With the recent surge in remote work, becoming a digital nomad is easier than ever—many people can now work from home, their favorite coffee shop, or really anywhere in the country as long as they have their computer and an internet connection.
But what if you have even bigger aspirations for digital nomadism, like working in another country for months or years at a time? Imagine working from the stunning beaches of Portugal or nestled at the foot of a volcano in Iceland…
Historically, this would have been difficult to do, since tourist visas are usually only good for about three months and generally only freelancers had the freedom to work from anywhere—though technically it’s illegal to work in another country while on a tourist visa.
However, thanks in part to the pandemic (at least one good thing came out of that), many countries around the world have created new digital nomad visas, and many more full-time, traditional employment positions have become location-independent.
Plus, it’s legal to freelance from other countries while traveling on a digital nomad visa.
So, what is a digital nomad visa? A digital nomad visa allows a visitor to stay in another country for an extended period of time (usually 12 months) while working remotely either for a foreign-based company or for themselves.
In this article, we’ll dive into how digital nomad visa programs work and answer some common questions about them.
Who qualifies for a digital nomad visa?
Each country creates their own digital nomad visa program, so the requirements vary. But, generally speaking, you can qualify for a digital nomad visa if you:
- Are over the age of 18
- Work remotely for a company that’s based outside of the country you plan to visit or if you are self-employed
- Meet minimum income requirements or have at least the specified minimum amount of money in your bank account
- Can provide proof of health insurance
- Can provide proof of a rental agreement for housing during your stay (not all countries require this)
- Will spend the majority of the visa duration in that country (some countries don’t allow you to spend more than 30 days outside of the country, which can limit travel opportunities while abroad)
- Have not been convicted of a serious crime
Again, since each country makes its own requirements, there are certainly digital nomad visa programs out there that have fewer or more stipulations. Generally speaking, the country wants to ensure that you’ll have enough money to live on while there, and that you won’t be an undue burden on their infrastructure.
Benefits of a Digital Nomad Visa
Digital nomad visas provide some substantial benefits to both the digital nomads themselves as well as the host countries.
Remote workers can now (legally and legitimately) work from other countries for extended periods of time, which makes it more practical for some people—moving temporarily to another country requires a lot of logistics so being able to go for a year or more can make all the planning feel more worth it.
Plus, it’s ideal for people who like to travel slowly, take their time to fully immerse themselves in a country’s culture, and explore at a relaxed pace. And finally, remote workers can enjoy significant tax breaks and incentives, depending on the country issuing the visa.
Host countries benefit from having relatively wealthy remote workers living there for an extended period of time, since digital nomads will spend money on housing, food, and so forth (thereby stimulating the economy) but will not take a job away from a permanent citizen.
This helps tourism revenue rebound after the severe drops associated with the pandemic. Digital nomad visas can also help reverse brain drain (at least temporarily), which is when highly educated people leave the country to work elsewhere.
With the visa program, highly educated people will flow into the country. Finally, countries can generate additional revenue from application fees, import duties, and value-added tax (VAT).
Digital Nomad Visa Cost/Fees
Speaking of application fees, let’s talk about how much those can be. Most digital nomad visas cost somewhere between $200 and $400, though some are free and others are far more expensive.
Some countries charge flat fees per person while others offer discounted prices for couples or families with children, and still others have both application fees as well as processing or other one-time fees.
Here are a few examples of 2023 digital nomad visa application fees by country:
- Barbados: $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple or family
- Costa Rica: $250
- Czech Republic: Free
- Estonia: $85 for a short stay, $106 for a long stay
- Georgia: Free
- Iceland: $61
- Malaysia: $220 + $110 for spouse and dependents
- Malta: $318 for a family
- Mauritius: Free
- Norway: $637
- Thailand: $600
Can a digital nomad visa holder bring their family?
Virtually all digital nomad visa programs allow holders to bring their families. However, some countries only allow the visa holder to bring their spouse or registered partner and their children, but not extended family members.
As outlined above, application fees may be higher for those wishing to bring family members, and you might have to meet higher income requirements as well to show you can support your family while there.
Does Europe have one digital nomad visa or is it country by country?
At this point, European digital nomad visas are all handled on a country by country basis.
Plenty of European countries offer them, and since each one is different, you can shop around for the one that best fits your needs in terms of application fees, income requirements, cost of living in the country, local languages, and specific location.
Countries with the Lowest Income Requirements
Thanks to certain countries’ very low costs of living relative to the United States, you really don’t have to make that much money to take advantage of the program. For example, Colombia only requires you to make about $650 per month.
The Czech Republic requires about $6,000 in the bank per person, but does not have an actual income requirement. Other countries such as Albania simply require you to have “sufficient” income and do not have a set dollar amount. Saint Lucia doesn’t have a minimum income requirement at all.
So, even if you plan to work part-time or do not have a particularly high-paying job, a digital nomad visa can still be a viable option in some countries.
For the most part, the minimum income requirements tend to be set in direct correlation with the cost of living in the country—for example, Iceland, with its sky-high cost of living, requires an individual to make $7,777 per month or a couple to make $11,667.
Fortunately, with such a wide range of requirements, you can easily make an appropriate selection based on your income.
How long does a digital nomad visa last?
The majority of digital nomad visas last for one year, although some last for six months and others for two years. Plus, many can be renewed once or multiple times, and some even allow for visa holders to apply for permanent residency after all available extensions have been completed.
Interestingly, Thailand, a perennial favorite for digital nomads, has recently announced an official long term residency visa program. In the past, digital nomads have, with questionable legality, taken advantage of 90-day tourist visas which they reset by visiting a neighboring country briefly every three months.
Thailand’s official program is unusual in that their long term residency visas are good for ten years, and they require applicants to have an annual income of at least $80,000 from specific types of companies.
My Closing Thoughts
Digital nomad visas are very tempting to me and in fact, even before writing this article, I was in the beginning stages of research for visa programs around the world—Portugal is currently hovering at the top of my list.
I traveled the US as a digital nomad while freelancing in my skoolie for 4.5 years, and I now work a full-time but remote position from my rented house in Western Washington. Here’s what draws me to digital nomad visas:
- My salary could go MUCH further in other countries with lower costs of living, which could allow me to save up money more quickly and/or travel more extensively, eat out more, experience local highlights, etc. while abroad.
- I love traveling slowly. I recently spent 40 days in Iceland because:
- A) Airbnbs are insanely discounted if you stay for a full month. Like, it was the same price to stay for a month as it was to stay for two weeks. If I’m already paying for the flights, I’d rather take maximum advantage of those dollars spent by staying as long as possible in my destination.
- B) I do NOT do well with jet lag or functioning on little sleep. I want to be able to take guilt-free rest days from exploring, thoroughly check out each destination, and experience living like a local rather than a tourist as much as possible.
So, for these reasons, staying for a year or more in one country sounds absolutely ideal to me. I will certainly continue my research and planning to hopefully spend 2024 abroad as a digital nomad. I’ll see you out there!
Cat is originally from Seattle, WA but has traveled around the US and Canada full-time in a self-converted school bus with her boyfriend Aaron since April of 2018. She enjoys rock climbing, paddleboarding, hiking, and generally being outdoors!