Countries Compete for Remote Workers Even as Return to Office Demands Grow

Countries from Costa Rica to Croatia are betting that remote work is here to stay, competing to host digital nomads even as more employers push for a return to office.

The number of remote-work visas has risen exponentially since before the pandemic, with at least 30 countries adding them since 2020 to attract those whose jobs allow them to work from anywhere, according to Nomad Capitalist, which helps entrepreneurs relocate abroad.

The competition is only heating up: at least 12 more countries, including Colombia, are slated to debut remote work programs soon.

They’re vying for a large pool of potential expatriates. There were 15.5 million American digital nomads alone last year, more than double the number in 2019, according to a study by workforce management company MBO Partners. And while the number of workers with that level of flexibility is shrinking, it’s likely to remain well above pre-pandemic levels.

Despite recent a return-to-office push after Labor Day, the interest in remote work in foreign countries remains strong, according to Nate Blecharczyk, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Airbnb. Bookings for long-term stays — 28 days or more — are the company’s fastest-growing category.