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.
“The work-from-anywhere trend will continue to grow, regardless of return-to-office plans,” said Kathy Gardner, vice president of communications at remote work platform FlexJobs. “Many professionals realized they’ve been just as successful working from home and prefer to have location independence.”
With nearly 50 countries now offering digital nomad programs, here are some of the hottest destinations and how to apply, according to experts. There may be additional fees besides the ones listed here, and processing times may vary.
Antigua and Barbuda
This twin-island state offers a two-year digital nomad residency program.
- How to apply: Submit an application online here.
- Cost: $1,500 for one person, $2,000 for a couple, $3,000 for a family.
- Time to process: Five to seven business days.
Argentina announced a digital nomad permit in May that allows foreign workers to stay for up to half a year with the option to extend for another six months. The program is only available to residents of countries that are already allowed to enter Argentina without a tourist visa. While details for the new visa have yet to be released, nomads can apply for a work visa in the meantime.
- How to apply: Applications for work visas can be submitted to Argentinian consular offices. Applicants must provide proof of employment.
- Cost: $250 or 250 euros, depending on where the application is filed, plus a migration fee.
- Time to process: The consulate encourages applicants to apply for visas at least 45 days in advance of their trip.
Launched in 2020, the Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay offers the opportunity to live on the islands for a year.
- How to apply: Submit an application online here.
- Cost: $25 for the application, then a permit for about $1,000 per applicant and $500 per dependent.
- Time to process: Up to five days.
The Barbados Welcome Stamp visa allows remote workers to bring the whole family — canines included, said Nicole Gustas, marketing director at International Citizens Insurance. The program requires applicants to make at least $50,000 during their 12-month stay.
- How to apply: You can apply online from the Barbados Welcome Stamp website.
Cost: $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a family.
- Time to process: About a week.
Cayman Islands offers a digital nomad program through its Global Citizen Concierge, which allows participants to live and work there for up to two years. “The Cayman Islands are the second most costly place in the world to live, but this is more than compensated for by the absence of taxes,” said Jovana Vojinovic, chief operating officer of Nomad Capitalist.
- How to apply: Those interested can apply through the Global Citizen Concierge website. Applicants must have an annual income of at least $100,000 for individuals, $150,000 for couples and $180,000 for families with dependents.
- Cost: $1,469 per year for up to two people plus $500 for each dependent.
- Time to process: Three to four weeks.
Costa Rica officially launched its Stay (Estancia) for Remote Workers and Service Providers in July. Applicants have to prove they have a minimum income of $3,000 a month, or $4,000 if they are coming with dependents. They also have to prove they have health insurance. Remote workers can renew the digital nomad visa if they’ve been in Costa Rica for a minimum of 80 days.
- How to apply: Foreign nationals can find the necessary documents on its immigration website and submit an application online, or schedule an appointment at an immigration office in Costa Rica to submit the application in person.
- Cost: $100 for the application plus $90 for the legal stay documents.
- Time to process: 15 to 30 days.
While the country doesn’t technically offer a visa, in 2021 Croatia launched a temporary stay permit for digital nomads to work in the country for up to one year. While the residence permit cannot be extended, expats can submit a new application six months after their previous one has expired. Digital nomads must supply proof of work, a government-issued background check from their home country, evidence of health insurance, a Croatian residential address and proof of sufficient funds equivalent to 17,822.50 kuna ($2,372) per month. Expats will be required to get a biometric residence card upon arrival.
- How to apply: Fill out an application on Croatia’s digital nomad permit website or at a Croatian embassy or consulate.
- Cost: 420 kuna for the application, 460 kuna for the visa, and 310 kuna for the biometric residence card.
- Time to process: 15 to 60 days.
Located in the eastern portion of the Caribbean, Dominica offers a Work In Nature (WIN) Extended Stay Visa program for individuals and families to work remotely for up to 18 months. Applicants will need to show employment letters, health insurance and a bank reference letter.
- How to apply: You can submit an application online here.
- Cost: $100 for the application, then a visa fee of $800 for a single applicant or $1,200 for a family.
- Time to process: 14 to 28 days.
While Germany also does not have a specific digital nomad visa yet, its visa for self-employment can provide the opportunity to live and work remotely in the country. This visa is initially issued for up to three years, and is available to freelancers and people who are setting up a business. You will have some tax responsibilities in Germany, too.
How to apply: According to the Make It in Germany website, you can contact your local German embassy or consulate and ask about self-employment visa forms. With these, make a formal appointment at the embassy or consulate to submit your application in person.
Cost: 75 euros ($75) for the visa application and up to 100 euros in handling fees.
Time to process: A few days to several weeks.
The Greek Digital Nomad Visa permits visitors to live and work in Greece. The visa is valid for up to one year, after which you can apply for a digital nomad residence permit.
- How to apply: Contact the Greek consular authority in your country of residence. You can make the request via email or registered letter.
- Cost: 75 euros for the application fee and 150 euros for an administration fee, according to Citizen Remote.
- Time to process: The Greek consular authority is required to respond to your application within 10 days.
Italy’s government voted in favor a new visa for remote workers in March, but the upcoming election has delayed its implementation. In the meantime, nomads can apply for existing visas.
- How to apply: Working expats can find instructions and requirements for existing visas depending on the length of their stay on Italy’s immigration website, which will direct them to the nearest Italian consulate to apply. For stays of more than 90 days, expatriates should apply for the self-employed visa, which requires applicants to have a minimum of yearly income 8,500 euros.
- Cost: 116 euros.
- Time to process: Up to 90 days for the National Visa.
Malta’s Nomad Residence Permit allows non-EU citizens and their family members to live and work on the island for a year. Applicants must have a minimum gross annual income of 32,400 euros.
Mexico offers a temporary resident visa. This program lets digital nomads live and work remotely in Mexico for up to four years. Applicants will need to show investment or bank account statements proving they’ve had a balance of at least $43,000 for each of the past 12 months, plus a monthly salary or pension of at least $2,500.
How to apply: Start with a visa application form, linked at the bottom of this page. Make an appointment with your local Mexican embassy or consulate to submit your form and discuss your specific visa. Expect to follow up with a trip to Mexico for a temporary resident card. You may want to apply with help from a translator, lawyer or visa professional.
Cost: $48 for the visa fee.
- Time to process: Up to two months.
Although Portugal doesn’t have a specific digital nomad visa yet, it’s become a popular destination for expatriates thanks to the D7 visa, which is geared toward retirees and requires a minimum annual income of 8,460 euros. If a nomad plans to bring their family, an additional 50% of this annual income is required for a spouse and 30% for each dependent child. The D7 visa allows foreign nationals to stay for one year, and can be renewed for two years successively.
How to apply: Expect to complete both the application form for a Portuguese national visa and a form for the D7 visa. Then, make an appointment at the embassy or consulate to submit your application in person.
Cost: 75 euros for the temporary stay visa, 90 euros for a residency permit.
Time to process: 30 days for a temporary stay visa.
Bloomberg News provided this article. For more articles like this please visit bloomberg.com.