Do you cherish your memories of working in an office or do you cherish your memories from that trip you took 2 years ago? It’s most likely going to be the latter.
But now with the ‘Work from Anywhere’ policy offered by most workplaces owing to Covid-19, many people are seriously looking at options to become what is known as a ‘digital nomad’ or more newly, ‘techpats’.
Women holding laptop in Barcelona, Spain. File Photo: Getty Images
You must have heard stories from people saying they moved to India’s beach favourite place – Goa – when their work became remote, permanently, or for an undefined period of time.
WHAT IS A NOMAD VISA?
But not only Goa, remote workers can also consider working from a foreign country. This has been made easy and possible with the advent of ‘nomad visas’ – an immigration program that allows you to live in a country from 6 months to even 2-3 years at a time.
Immigration can be a lengthy and complicated process, and with work in tow, it may not be possible to juggle the bureaucratic process. But nomad visas are comparatively easy to obtain. And unlike tourist visas that expire in a few days or months, you won’t have to worry about running out of time quickly. Moreover, they are easier to navigate than residency visas or work visas in most countries.
So, if you are planning to live your life by the compass and not the clock – just like American educator Stephen Covey said – here is what you need to know about nomad visas and the terms and conditions of different countries.
COUNTRIES OFFERING DIGITAL NOMAD VISAS
There are tens of countries who’ve hopped on the bandwagon of welcoming digital nomads to help boost their Covid-hit tourist economies. One requirement is certain for most nomad visas – that is you are either self-employed or are working for a foreign country and not for any company in the destination country.
The visa programs have different names for different countries.
This is a list of 5 such digital nomad visa programs in the world right now:
1. Spain: Before you get too excited about the destination, the nomad visa program is still in progress and has not yet launched. But this is what we know so far from reports:
- Application fee: N/A
- Length of stay: 1-2 years
- Not meant for EU citizens.
- Minimum income requirement: N/A
Earlier, the EU country offered a non-lucrative visa option meant only for retired people with a steady source of income.
2. Hungary: This European country has recently issued what is called a ‘White Card’ visa program. Applicants need to be self-employed or working for a company in a foreign country, and not have any shares in any company in Hungary.
- Application fee: About $130 (Rs 9,762)
- Length of stay: 1-2 years
- Not meant for citizens or employees working in the EU, Schengen Area, or European Economic Area (EEA).
- Minimum income requirement: Monthly $2,300 (Rs 1,72,712)
- Need to apply in person: Applicants need to apply for a nomad visa from their home country. Once it is approved, they need to travel to Hungary and within 30 days of applying for the White card.
- Documentation: Proof of residence in Hungary, proof of work, income and health insurance.
3. Barbados: This Caribbean country was the first to announce a nomad visa program called the Welcome Stamp during Covid in July 2020.
- Application fee: $2,000 to $3,000 (Rs 1,50,185 to Rs 2,25,277)
- Length of stay: 1 year
In comparison, most citizens of most countries can stay in Barbados without a visa and only on their passports for 3-6 months. Indians can stay for nearly 3 months, while US citizens can stay for 6 months without a visa.
4. Estonia: This Baltic country already had an e-residency program set up in 2014 allowing applicants to set up an online company outside the country and run it from anywhere in the world. Now, it also has a digital nomad visa.
- Application fee: $100 (Rs 7,509)
- Length of stay: 1 year
- Stay for over 180 days will make you a tax-paying resident.
- Minimum income requirement: Monthly $4,000 (Rs 3,00,370)
5. Georgia: Working remotely from Georgia is considered one of the best nomad visa programs out there.
- Application fee: No charge
- Length of stay: 6 months to 1 year
- Minimum income requirement: Monthly $2,000 or savings of $24,000 (Rs 1,50,185 or Rs 18,02,220)
- Insurance policy: Yes
Georgia has already been a place for digital nomads and on some passports, the country even offers 1 year of stay.
These are not the only 5 countries offering a nomad visa program, there are many more from Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Croatia, UAE, Iceland, the Cayman Islands, Mauritius, Malta, etc.
However, there are some things you need to keep in mind while choosing to set up a digital nomad life:
1. The cost of living in the destination country.
2. Internet access because your entire life is powered on the internet.
3. Access to other countries – some countries like Spain, Estonia, and Hungary form part of either the European Union or the Schengen Area in Europe. So having access to one country can mean that you can go border-hopping from one to another while having a home base. Island nations turn out to be quite remote, making travel to other countries expensive.
4. There is no known consensus on whether you can renew the digital nomad visa after its maximum extension.
5. If you are working for a company, check out their remote work policy. Chances are that the policy says you have to reside either in the same city of your employment or the same country. In which case, taking a nomad visa may be in violation of the company policy.
Nomad visa introduction is a progressive step in the future of work. Already, according to a Pew Research Center survey, 60% of employees with Work From Home jobs or work that can be done from home, are unwilling to return to the office if given a choice.
Nevertheless, when it comes to country-hopping, one thing is for certain, digital nomadic life is expensive. No matter which cheapest place you are going to, you can expect to spend more than a local. But if working while travelling is in your blood, don’t dream about it, go jet-setting to the most exotic location of your choice.
So, if your workplace has moved you out of the cubicle and to WFH permanently, maybe you could look for a more scenic place to live in than the concrete jungle you currently are in perhaps.