We know that remote working is the future for many. However, over 25 countries across the globe, many developing or emerging economies, now offer digital nomad working visas. What are they and what impact are they likely to have in the future?
A digital nomad working visa enables short-term residency permits for remote digital workers. It allows workers to open bank accounts and legally rent accommodation, without having to pay any local income tax to the country in which they are staying. Workers on these visas are able to live in one country whilst working for an employer in another. A full list of countries offering these types of visas as at June 2022 can be found here (see table in the appendices).
Previously, digital nomads would travel and work digitally whilst living in legal limbo. They could only be based in one place for a short period of time. Now, workers are able to stay in one place for longer and in some countries are able to renew their short-term residency permits once they run out. This blog from an experienced digital nomad worker provides some insight into some of the countries which offer such visas.
Are digital nomad working visas more useful and popular that tourist visas for digital nomads? Some individuals claim they are treated like a resident with them; others state the burden of paperwork involved can make it easier to enter as a tourist on a three to six months' long visa instead.
It appears as if the pandemic has given rise to more novel ways of working and countries are responding. Some have been offering these visas for over two years now, whilst others are only just starting to do so.
Will more countries follow suit? It seems likely. Will more workers want to live overseas whilst working remotely elsewhere? That seems likely too, as highly-skilled workers seek new experiences, better work-life balances and more choice in an increasingly globalised network of workers.
However, it seems that the UK is in no mood to join this trend. The Home Office has not announced any new visa routes to cater for digital nomads coming to the UK, or additional absence allowances for foreign, UK-based workers. The official approach is quite the opposite, as a result of their efforts to limit inbound migration.
Sponsors have to report any changes of their foreign-sponsored employees to the Home Office, including location. In addition to this, UK Skilled Worker visa holders are subject to a 180-day yearly limit on absences from the UK, so the majority of their time has to be spent in the country.
With regards to foreign nationals visiting the UK for up to 180 days, remote working is permitted. However, an immigration officer should check that the applicant’s main purpose of coming to the UK is to undertake other permitted activity, rather than specifically to work remotely from the UK. This guidance only relates to the person’s immigration status, and does not cover any other aspects such as tax or applicable employment law.
Previously, digital nomads often lived in a legal limbo. They weren’t technically allowed to work in a foreign country, but they weren’t employed locally either. New digital nomad visas create a sturdier foundation, spelling out a legal framework that gives both remote workers and the businesses that employ them more peace of mind.