The Ultimate Guide to Digital Nomad Visas

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
WhatsApp
Reddit
Pinterest
ultimate-guide-digital-nomad-visas

Table of Contents

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, a sizeable share of the world’s people have had to work from home. Remote working has become a new norm in a post-pandemic world, and many companies are already downsizing their physical office spaces. Many tech companies started offering the possibility for their employees to work from wherever they desire. Remote working is becoming an incentive used to attract and retain talent.

Tech meccas like Silicon Valley are becoming more and more expensive to live in. Granting the ability for workers to relocate to more affordable areas puts a downward pressure on wages without compromising the quality of life for employees. This has lead to many workers and companies believing that you can work from anywhere in the world, not just the office. As many employers and employees are finding out, there can be severe financial consequences if a worker stays for an extend period of time in another country without proper legal permission to do so.

For an individual, generally speaking, staying longer than 183 days in a country will often cause that person to become a tax resident in that country and be liable to unwanted taxation. For a remote worker, this can even happen after only 90 days if the worker is deemed to have been working in that country.

For the employer, the consequences can be even more dire. The presence of the remote employee can trigger permanent establishment (PE) rules and lead to heavy tax liabilities. PE rules can be triggered if the remote worker spends too much time in that country, if the remote worker is conducting a commercial activity in that country (such as selling good and services), or if too many of their remote workers are present in that country even for a short period of time. For an employer, losing track of the location of its remote workforce can put the company under dire financial strain.

Tax liability can take the form of payroll and social security taxes, but also corporate taxes on local and international income. One often-used solution is to change the status of workers from employee to contractor, but this can get flagged by the home country if it’s proven that the employee is performing the same task as before. Furthermore, many employees are not keen to lose their benefits and stock options by becoming contractors.

There are solutions to that problem, such as relocating employees in countries where the company has offices and putting them in the host country’s payroll. Also, remote workers can fall under the radar if they spend less than 90 days in any jurisdiction when they are travelling visa-free. Employers can also be reassured knowing that it’s hard for the host country to realize that a remote worker is illegally in their country for too long. The taxpayer cost of investigating and taking an offending company to court is a great hindrance for government authorities.

Companies that are unlikely to ever do business in the remote worker’s host country can feel they are safe from the reach of that taxing government. Nevertheless, many large companies have an outdated compliance policy, but working within that legal framework is still important. Sending employees to work remotely must be done in a compliant and organized way.

Given the popularity of remote working and the difficulty in finding a complying legal framework for companies, a few countries have created digital nomad visas. These are specially designed to accommodate remote workers and provide them the legal framework that protects companies from undesired tax liabilities.

There are a dozen countries offering digital nomad visas. Companies and remote workers are advised to stick to those programs for peace of mind and compliance. There are other countries working on creating digital nomad visa programs, like Montenegro, Costa Rica and Greece. We have selected those that are the best options and that have a real digital nomad visa with a reliable framework that can be complied with.

Online you will find many articles on digital nomad visas portraying rentier visas as an option for digital nomads. All this can get confusing, especially when the blog articles label them as digital nomad visas. Rentier programs are different, though, and can often be a viable option for freelancers, but they are not designed for remote workers. Companies and employees should stay clear of these programs and stick with the true programs designed for digital nomad employees and the visas they need.

 

The Bahamas

RCG_Map-Bahamas

The Bahamas is comprised of many islands off the coast of Florida, in the Caribbean Sea. Long known as a popular vacation destination, the Bahamian government is hoping it can attract high-quality outside workers to live a slice of the Caribbean life.

The Bahamas’ digital nomad visa is officially called the Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay (BEATS). The program is open to a wide range of remote workers and even remote students. The initial digital nomad visa is valid for 12 months. BEATS can be renewed for a total three-year stay in the Bahamas. The main applicants can include a spouse and minor children. If the spouse is also working remotely, he or she will need to apply separately. Adult children enrolled at a university as a remote student can apply.

  • Application process: Five days
  • Fees: $1,025
  • Minimum income: None
  • Minimum stay: None
  • Taxation: None

 

 

Cayman Islands

RCG_Map-CaymanThe Cayman Islands, another haven of the Caribbean, has long been known for its banking and being a virtually tax-free jurisdiction. But there is more to this locale than money matters. They Cayman Islands also boasts enviable beaches and clear blue waters, making it a place anyone would want to call home.

The Cayman Islands offers a digital nomad visa it calls the Global Citizen Concierge Program (GCCP). The program provides residency to remote workers but also gives many other perks, such as a free 15-minute relocation consultation and discounts at spas, hotels and restaurants. The visa is valid for up to two years, but it cannot be renewed. Main applicants can sponsor a spouse and children. Adult children must prove they are enrolled in a university, which can be located anywhere.

To be eligible for the GCCP, you need to submit proof of your employment on company letterhead that explains your position, length of employment and annual salary. If you are a business owner, you need to provide a copy of a certificate of incorporation or registration in your home country.

