Digital Nomad Visa
Recently, the southern European country Portugal has opened its doors to digital nomads – people who want to move to a new country to work remotely – with the launch of a new one-year digital nomad visa that allows remote workers to live and work in the country for up to 12 months. The new visa — officially called the “residence visa for the exercise of professional activity provided remotely outside the national territory” — is designed for working professionals.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created a new breed of entrepreneur: one that has learned how to make a living digitally, who has a laptop and is equipped to work anywhere, and who leads a mobile lifestyle. Many countries offer such individuals, and their dependants, digital nomad visas with an aim to attract hugely talented human resource.
What Is a ‘Digital Nomad Visa’?
Until recently, most digital nomads worked remotely under a tourist visa, which is illegal in many countries. So, to provide foreigners with a legal base for working while travelling, many countries issue digital nomad visas that are, in effect, permits that allow people to work remotely in a foreign country.
Who are digital nomads?
Remote working emerged as a new trend in work in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic that had halted the movement of people for a considerable time due to which companies had no option but to allow their employees work from home. Such a work-from-home employee is called a digital nomad. They don’t just work in one designated office; instead they work in co-working spaces, libraries, homes, coffee shops, vacation spots and other places they feel ideal. This is possible through the use of laptops, mobile phones and wireless connections. Digital nomads tend to enjoy being productive as they work from different locations of their choice where they can get the motivation to work.
1. To digital nomads
The emergence of digital nomads’ visas for freelancers will expose them to different possibilities of travelling and being beneficial in the process. For example:
· Working from different places each day exposes workers to diverse experiences, which boost their creativity.
· Digital nomads are also highly adaptable and engage with different people and cultures. They become more productive as they interact with different environments.
· Travelling also helps them improve their brain’s reaction to change.
· Digital nomads also always have the tendency to learn new skills and have more time to do things they love.
· They can schedule their time well for the different functions they are passionate about.
2. To host countries
Digital nomad visas accrue many benefits to countries and local communities. For example:
· These visas act as a temporary fix for immigration policy woes and visa delays around the world.
· The geographic mobility of digital nomads could spur business travel in the short to medium term, giving the airline industry a much-needed demand boost.
· Digital nomads could act as catalysts for knowledge and resource flows between regions, benefitting themselves, their organizations, and their host countries.
· Research on geographic mobility and innovation has shown that short-term travel and even short periods of co-location with geographically distant colleagues can help workers access information and resources that can help grow new ideas and projects, which benefits both the mobile worker and their organizations.
· Digital nomads might play a key role in fostering entrepreneurship and the creation of technology clusters around the world.
· Digital nomads spend their income in the host country’s economy, thus providing an always needed boost, especially because occupations they are involved in are generally associated with higher incomes than the average population due to their technology-based nature.
· Moreover, promoting travel, restaurants, shopping, consumption, and services, in general, will ensure that native residents are able to reactivate their jobs.
3. To companies
· The most obvious benefit is not having to pay for an office for an entire workforce and being able to scale down to cut costs.
· Digital nomads provide employers with a source of affordable digital talent, and governments are providing more benefits to them as well.
· The traditional workplace setting does not restrict digital nomads – they travel the world and enjoy life. This can significantly impact their creativity, and improve their work-life balance, mental health and overall well-being. That, in turn, improves their efficiency and productivity.
· Digital nomads can be the people bringing a more diverse and global perspective to the company.
Example of Chile
This South American country launched its Start-Up Chile programme in 2010 at a time when the country had only a nascent start-up scene. Under this program, foreign entrepreneurs were provided visa and cash incentives to spend a year in Chile developing their own start-ups and mentoring local talent. A decade later, thanks to the interchange of ideas, Chilean entrepreneurs have now launched unicorns valued over $1 billion dollars, including vegan food tech company NotCo and on-demand grocery deliver app Cornershop.
Countries that offer these visas
There are over 42 countries that offer digital nomad visas. These include Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua, Bermuda, Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Cabo Verde, Cayman Islands, Croatia, Curacao, Dominica, Dubai, Ecuador, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Montserrat, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, Romania, Saint Lucia, Seychelles, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka and Taiwan.
Remote work is no longer exclusive to digital nomads. The Covid-19 pandemic led to many more remote job positions in companies across Europe and the globe. Nations all over the world have adapted to the change and are launching new visas specifically designed for remote workers. Although those who stand, currently, to gain the most from the digital nomad visas are emerging economies or smaller nations that have traditionally lost talent to bigger countries, e.g. through brain drain, even larger economies could soon offer digital nomad visas to stay competitive.
The writer is a member of the staff.