Laura Begley Bloom, Senior Contributor
July 30, 2020
Back in the good-old pre-pandemic days, many people fantasized about becoming a digital nomad and quitting their 9-to-5 office job in order to live and work remotely in a dreamy international destination. Now, for most workers, being a digital nomad is no longer a luxury, but rather, a requirement of the job. Before the coronavirus took hold, only around 7% of US employees regularly worked remotely. These days, at least two-thirds of Americans are working from home, according to Gallup research—and many don’t ever want to go back to the old ways of doing business.
So some would say that this is the perfect opportunity to pursue that fantasy of being a digital nomad and live and work wherever you like. However, with countries closing their borders to Americans and air travel curtailed to many destinations, it has become more challenging than ever to live the dream and do remote work abroad.
But there’s good news for remote workers and Americans with wanderlust, as more and more countries are starting to create programs to lure travelers who want to relocate and live and work abroad.
And for many of these countries—which have suffered financial hardship from a lack of tourism during the pandemic—the prospect of longer-term travelers could bring economic benefits with fewer COVID-19 risks.
Here are six countries that are welcoming remote workers and digital nomads with open arms.
Note: Coronavirus has interrupted travel on a global scale. Should you decide to plan a trip anywhere during the coronavirus pandemic, you should check local travel restrictions for the destinations you are hoping to visit, consider warnings from the State Department and CDC and be prepared for quarantines or restrictions that could make travel challenging. Travelers should also consider risk factors like age and existing health issues before going on a trip and take precautions to keep themselves and others safe.
The Caribbean island of Barbados made headlines and helped popularize the new remote working model when it recently announced the “Barbados Welcome Stamp,” which allows people to stay in the country and work for up to a year.
“COVID-19 has placed a severe strain on people’s mental wellness,” Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados, told The Washington Post . “The sunshine is powerful. The seawater is powerful. They’re both therapeutic in ways that are hard to explain. And we felt that, why not share it?”
Applicants to the program must certify that they make an annual income of at least $50,000 or have the means to support themselves while they’re in the country. They also need to pay an online application fee of $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a family.
In addition, anyone traveling to Barbados—whether for remote work or on vacation—must follow strict travel protocols that include COVID-19 testing or a quarantine.
Following on the heels of Barbados, Bermuda has also created a “One Year Residential Certification” program that launches on August 1. The scheme will allow foreign remote workers to live on the island’s legendary pink shores for up to a year.
“Remote working has been a growing trend for some time and is something the Bermuda Government has been examining as part of its technology-focused economic diversification strategy,” says Bermuda’s minister of labour Jason Hayword . “The trend towards remote working has been accelerated by COVID-19. These visitors can reside in Bermuda without seeking employment on the island and will promote economic activity for our country without displacing Bermudians in the workforce.”
Glenn Jones, interim CEO of Bermuda Tourism Authority, told Robb Report that it’s also a great opportunity to “share our uncrowded open spaces and coveted island lifestyle with travelers from across the globe looking to work or study remotely.”
The Residential Certification requires an application fee of $263 and applicants must demonstrate employment with a legitimate firm or their own overseas company; be a student who can provide evidence of enrollment in a research, undergraduate, graduate or doctorate program; or be able to demonstrate sufficient means of getting by without needing to be employed in Bermuda.
Once approved, the remote workers can live anywhere on the 21-square-mile island and leave the country and re-enter at any time.
Bermuda has strict COVID rules for travelers, including testing before the trip, upon arrival and at regular intervals during their stay at pop-up rapid-result testing centers around the island. Visitors are also asked to take their temperature twice daily and report the results via an online portal and wear masks during their trip.
Digital nomads have already been drawn to Estonia, a Baltic country where the cost of living is 30% less than the US. The country has already been running an e-residency program to attract entrepreneurs since 2014 (so far 70,000 foreigners have seized the opportunity). Starting August 1, Estonia will sweeten the deal by launching a new digital nomad visa that will allow foreigners to live in the country for a year. According to the Ministry of Economy , the project is focused on freelancers and other self-employed foreigners who can work remotely.
“We saw that there was kind of a lack of opportunities for [digital nomads], so we wanted Estonia to solve the problem,” Ott Vatter, the managing director of e-Residency, told The Washington Post . “Estonia aims to be the hub for these kinds of new entrepreneurs that we see trending globally."
While Estonia doesn’t currently allow Americans to visit the country as tourists, foreigners are allowed to enter in order to do work or study after quarantining for 14 days. In order to get the visa, you must have a gross monthly salary of at least $3,530 from a remote work job.
The former Soviet republic country of Georgia is known for its snow-capped mountains and coastal charms, rich wine regions and buzzing cities. On July 16, the country of Georgia announced a new “Digital Nomad Visa” to attract remote workers. According to the Ministry of Economy, the project is focused on freelancers and self-employed foreigners who can work remotely.
“Georgia has the image of an epidemiologically safe country in the world and we want to use this opportunity," said Natia Turnava , the country’s minister of economy. “We are talking about opening the border in a way to protect the health of our citizens, but, on the other hand, to bring to Georgia citizens of all countries who can work remotely.”
Like Estonia, workers must provide proof of employment to be considered for the program and quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival. Accepted digital nomads will be able to live in Estonia for a year and enjoy up to 90 days of travel throughout Europe’s borderless 26-country Schengen Area.
While Americans are technically not allowed into Georgia at this time for tourism, they c if they’re granted an be admitted if they’re granted a long-term visa of at least six months (like the digital nomad visa) or are traveling for business with a special permit or are the spouse of a Georgian citizen.
Plus 3 More Countries
Besides the four countries above, a number of other countries around the world already allow remote workers to stay on extended visas, from the Czech Republic to Costa Rica. Many of these places are not currently open to US passport holders, but here are some spots that are open to American travelers, so that digital nomads can explore the idea of living abroad and working remotely.
Jamaica: This Caribbean island began welcoming US travelers again on June 15 . While most travelers are given a 30-day visa when they arrive in Jamaica, it’s possible for digital nomads to apply for a six-month stay. All Americans traveling to Jamaica right now must have an approved Travel Authorization ahead of their trip showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
Mexico: While land-crossing border restrictions between the U.S. and Mexico are still in effect and the State Department has a “Do Not Travel” advisory, Mexico has re-opened its doors to travelers and air travel has been starting back up—though slowly. Cancun reported that it had about 70,000 visitors in the month after the vacation destination reopened on June 8. Travelers—including digital nomads—can stay Mexico, visa-free, for up to six months on a tourist visa. But it’s possible to obtain a Temporary Resident Visa that allows you to stay in the country for one year and even extend it up to three times. You will just need to apply for this special visa before your trip and show proof of a certain amount of income.
Albania: Set between Greece and Montenegro on the stunning Adriatic and Ionian coastlines, Albania country recently reopened to tourism. Citizens of the United States can get a one year tourist visa to stay and work in Albania. Currently there is no requirement for mandatory testing on arrival and or quarantining.
By Laura Begley Bloom, Senior Contributor
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