Many professional roles are now location-neutral creating a mass migration from office workers to remote workers. Countries are offering extended stay visas for remote workers for the first time. Welcome to the new normal.
The Transition from Office Workers to Remote Workers
The coronavirus crisis moved many professionals from the board room to the spare room. Office workers who couldn’t be away from headquarters for all of the terribly important meetings that had to be conducted in person have found out that’s not true. Some have gotten a taste of working from home and decided never to go back to the office.
Businesses now have the onus to justify why their employees ever need to come back to the office again. That’s not to say there’s not a time and place for in-person meetings, particularly for major decisions in product development or sales – Zoom doesn’t quite cut it. But for many professionals, they will find that they have a choice about going back and businesses will need to offer that flexibility of “office optional” to retain talent.
But we should really take it one step further. Work from home doesn’t have to mean your home. The bounds of location are no longer necessary. There’s little difference in working from your home office just down the street from HQ or in Mexico, Thailand or Portugal. Employers and employees alike have realized just how little is required to function as a company, reliable internet, and cell reception are the only must-haves for most remote workers.
Remote Work Visas
Traditionally, there were three types of permitted visas for visitors of other countries. Leisure, Business, and Immigration. While each country offers variants of those categories for both their situation and the corresponding country of the traveler, there is a new variant to add to the mix that encompasses all three; Remote Work visas.
Leisure visas (entry) tend to be limited in scope, no work should be performed and no permanency to the traveler is offered. Some are for as few as a few days up to six months. Leisure visitors or tourists are barred from forming any kind of established residency in-country and cannot work so to protect the host country’s own citizens.
Business visas are for single or multiple entries and have some parameters established to ensure that jobs are not being taken from their own citizens. Most require some documentation filed in advance to demonstrate the purpose and need for the visit, as well as limited re-entry.
Immigration visas offer expatriates the chance to migrate, whether for business or personal reasons, to another country. Most immigration visas will allow the migrant to work if it’s approved. However, immigration visas are very difficult to obtain and often require a sponsor or heritage in the destination country.
Remote work visas (nomad visas) touch on all of the three in some fashion. They allow the visitor to remain a temporary and casual resident as a tourist would be. They are also very easy to apply for, many of which can be completed online. They allow the traveler to conduct business legally within the country so long as that work is remote.
This continues to allow the country to protect its people’s livelihood while welcoming in new professionals that will become consumers during their stay – it’s win-win. Lastly, they allow the traveler to put down roots like an immigration visa would with long-term home rentals, access to government services and without the entry/exit requirements of leisure and business visas.
Which Countries Offer Remote Work Visas
Many countries already had some form of a Remote Work visa in process prior to the pandemic, but many have since accelerated their plans. While they take many different forms and names, the rules are all approximately the same, there is typically a cost associated with it and they tend to last for about a year. Here are some of the leaders in this space:
- Estonia (12 months) – Finances to support self, dependents (€3504/month) and €100 application fee (Nomad visa)
- Portugal (12 months renewable) – Finances to support self, dependents, at minimum €635/month
- Barbados (12 months) – $2,000/person ($3,000/family up to four) (Welcome Stamp)
- Bermuda (12 months) – $283 via online application, one of the cheapest and best options available
- Thailand (270 days) – $100,000 COVID-19 applicable insurance coverage, extensive requirements, the 90-day visa can be extended up to three times (to achieve the 270-day limit.)
More countries are adding Remote Work visas all the time so it’s important to stay informed. All of these countries are highly desirable and all have a lower cost of living than the United States. That allows for arbitrage as remote workers continue to make US salaries while living in less expensive countries.
Those looking for a lengthier departure or second passport can see this longer list of countries that allow wealthy people to buy into a passport or citizenship through investments made into the country.
For some, the pandemic has made working remotely a reality. Whether that’s from home, from a hut on a beach or a new country, remote work is possible and something that can (and should) be embraced. I have personally done a year-long visa in Thailand and while I loved it, I’d try Portugal this time for a change of pace and ease of paperwork. What are you waiting for?
What do you think? Are you going to try remote working? Have you already?