Estonia has announced that it will launch a new visa specifically designed for remote workers, therefore, adding a new permit to the already existing EU digital nomad visas.

Visas for digital nomads fill a legal vacuum for remote workers who wish to spend short or extended periods of time abroad working independently. These professionals can take their job with them anywhere they go (usually, they only need a laptop and an internet connection.)

This article includes useful visa information for digital nomads, such as:

  • What a digital nomad visa is and how it works
  • How to become eligible for a remote work visa in Europe and abroad
  • What countries have a digital nomad visa scheme and which ones will implement it soon

What is a Nomad Visa?

Citizens who can work from anywhere in the world have long been caught in a legal grey area. These are usually professionals specialised in technology.

On one hand, they cannot apply for a traditional work visa, which in many cases would require a contract with a local entity and/or an invitation letter. On the other hand, they may want to stay in the country for longer than a simple tourist visa allows. Even those who do not need a visa to Europe, for instance, are usually able to stay for a short period of time only. This is where the digital nomad visa comes in.

Visas for digital nomads are travel permits that legalise the status of travelling professionals. Like tourist visas, they are easy to obtain and do not require long paperwork and a work contract. However, they allow for longer stays.

While in theory individuals on tourist visas are not allowed to work (they can only engage in tourist activities), the digital nomad visa officially states that its holder can work while in the country, as long as they do it independently and remotely.

However, this is where it becomes a legal vacuum. The rule regarding not working while in the country only applies to those who wish to get hired by a local company. Those who generate revenue online independently can continue to do so also on a tourist visa in most places.

That is why many digital nomads who do not wish to spend a long time in the same prefer tourist visas, as they are even easier to obtain (often electronically.) Starting from 2022, for example, the ETIAS authorisation for Europe will allow non-EU citizens to travel across the Schengen Area for up to 90 days at a time.

How Does the Digital Nomad Visa Work?

Each country issuing digital nomad visas has its own policies and regulations in place. Some allow eligible citizens to apply online (very convenient for individuals who are already used to do everything electronically), others require petitioners to submit their application through an embassy or consulate in person.

It is advisable that remote workers get in touch with the authorities of the country they wish to visit in order to check the digital nomad visa requirements and application process. Diplomatic missions will be able to provide visa information and assistance.

As a rule of thumb, it is likely that the applicant will need:

  • An eligible and valid passport
  • Proof of a steady remote income

Many countries also require the payment of an application fee for their visas. Travellers should always check whether they need additional documents such as health insurance or vaccine certificates.

Visas for Digital Nomads: Eligibility

As already mentioned, in order to get a remote worker visa, it is normally necessary for applicants to prove that they are in fact digital nomads and that they can sustain themselves financially for the entire duration of their time abroad.

This can be usually done by providing financial documents such as bank statements and receipts.

However, not all individuals are eligible for a digital nomad visa, even though they can prove to be working remotely. Eligibility depends on several other factors, such as:

  • The nationality of the applicant
  • The petitioner’s visa history
  • Whether the applicant is considered a threat to the security or health of the country of destination
  • It is advisable that remote workers inquire about their eligibility before applying.

What Countries Offer Visas for Digital Nomads?

Digital nomads are a relatively recent professional figure. Countries around the world have taken some time to figure out how to include them in their visa policies and are now implementing specific rules and visas for them.

In Europe, the first nation to create a freelance visa was Germany. There are 2 types of freelance visas (also called freiberufler visas): one for artists and one for other professionals. Digital nomads must register with the German tax office and submit a series of documents such as their portfolio, bank statements, and in some cases, evidence of their expertise.

The Czech Republic offers a special business visa (zivno visa or zivnostenské opravneni) that digital nomads can benefit from. It must be requested in person at a Czech consulate or embassy and the processing times are significantly longer than those for tourist visas, from 90 to 120 days.

Portugal has designed a temporary resident visa that can be used by freelancers and entrepreneurs. It allows its holder to stay in the country for longer than 1 year.

A non-EU state but a member of the Schengen Area, Norway, has a unique visa in place for digital nomads who wish to relocate to the famous yet expensive Svalbard. The visa remains valid for the entirety of the traveller’s life.

Estonia will implement a digital nomad visa soon

If the above seems a limited number of countries, things are changing fast. Working from home is no longer exclusive of digital nomads: also because of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, companies are implementing ways to keep their employees safe away from the office and thousands of remote positions are opened every day.

It is not rare nowadays to apply for a job, go through the hiring process, and start in the new position without setting foot in the office once.

Estonia is adapting to change and has announced a new visa that will be called, in fact, ‘digital nomad visa.’ The Minister of Interior Mert Helme stated:

“A digital nomad visa strengthens Estonia’s image as an e-state and thus enables Estonia to have a more effective say on an international scale.”

Thanks to the new visa for remote workers, Estonia hopes to attract more visitors and boost the local economy without giving up local jobs. At the same time, it hopes to confirm itself as an international tech hub.

Non-European countries with digital nomad visas

Outside of Europe, several nations are also introducing visas in order to accommodate the needs of remote workers. These include:

  • Costa Rica
  • Mexico
  • Australia
  • Thailand

Some US states are following the trend on a more national level. Oklahoma, Alabama, and Vermont all have programmes in place to encourage U.S. citizens who can work remotely to relocate to their territories.