the immigration information if you’re really open to adventure. Because one of the sections of the Svalbard website includes dealing with polar bears. No, really. And there’s also a caveat that living in Svalbard “does not entitle you to residence or citizenship in mainland Norway.” But apparently you can stay as long as you like, or at least until you’re eaten by the polar bears.

Now, if you want to work in Norway as a whole, there is an independent contractor visa good for up to two years, but requires a minimum of 35,719 euro gross annual income plus a lot of other stuff. The application fee is 600 euros. You can apply here.

Ireland

While Ireland doesn’t have a Digital Nomad visa per se, If you are a non-EU/EEA and non-Swiss national you can apply for permission to do business under the Immigration Investor Programme and Start Up Entrepreneur Programme

Okay, we’re going to level with you … with a huge tech sector and financial industry, the Republic of Ireland is an expensive place to do anything including play tourist and live. We know. We’ve been there. But the Irish are facing the same demographic gloom and doom as the rest of the Europe, with about 14 percent of the population over 65 years old. So the republic needs to keep attracting young entrepreneurs to keep the Irish Tiger fed.

Enterprise Ireland, Ireland’s economic-development agency, has a deal for well-heeled global entrepreneurs. To qualify for an Enterprise Ireland Competitive Start Fund grant, you’ll need to demonstrate that your company is capable of creating at least 10 jobs and generate 1 million euros in sales over the first three years.

The two funds for All Sectors and Women Entrepreneurs amount to a combined total of 2 million euros. But apply via the Enterprise Ireland website ASAP.

Americans can travel to the republic (but not to Northern Ireland) without a visa and stay 90 days as tourists. Irelands also has a Golden Visa program if you qualify and can afford to invest 1 million euros in an Irish company. So, if you’re going to do that, you might as well start your own.

Spain

Spain is close … very close … to joining the rest of Europe in trying to attract Digital Nomads. In early December, 2021, Spain approved startup legislation for a making it easier to start a business, legislation that includes a Digital Nomad visa, according to multiple media reports. However, the reports are contradictory. Here’s what we’ve been able to verify regarding he legislation, scheduled to get a final vote early this year. (The most detailed post is here on SpainVisa.eu.)

The proposed legislation gives – among other things – Digital Nomads from outside the EU/EEA (and working for foreign employers) permission to work in Spain for up to six months without obtaining an official work visa. It would also give Digital Nomads a tax break and startups a tax incentive. We wondered how long it would be till some country figured out these two trends are intersecting. The new laws would streamline the legendarily complex bureaucratic obstacles to starting a business.

On the Digital Nomad side, the visa would be good for six months, then renewable for another 12 and cut the non-resident tax rate to 15 percent on the first 600,000 euros from 24 percent. Even without a special Digital Nomad visa, Spain’s Canary Islands – Gran Canaria, Tenerife – already are popular with remote workers from the EU. Now they’ll have company from non-EU countries.

Cape Verde

Yes, we had to look this one up. Cape Verde (or Cabo Verde in Portuguese) is an island nation – a cluster of 10 arid volcanic islands – 300 miles off the coast of Africa. If you consider it to be part of Africa, then Cape Verde is a candidate for the continent’s most stable democracy. In the middle of the Atlantic, it has a mild climate, high-speed Internet connections and beaches and outdoor adventure amid rugged terrain. This drew almost 1 million tourists in 2019, but the tourists went away when the pandemic hit.

Sound like a good place to chill while you work? Cape Verdeans hope that’s how you see it because they just created Remote Working Cabo Verde, a tax exempt digital nomad visa designed to attract 4,000 foreigners, specifically Americans and Europeans. Why 4,000? No idea … but the entire Cape Verde population is only about 550,000 people. The visa is valid for six months to one year.

You can apply here.

Malta

This one is a no-brainer. This Mediterranean island nation has been a destination for every culture from the Romans and the Moors to the Brits. English is an official language along with Maltese and Malta is part of the EU. As of early June, they’re offering a six-month Digital Nomad visa, with a kinda’ pricey fee of 300 euros. (Compare that to Estonia below.)

For that, you get to stay for six months, with an option to renew for up to one year. To qualify, you have to prove you have a contract with a foreign company, have your own company or have enough freelance business to support yourself.

Here’s the link to the application website. And Malta just opened applications for a year-long Digital Nomad visa.

If you’re not that familiar with Malta, it has the third-highest population density in Europe behind Monaco and Vatican City, so finding a place to stay might be a challenge. A lot of movies and series are shot there including “Game of Thrones” because as we’ve noted, the architecture is like nowhere else in Europe.

Montenegro

Officials in Montenegro are in the early stages of crafting new legislation for a Digital Nomad visa. This south Balkans travel destination is using the working title of “Program for Attracting Digital Nomads and Encouraging Foreign Investments in Montenegro until 2025,” which doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. But in competition with neighboring Croatia, it’s likely the Montenegran version will be just as aggressive. And though this country is little-known to Americans, this is an increasingly popular destination, with mountains (hence the name) and even a fjord or two. Montenegro also has a very limited Golden Visa program.

