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What is a digital nomad visa?

A digital nomad visa is the key to working remotely from anywhere in the world. Here, learn about the legal and tax requirements for digital nomads — plus tips for making your time abroad a success.

6 min read

Office cubicle, nine-to-five? These days, not so much. The traditional boundaries of the workplace aren’t where they once were, thanks to technological leaps and an ever-evolving global landscape. Remote work is still on the rise, and digital nomads have taken it to the next level — working anywhere in the world, from large cosmopolitan centers to remote beaches.

Besides a laptop and a decent internet connection, there’s one must-have for this lifestyle: a digital nomad visa. This type of visa lets people leave their stationary office behind and try out a more modern, flexible way of working. But how does it all work? Are digital nomad visas available in every country? How do you qualify as a digital nomad? And is it easy to get a digital nomad visa?

In this article, we answer these questions and many more. Keep reading to discover what you need to know about applying for a digital nomad visa, and get tips for making your nomadic lifestyle a success. Let’s go!

What is a digital nomad visa?

A digital nomad visa is a special type of visa offered by certain countries. It allows individuals to live and work remotely within the borders of a particular country for an extended period. 

This type of visa has become more popular as the global workforce has shifted towards more flexibility and online connectivity. Unlike traditional work visas that require you to be employed with a local company, digital nomad visas cater to freelancers, remote workers, and entrepreneurs. The idea is simple: allow workers to keep up with their professional commitments while experiencing the cultural and geographical diversity of another country. 

However, digital nomad visas often come with specific requirements and limitations. For many countries, it’s a balancing act: managing the influx of remote workers while also reaping the economic benefits they can bring to local communities.

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Advantages and disadvantages of a digital nomad visa

Digital nomad visas can have plenty of advantages for people who want a nomadic lifestyle, including:

  • No need to commute to a fixed office location every day
  • Freedom to design your own ideal work environment
  • Chance to spend time in different cultures
  • Enriching travel experiences off of the well-worn tourist track
  • A global network of professional and personal relationships

From a broader perspective, digital nomad visas can boost local economies in sectors such as hospitality, tourism, and retail. This can encourage a more positive relationship between working visitors and their host countries.

For most people, the advantages outnumber the disadvantages. But there are still a few drawbacks to be aware of — like the bureaucratic and time-consuming visa application processes. Depending on the country, digital nomads might encounter difficulties accessing essential services, including healthcare and social benefits, which are typically tied to citizenship or long-term residency. Also, visa requirements often come with financial obligations, such as proof of sufficient funds or mandatory insurance coverage.

As a digital nomad, you’ll have to navigate a complex web of legal and tax considerations. Even with laptops replacing cubicles and passports becoming the most essential work tool, a nomadic lifestyle doesn’t mean that you’re free from all responsibility. Besides setting up your business as a freelancer, you’ll also need to pay attention to your tax obligations and legal place of residence, and follow best practices for safety and security. Let's look at these things in more detail.

Tax residence and tax obligations

Tax residence and obligations are a pivotal part of any digital nomad's legal landscape. Depending on the country you're in and how long you stay, you might be officially considered a resident for tax purposes. 

As digital nomads move across borders, it’s crucial to carefully track how much time you spend in each location. This determines your tax liability. Ideally, you should have a decent understanding of tax treaties, double taxation agreements, and global taxation systems. It might seem daunting, but familiarizing yourself with these topics will help you avoid unpleasant surprises later on.

Digital nomads are responsible for complying with the laws of their home country and the countries they temporarily call home. Fulfilling your tax obligations correctly is a major part of this.

Freelancing and setting up a business

Many remote workers use the digital nomad visa to become entrepreneurs and establish startups or other online ventures. While freelancing gives you more flexibility — and you can usually start earning income more quickly — setting up your own business might ultimately give you more independence and be easier to scale. 

Both paths come with a tapestry of legal and administrative tasks, from understanding international tax implications to navigating the requirements of different jurisdictions. 

From visas and work permits to local regulations and cultural norms, the legal landscape abroad can be complex to navigate. Digital nomads have to comply with immigration laws and make sure to get the appropriate permits for working remotely. But not only that, there can be different expectations and regulations in other parts of life, such as housing arrangements, healthcare access, and even the use of public spaces. 

Safety and security concerns

Keep your data (and yourself!) safe while working abroad. To protect your digital assets and sensitive information, use secure networks, virtual private networks (VPNs), and strong passwords. And always be cautious when using public Wi-Fi networks!

To stay safe and secure while you work remotely, make sure your insurance policies cover your nomadic lifestyle and activities, and always keep important documents organized and accessible. This includes your passport, visa documents, insurance policies, and any necessary permits. Having both digital and physical copies can be useful in case of emergencies.

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4 tips for a successful digital nomad experience

So, your digital nomad visa is approved — well done! As you prepare to work remotely and explore the world, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your time in a temporary home: 

1. Balance work and leisure.

Set clear boundaries for work hours and leisure time so that you can relax and enjoy your time abroad — without sacrificing productivity. You're working remotely, not going on vacation, but there can be space for fun, too.

2. Learn about cultural etiquette and language.

Invest time in learning about local customs and etiquette, and pick up some basic language phrases. Not only does this show respect for the country you’re visiting, but also makes it easier to connect with locals and navigate daily life.

3. Network and build a nomadic community.

Get to know the digital nomad community by checking out co-working spaces, networking events, and online forums. You can get practical advice, insights, and tips, and these connections can also help if you start to feel lonely or isolated.

4. Be ready for the challenges. 

Be prepared for unexpected setbacks such as visa issues, connectivity problems, or health concerns — and homesickness, too! To help yourself through the tough times, it’s a good idea to cultivate your problem-solving skills, strengthen your support network, and build up an emergency fund.

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What’s the difference between a tourist visa and a digital nomad visa?

A tourist visa is designed for people who are traveling to foreign countries for short-term, non-work-related visits. It doesn’t allow visitors to make money or take up any kind of employment in the host country. In contrast, a digital nomad visa is tailored to remote workers and freelancers who want to live and work in a foreign country for a certain period of time. It allows people to engage in work activities, such as freelancing and running online businesses, during their stay.

Is it easy to get a digital nomad visa?

Getting a digital nomad visa varies depending on the country you want to stay in and your personal circumstances. Some countries have streamlined processes and specific visa categories designed for digital nomads — but others don’t. The country's immigration policies, your nationality, the purpose of your visit, your sources of income, and the documentation you can provide might add complexity to the process.

How much money do I need to be a digital nomad?

The financial requirements to be a digital nomad vary a lot. Generally, having a stable income that covers your travel expenses, accommodation, transportation, health insurance, and other essentials is crucial. Many digital nomads recommend having a monthly budget ranging from €1,000 to €3,000 or more, depending on the cost of living in the countries you plan to visit. On top of that, a digital nomad visa can cost up to €2,000, depending on the country.

By N26

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