Living the dream: 5 countries that offer digital nomad visas

Living the dream: 5 countries that offer digital nomad visas

The pandemic locked us down, but at the same time released many workers from the shackles of the office. Flexible alternatives to the traditional nine-to-five routine and time-consuming commute have become the norm, transforming the workplace landscape. But swapping the office for makeshift desks at kitchen tables or spare rooms wasn’t enough for everyone. Some people realised they could take their laptops, hop on a plane and work anywhere with a good internet connection – exchanging the four walls of home for sandy beachside cafés and the capricious weather for year-round sunshine.

Known as ‘digital nomads’, this intrepid bunch are being supported by the introduction of schemes that make it easier for them to stay overseas for months on end. These special visas allow you to work remotely in a foreign country, circumventing the need for a work permit or to register as a taxpayer. Rather than uprooting your entire life back home, you benefit from becoming a temporary resident.

Let’s explore five of the most tempting digital nomad schemes and drill into their rules.

1. Spain

Spain’s long-awaited digital nomad visa is finally available. The scheme means this passionate, sophisticated country full of wild beauty, deep history and food to die for is now more than just a holiday destination; it’s a digital nomad paradise.

Approved by parliament in November 2022, the scheme was introduced as part of the new Startup Act, which aims to attract entrepreneurship and bolster the country’s tech scene.

According to Economic Affairs Minister Nadia Calviño, the scheme aims to “attract and retain international and national talents by helping remote workers and digital nomads set up in Spain.”

Key details:

  • The scheme is open to non-EU nationals.
  • The visa is valid for 12 months or the duration of the employment period if it is shorter than 12 months – and can be renewed for up to five years.
  • Applicants are permitted to receive a maximum of 20% of their income from Spanish firms.
  • Self-employed freelancers with multiple clients and remote workers employed by a single company outside of Spain are eligible.
  • Applicants must prove they are qualified or experienced in their field: at least three years’ work experience, a university degree or a professional certificate.
  • The income threshold is fixed at 200% of Spain’s monthly minimum wage and must be proven using official documentation, such as bank statements.
  • Applicants must show proof of accommodation.
  • Visa holders are allowed to be absent from Spain for a maximum of six months per year.
  • If you stay in Spain longer than 183 days you’re considered a tax resident, even if you’re working for a foreign company. However, tax benefits are available for digital nomads under the visa scheme, who can pay a reduced tax rate of 15% – down from 24% – during the first four years of their stay, provided they earn below €600,000 a year.

2. Portugal

Portugal launched a new one-year digital nomad visa in October 2022. If your application is successful you’ll be living and working in the land of medieval castles, cobblestone villages, captivating cities and golden beaches.

Its official name is a bit of a mouthful: “residence visa for the exercise of professional activity provided remotely outside the national territory”. Upon launching the scheme, Portuguese Cabinet minister Ana Catarina Mendes said: “Portugal is a country for immigration. Every year, we receive thousands of immigrants, seeking opportunities in our country.”

Key details:

  • Visa holders can live and work in Portugal for up to 12 months.
  • Applicants must earn at least €2,800 per month – four times Portugal’s minimum wage.
  • Applicants must come from a country outside the EU or EEA.
  • Applicants must be self-employed, or employed by a company based outside Portugal.
  • Applicants must provide proof of income for the last three months and submit tax residency documents and a contract of employment.

3. Malta

Midway between Europe and Africa in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, the beautiful archipelago of Malta thrills visitors with its prehistoric temples, fossil-studded cliffs, and hidden coves. Imagine living and working amongst this splendour for a year.

Malta’s Nomad Residence Permit is perfect for remote employees, freelancers, and self-employed nomads who provide services for companies in other countries.

Key details:

  • The visa provides a one-year permit for non-EU nationals.
  • The fees are €306 and are non-refundable.
  • Applicants must prove they have a minimum annual income of €32,400.
  • Visa holders who keep paying taxes back home are exempt from paying taxes in Malta.
  • Visa holders can travel freely around the Schengen zone.

4. Croatia

On 01 January 2021, Croatia began welcoming digital nomads through the introduction of a temporary stay visa. Successful applicants live their Mediterranean fantasy of blissful, sun-drenched days relaxing by crystal clear waters in the shade of ancient walled towns.

Under the new legislation, a digital nomad is defined as a “third-country national (this means a non EU/EEA/Swiss citizen) who is employed or performs work through communication technology for a company or his own company that is not registered in the Republic of Croatia and does not perform work or provide services to employers in the Republic of Croatia.”

Key details:

  • Applicants can apply for a one-year residence visa after arrival.
  • The visa can’t be extended. A new application can be submitted six months after the expiry of the previous visa.
  • Applicants must prove they are not a citizen of an EU or EEA country.
  • Applicants must prove that they have a minimum monthly income of €2,300.
  • Under the terms of the visa, holders are not permitted to provide services to Croatian businesses.
  • Visa holders are not subject to income tax in Croatia.

5. Barbados

If you need nothing more than a laptop and a wifi connection to earn a living, and you want to experience life outside Europe, Barbados could be the perfect spot. This English-speaking nation is famous for its laidback lifestyle, pristine white-sand beaches and warm azure waters – the digital nomad dream.

The Caribbean island launched its Welcome Stamp in 2020 to revive its economy amid the stranglehold the pandemic had on its tourism industry.

Key details:

  • It costs $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a family bundle.
  • Applicants must earn at least $50,000 a year.
  • Visa holders are exempt from paying Barbados income tax and, therefore, will not be subject to any double taxation.
  • Visa holders will be subject to Barbados’ 17.5% VAT on any products and services purchased on the island.

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Tom Vicary