Romania

This could be a winner … low cost of living, superior internet connection in a tech hub and some of the last great wilderness in Europe. Anyway, as of late December, Romania has one of the most affordable Digital Nomad destinations in the world, according to Emerging Europe.

The deal is similar to other Digital Nomad visas – you must employed by a foreign firm, or offer services through a self-owned company located outside of Romania. You can stay up to 6 months (maybe longer depending on the final version of the law.) But where Romania shines is that the minimum annual income requirement to get the visas is much lower than, say, $94,000 in Iceland. Under the new Romanian legislation, the minimum income requirement has been set at three times the Romanian gross average monthly wage (about 1,100 euros), so Digital Nomads must be able to prove they are have earned, and are currently earning, about 3,300 euros per month, or about 40,000 euros annually. (By the way, this requirement started at 1,900 euros in early drafts, but politics ….)

Part of this is to feed Cluj-Napoca’s demand for highly skilled internationals. Cluj has one of the most advanced IT sectors in the world, attracting global giants including American multinationals, and is almost an economy into itself. Cluj-Napoca hosts about 1,250 companies with more than 14,000 employees, accounting for about 10 percent of the city’s total number of employees. This means that 1 out of 11 active employees work in IT. Bucharest also has a growing tech sector.

Curaçao

“Aha,” you’re saying, “this isn’t Europe!” Well, Curaçao kind of is because this Caribbean Island way, way down in the Lesser Antilles, is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In the past few days, the government of Curaçao has rolled out its @HOMEinCuraçao program that, among other things, allows remote workers special access to work and live in on the island for six months (renewable for another six months) rather than the usual European Union-standard 90-day tourist visa. The fee is about $300 (yes, Curaçao uses dollars) and you have to buy health insurance.

You can apply here.

There are also new extended visas for investors and snow birds.

Unlike so much of the Caribbean, the ABCs (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao) are stable because they are legally Dutch provinces. And while the ganja is probably better in Jamaica, this is a safer choice on every level including Internet reliability. Finally, the capital and largest city, Willemstadt, has more sophisticated retail than, say, Sint Maarten, because sooner or later, you’ll need a fresh tee-shirt and new pair of Vans.

Portugal

Effective in late September, 2022, Portugal is finally introducing a formal Digital Nomad visa, according to the Portugalist.com. In the past, Portugal has attracted a lot of nomads, but there wasn’t a specific visa for them, James Cave wrote us in an email. Now there will be.

Here are the details on the Portugalist.com website.

We’ll follow up with more details.

Portugal, following the philosophy of “go big, or go home,” has had past initiatives aimed at DMs even if the country didn’t have a visa. The Portuguese island of Madeira opened a Digital Nomad village on 1 February.

The effort is lead by Startup Madeira CEO Carlos Soares Lopez, and you can see the full team here. This is an economic-development project developed by the Regional Government of Madeira, through Startup Madeira, and appears to be for real. The “village” appears to be a group of hotels and hostels that are participating.

You can register here.

From everything we can find online, Madeira actually has the infrastructure including shared working spaces and Internet connections robust enough to support digital nomads. As our Beth Hoke can tell you, there are worse places to be a Digital Nomad than this scenic island in the Atlantic. So why the heck not, right?

Croatia

Croatia is one of the latest European country to issue a Digital Nomad visa. Backed by a commitment by two Split-based Dutch agtech entrepreneurs to invest in this Adriatic jewel, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković introduced legislation last August for a Digital Nomad visa, an amendment to the Foreigners Act. And voilà, as of late January, an American expat is the first person to get Croatia’s digital nomad visa. Which has to be one of the fastest turnarounds ever.

But we get it: Croatia has all the ingredients – sea, lovely cities, educated workforce and a prime Balkan location between Austria on the north and Greece to the south – to attract wealthy internationals by the droves. Oddly, the salary requirement for digital nomads in Croatia is only $31,514 per year after taxes. Compare that to $50,000 in Barbados and $94,000 in Iceland.

California-born Melissa Paul is a branding consultant, social media manager, and blog editor for design, travel, and lifestyle businesses, according to Total Croatia News. This post has all the details about the process of acquiring the new visa.

The downside is, it’s only good for a year, according to the post about Paul. It cannot be renewed or extended. After one year, the options are applying for a permanent residence permit or remaining as a tourist for 90 days. BUT, Croatian officials just announced that digital nomads get to spend that year NOT paying any income tax.

(You can see an interview here with Jan de Jong, one of the two Dutch entrepreneurs who convinced the Croatian government to create its Digital Nomad visa.)

Business Insider has a great interview with an American video producer who’s relocated to Croatia, with details about how much he spends each month (not much).

Here’s a very detailed post on the visa.

Estonia

On 1 August 2020, Estonia launched its Digital Nomad visa, with ambitions to attract 2,000 on-the-go people to this far north innovation center on the Baltic Sea.

