While the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted international travel, it has also highlighted the efficiency and benefits of remote independent working. It was obvious that the world of work was changing, but there were still many factors that businesses needed to consider when transitioning to a dominantly digital workplace.
Now, amidst a global pandemic, the time is starting to look right, as those transitions have already begun. Millions of people around the world have discovered overnight that they can work remotely, and so have their bosses. If the standard concept of the ‘workplace’ has transformed, then perhaps the concept of ‘home’ will be adjusted as well.
Once restrictions on travel start to lift, countries will be hungry for tourism and will need to get attention traction. The countries that manage to attract these highly skilled modern workers will see the positive economic impact of their knowledge and spending power.
While people and companies may be ready for the new era of work and travel, policy isn’t. Digital nomads and remote workers have long faced ambiguity when working while they travel, often falling within the grey area of the law by working while visiting a country with a tourist visa.
Where countries have introduced visas for the remote workers, so far these have primarily targeted freelancers or working holiday travellers, but Estonia has announced its new visa that will set their country apart.
DIGITAL NOMAD VISA IN ESTONIA
In keeping with Estonia’s ambition to be the world’s leading digital society, they have recently introduced the world’s first digital nomad visa. This is an additional visa to the e-residency visa that is currently already being offered.
These two digital visa’s further prove Estonia’s continuous advances in the digital world and their involvement with location independent workers. The key difference from other visas offered is that the digital nomad visa provides holders with the right to stay in Estonia temporarily whereas e-Residency does not provide any travel rights.
With the digital nomad visa you will be granted for both short-term and long-term stay intentions. The Digital Nomad Visa will be available for stays of up to 90 days under a short-term application process, or up to one year under a long-term application process including 90 days of travel across Europe’s 26-country Schengen zone.
The intention behind the digital nomad visa is to attract talented people from around the world to Estonia, who can work independent of location and digital nomad visa covers a broader range of digital nomads — in addition to freelancers, it also allows teleworking from Estonia if the person has a foreign employer or is a partner in a company registered abroad. This is great news for location-independent entrepreneurs around the world as it provides a legitimate way to live and work here for up to a year.
This long-awaited Digital Nomad Visa will officially be available on the 1st of August 2020. For the moment, applicants must apply to embassies in a standard procedure just as they would for any other visa but there are hopes that in the future, companies can act as agents for the process instead.
#Check your eligibility
There are no eligibility restrictions based on your country of origin (aside from current covid-19 restrictions) or the sector in which you work. Additionally, there is no cap on the number of applications or visas issued.
The base requirement for this special new teleworking category of visa is that you can work location-independently using telecommunications technologies, essentially that you’re a ‘digital nomad’. In addition, you will need to prove that you fit under any one of the three following categories:
- You work for a company that is registered in a foreign country and you have a contract of work with that company;
- You conduct business activity for a company that is registered in a foreign country and of which you are a partner/shareholder; or
- You offer freelance or consulting services mostly to clients, whose permanent establishments are in a foreign country, and with whom you have contracts.
The other important eligibility requirement to be aware of is the income threshold, which is meant to prove your ability to support yourself during your time in Estonia. An applicant must provide evidence of their income during the six months preceding the application. Currently, the monthly income threshold is €3504 (gross of tax).
In addition to the standard visa application procedures, you will need to provide information and documents proving your eligibility as a digital nomad. These documents will need to include information certifying that you can perform your work duties independent of location and that you use telecommunications technology in the performance of these duties.
Then you will need to prove that you continue to work either: for a foreign-registered employer, for a foreign-registered company in which you have a shareholding, or as a freelancer or consultant mainly providing services to clients with a foreign establishment according to a contractual relationship.
Finally, you will need to also include documents certifying your income during the six months preceding the application and which indicate the amount, regularity, and sources of the income; and a description of your study and professional life course.
These eligibility requirements are for the purpose of ensuring travellers are not taking advantage of the new visa lengths but rather are true digital nomads.
According to the Republic of Estonia, the application will include a $US117 fee, proof of income, and an active employment contract.
EXPLORING DIGITAL NOMAD VISA OPTIONS IN OTHER COUNTRIES
Even though the Estonia Digital Nomad VISA is the first of its kind, there have been similar viasa’s for Digital Nomads to use within a vast majority of countries. Discussed below are a few examples showing the variety amongst countries.
#Jetting off to Germany
Germany offers the “Freiberufler” Visa, which targets the freelancers and remote workers as Frei Berufe literally means ‘liberal profession’. Freelance visa is typically granted for three months. It can be converted into a residence permit while your visa is valid. The residence permit for freelancing can be extended for up to three complete years.
To receive such extension, you must have previously succeeded in your freelance business. This means that you should have evidence of generating sufficient profits to cover living costs for yourself and each of your dependent family members. To apply, Applicants must show proof of income, travel insurance, and letters of recommendation from previous employers.
Additional to the beer and pretzels, the Freiberufler Visa in Germany is a popular visa for digital nomads because it gives you a way to sidestep the strict Schengen Visa requirements that only allow 90 days of travel in the entire Schengen zone (which is most of the EU) in every 180 day period.
#Coasting life in Costa Rica
Costa Rica offers the Rentista Visa to those of an independent and reliable income of at least $2 500.00 a month from a guaranteed source. Holders of the rentista visa cannot work as employees, but they can own a company and earn income from their business.
This visa option will allow you to stay 2 years with the option to extend. The extension requires a resubmission of evidence proving to still be meeting the income threshold and live at least four months out of each year in Costa Rica (does not need to be consecutive).
#Finding bliss in Barbados
Visitors could live and work on the island while soaking up the sun for up to a year with the new Welcome Stamp. Approved applicants will pay $2000 for an individual application or $3000 for a family bundle for the year long visa. This special visa was only released July 22nd 2020 and is welcoming remote workers to take advantage of the location freedom by turning the luxurious beaches of Barbados into your new office.
#Discover the beauty of Bermuda
Bermuda has followed similar suit as Barbados allowing remote workers to live on the island for up to a year. This Certificate allows travelers who are able to work remotely from Bermuda, such as Digital Nomands and allows Non-Bermudian Post-Secondary Students to complete their higher education from Bermuda starting August 1, 2020.
In order to qualify, visitors must be older than 18 years old, have health insurance, and supply proof of employment or enrollment in higher education. Similar to other countries, the goal is to bring economic activity to the island and restart its tourism industry. In an effort to not displace Bermudians currently working on the island, incoming visitors must demonstrate sufficient means or a continuous source of income.
#Uncover the gorgeous views of Georgia
The country announced that it would be welcoming long-term visitors who are interested in working remotely from Georgia. Launched by the country’s ministry of economy, the scheme is available to ‘citizens of all countries’ and is aimed at freelancers and the self-employed.
To apply you must fill out an application form requiring personal information, a certificate of employment and a letter of consent to undergo a 14-day quarantine and obtain a ‘preliminary confirmation’. Due to COVID-19 restrictions you’ll then have to quarantine for a fortnight at your own expense and provide proof of travel insurance that lasts at least six months.
JUST THE BEGINNING
Freelancer and digital nomad numbers are growing which means countries will need to update their policies to adapt to this new upcoming wave. Countries that welcome Digital Nomads within the legal framework, will benefit from having them inside their economy. Similar to those countries already discussed, the program is part of the country’s reopening plan, and it aims to support the country’s tourism industry, which has been decimated due to the coronavirus. There are many other countries not discussed that also have similar remote working visa that Digital Nomads can take advantage of until more countries pick up the Estonian way which is why we’ve discussed the Estonian way in such a detailed way.
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