  • Application process: Three to four weeks
  • Fees: $1,469 per year
  • Minimum income:
    • $100,000 annually for a single person
    • $150,000 for a couple
    • $180,000 for a family of three or more
  • Minimum stay: 90 days a year
  • Taxation: none

 

Croatia

RCG_Map-Croatia

Croatia, located in the southeastern section of Europe, is one of those countries that was off the radar but is becoming a trendier place to live, work and invest in. An affordable lifestyle and Mediterranean climate make relocating there, even on a temporary basis, an enticing idea for many of the world’s remote workers.

Croatia offers a digital nomad visa program for remote workers and freelancers to stay in the country for up to a year. After the expiration of their visa, they will need to wait another six months before reapplying. In practice, after the expiration, as an American you can stay another 90 days using your U.S. passport’s visa-free travel privileges, but you will need to depart for another 90 days before reapplying.

To maintain the permit, you cannot leave Croatia for more than 30 consecutive days and 90 days in total. Under the Croatia digital nomad visa, you will be shielded from tax on your personal income, but your investment income will fall under a 12% taxation. The United States and Croatia do not have a tax treaty that would limit your tax exposure.

To be eligible for the Croatia digital nomad visa, you must provide your employment contract or a copy of the registration of your company to demonstrate self-employment.

 

  • Application process: One month
  • Fee: $250
  • Minimum income: $2,700 a month
  • Minimum stay: Absence of less than 90 days total and 30 days consecutively
  • Taxation: None on personal income, 12% on investment income

 

Estonia

RCG_Map-Estonia

Estonia, located in the Baltic region of Europe, is a former Soviet country that has really come up well under its own governance. It boasts a high quality of life that’s affordable and attainable for those willing to make the move to its northern reaches.

Remote workers can qualify for Estonia’s version of a digital nomad visa. Renewal or extension of this annual visa is not possible, but you can apply for a new one after the first year. However, in Estonia (and the EU), the maximum period of stay for foreigners on long-stay visas is no longer than 548 days within 730 consecutive days. This means you will need to exit the EU after a year and half and spend the remaining six months abroad before returning. Your spouse/partner and minor children can qualify as dependents.

If you stay in Estonia for more than 183 days in a year, you will become a tax resident. The income tax rate is 20%, but capital gains are tax-free. Due to the U.S.-Estonia tax treaty, American remote workers will not be subject to additional taxation.

To be accepted for an Estonia digital nomad visa, you must work for a company registered abroad or be a shareholder of a company abroad and conduct business on its behalf. You can also offer freelance or consulting services to companies located mostly abroad.

  • Timeline: Two weeks
  • Fees: €80 for Type C (short stay) and €100 for Type D (long stay)
  • Minimum income: €3,504 a month
  • Physical presence: None
  • Taxation: 20% on income, nothing on capital gains if a tax resident (no additional tax if you are a U.S. taxpayer)

 

Malta

RCG_Map-Malta

Malta is a tiny archipelago of islands in the Mediterranean. The country, a former British colony, is mostly known as a banking and financial hub. Many others know the main islands, Malta and Gozo, for their picturesque beaches. The good news is Malta is open for those who want to work remotely there.

Malta offers a digital nomad visa, which they call the Nomad Residence Permit. It grants a renewable one-year resident permit. The Nomad Residence Permit is only renewed at the discretion of Residency Malta Agency if the applicant is still eligible. A spouse and minor children can apply for a permit under the same conditions, but decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Digital nomads, like Americans, already paying tax in their country are not liable to additional taxation in Malta.

To be eligible for Malta’s digital nomad visa, applicants must prove that they work for an employer registered in a foreign country, have a work contract, or that they do business for a company registered in a foreign country and of which they are a partner/shareholder. The applicant can also offer freelance or consulting services mostly to clients whose permanent establishments are in a foreign country and with whom the applicant has contracts.

  • Timeline: 30 days
  • Fees: €300 for the main applicant and €300 for each dependent
  • Minimum income: €2,700 a month
  • Physical presence: None
  • Taxation: None

 

globalrcg-map-uae

UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is comprised of smaller Emirates, the most famous of which are Dubai and Abu Dhabi. These wealthy enclaves are known for their extravagance and modern architecture.

In 2020, the UAE announced the launch of its digital nomad visa program, which is an annual resident permit for remote workers. The process is fast and applicants can easily renew their permit at the end of each year as long as they remain eligible. Digital nomads can also include a spouse and minor children. Unmarried adult daughters can be included in the application, but adult sons will need to get a student visa and study in the UAE to be eligible.

The UAE digital nomad visa requires a secure monthly income of at least $5,000 from employment with a one-year contract or showing proof of at least one year of ownership of a company.

  • Timeline: One week
  • Fees: $611
  • Minimum income: $5,000 monthly
  • Minimum stay: Cannot be outside the UAE for six consecutive months
  • Taxation: none

Leave a Reply