Estonia has always been a net talent-exporter, with its techies leaving for London or Stockholm to lay the digital foundations for multiple Unicorns including Skype and TransferWise. Now, Estonia wants to steal other countries’ best and brightest.

The one-year visas will be available to Digital Nomads willing to spend part of their time working from the Baltic state. (We recommend the summer.) The visa will allow people to stay in the country for 12 months, including 90 days of travel across Europe’s 26-country Schengen zone, which in and of itself will make this a hit.

You can now apply at embassies and consulates just like you would for any other visa. But we’re guessing this launches a whole cottage industry of companies that will help you get this visa for a fee.

Who is eligible to apply?

  • You can work anywhere remotely using telecommunications technology
  • You have an active employment contract with a company registered outside of Estonia; you conduct business through your own company registered abroad, or you work as a freelancer for clients mostly outside of Estonia.
  • You can prove your income meets the minimum threshold during the six months preceding the application. Currently, the monthly income threshold is 3,504 euros before taxes

While you can’t apply yet online, you can subscribe to the newsletter here that will alert you when all this goes live.

The fee is 80 euros for a Type C (short stay) visa and 100 euros for the Type D (long stay) visa. Forms can be submitted at the nearest embassy.

Georgia

Is Georgia (the country, not the state) on your mind? Maybe it should be as this last of the exotic (sort of) European destinations is offering a Digital Nomad visa. Georgia, like every other country in the world, wants to attract highly skilled internationals who can contribute to the tax base.

This country on the physical and psychological dividing line between Europe and Central Asia/the Middle East is inexpensive and, according to our expats, beautiful and inviting.

This visa isn’t available yet, but when it is, you’ll apply here. Though there is a school of thought that says their 1-year tourist visa is a better option, AND you don’t get taxed. So do your research.

You can see more here on the workfromgeorgia website.

Greece

Greece, which already has a plethora of long-stay visa offerings and Golden Visas, is upping the ante with a proposed 50-percent discount on personal income taxes for “digital migrants” – professionals who relocate there to work. This seems to be a trend, with Iceland offering its Digital Nomad program with the stipulation that recipients must be full-time employees of a foreign company. (See below.)

Greek’s proposed Digital Nomad program isn’t law yet, but the legislation was expected to move quickly through the Hellenic parliament before the end of 2021. It would cut the current tax rate in Greece – 44 percent for annual personal income of more than 40,000 euros ($47,000), or 17,600 euros – for highly skilled digital nomads, according to the Guardian. Under the proposed scheme, the rate would drop to 22 percent, or 8,800 euros, for seven years.

There is, as you might suspect, a Brexit component as a number of multinational banks are eyeing sending some operations to Greece so they can continue to do business with the European Union. And Greece has been trying to lure back its best and brightest, who emigrated to the United States and other countries during the financial crisis. Finally, there’s that damn pandemic, which has made the office – even the C-Suite – a less and less attractive place to work.

Though there isn’t yet a Digital Nomad visa for non-EU citizens, the Greek Reporter has a very detailed post about the best cities for the European digital nomads eligible to work there.

Iceland

Obscured by pandemics and presidential elections gone awry, Iceland’s government announced in late October that it’s offering a remote worker visa to non-EU citizens with substantial incomes. How substantial? At least 1 million (yes, million) Icelandic króna, or about $7,300 – 6,200 euros – per month, according to the government website. More if you bring your family.

They’re going to need it because Iceland is the second most expensive country in Europe behind Switzerland, according to Numbeo and other sources. Though the upside is, you become an instant millionaire after converting your currency of choice. The new visas allow foreigners to come work remotely for up to six months on this remote island of volcanoes, ice, snow, Björk. stunning scenery and the world’s most northerly capital city in Reykjavik.

Now, the gritty details … the initiative states that you must be the permanent employee of a foreign company. So this is about offering people a very cool place to work remotely at a time global companies are allowing employees the freedom to work anywhere they want. It is not an invitation to come hangout first, then think about maybe getting a few clients for your freelance SEO gig.

BUT, you’re income won’t be taxed and foreign citizens will be allowed to apply for a long-term visa in Iceland for teleworkers and bring their families without having to move their legal domicile to the country or obtain Icelandic ID numbers, according to the website.

Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, minister of Tourism, Innovation and Industry, explains the thinking behind the new visa:

We need to shape our export industry, based on ingenuity and by making it easier for foreign nationals to work from Iceland, we add value, knowledge and connections in Iceland that support our innovation environment.

‘Nuf said.

Czech Republic

Prague was an expat destination for decades, then cooled as other countries created Digital Nomad visas. Now, it’s getting a second act with remote workers.

The Czech Republic doesn’t have a specific Digital Nomad visa, but it does have a Živno, or freelance visa, that’s essentially the same thing. This is for non-EU citizens who come to start a business or work for foreign companies as freelancers/contractors. This is not easy to get, so be sure to read through the details via the link above. You need to prove you have 124,500 Czech koruna, or about 5,000 euros, a biz plan if you’re starting up, or proof of employment.

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