Expat status unlocked: U.S. travelers can work remotely from these 11 countries
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With hundreds of companies announcing remote-friendly work policies for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic and beyond, there’s never been a better time to be a digital nomad.
By now, the vast majority of us are familiar with working from home. But what, exactly, qualifies as home? Is working from your actual house any different from, say, working on a sunny Caribbean beach, as long as you have a strong Internet connection?
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Some countries are willing to push the boundaries on the work-from-home definition by offering new visas for travelers willing to make the move. As long as you have a job that lets you work remotely, every country listed in this guide is willing to welcome you — provided you meet the requirements, of course.
This guide is current as of the time of publication, and we will keep information regularly updated as more countries offer new, relevant policies.
And if you missed it, here’s our country by country guide to reopenings.
Antigua and Barbuda
The newest kid on the work-remote block is the Caribbean dual-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. The Nomad Digital Residence program, newly launched in late September, allows successful applicants and their dependents to live and work in Antigua and Barbuda for up to two years on a temporary visa.
Visa holders can travel into and out of the country at will throughout the duration specified on their visa, but must maintain a home in the country until their visa expires or they voluntarily give it up before the end date.
The NDR visa does not permit holders to work for local companies, but they will also not be charged personal income tax during their time in the country.
Applications require the following documents, to be submitted to the Chief Immigration Office by email to firstname.lastname@example.org:
- A passport photo of each applicant measuring 2 by 2 inches, with the head between 1 to 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.
- A copy of the biographical data page of your passport
- A certificate indicating medical insurance coverage for the period of the applicant’s intended stay in Antigua
- Police clearance for each applicant over the age of 16
- If applicable, proof of relationship to dependents
- Evidence of employment, including self-employment
- A declaration by the main applicant, certifying (a) expected income of no less than $50,000 or its equivalent in other currencies, for each year of the two possible years in Antigua, and (b) that the applicant has the means to support themselves and accompanying dependents during their stay in Antigua and Barbuda
- Completed online application form
- Receipt for non-refundable applicable fees, paid by credit card on the application form:
- $1,500 for a single applicant
- $2,000 for a couple
- $3,000 for families of three or more members
Applicants will be notified by email when their application is approved
This sunny Caribbean island is the latest country courting digital nomads with the launch of its new One Happy Workation program. (Good news, Global Entry applicants: You can even apply for Trusted Travel enrollment upon arrival in Aruba.)
Unlike many other countries, Aruba’s program is more of a tourism marketing campaign than a true work-remote visa grant, with a number of specially designated hotels offering work-play hybrid packages. However, the packages come with special discounts for travelers staying between one week and up to 90 days.
Any traveler with a valid U.S. passport can participate for a maximum of 90 days, and Aruba claims that “the island is your office,” so approved visitors can work from anywhere. Each designated hotel will offer Wi-Fi, and the island’s website says there will be free Wi-Fi stations throughout Aruba as well.
To qualify, work-remote travelers must be employed by a company or be self-employed in their home country. Travelers are not allowed to render services to and receive income from an Aruban company or individual without a separate work or business permit.
To qualify, eligible travelers must have a passport valid beyond the date of departure from Aruba, and complete all immigration requirements before entering the country.
Furthermore, all arrivals will face new health screening procedures upon entry to Aruba, including the possibility of COVID-19 tests on arrival.
U.S. visitors from 20 high-risk states must upload proof of a negative test within 72 hours before departure to Aruba, or they will be denied boarding. Those from less risky states will also need to upload a test, or have one taken upon arrival at Oranjestad’s airport (AUA). Those who take a test on arrival will need to quarantine at their hotel for up to 24 hours while awaiting the results. The tests are paid for by the traveler.
All visitors to Aruba must purchase visitors’ insurance from the government, which covers up to $75,000 in health insurance. The rate for a one-week package is about $100. Frequently asked questions for the One Happy Workation program can be found here.
Barbados was one of the first countries to launch a comprehensive work-remote program for travelers interested in leveling up their life experiences. If you’d like to experience the beautiful land that raised Rihanna, here’s what your application process will require:
- Completed C-5 application form including basic contact, emergency and identifying information; brief description of employment and employer details; income declaration; passport information and details of any dependents who would travel with the applicant.
- Passport-sized photograph for each applicant and associated family members over the age of 18, if applicable.
- Biodata page of passport for applicant and associated dependents.
- Copy of birth certificate for each applicant and dependent.
- Proof of relationship between the applicant and all other members of the family group, such as a birth certificate, adoption documents or marriage certificate.
If the application is approved, individual applicants must pay a nonrefundable fee of $2,000, or a flat fee of $3,000 for all members of a family group.
As of Aug. 1, Bermuda has been offering year-long residency certificates for “digital nomads” as well as students seeking to either work or study remotely in Bermuda.
Applicants must pay $263 and meet several additional criteria such as being 18 or older; possessing valid health insurance and demonstrating employment or enrollment in an academic program.
Bermuda has also extended its tourist visa terms from 90 days to 180 days. So, if you aren’t sure yet about that move, you can try visiting as a long-term guest first.
Unlike the Caribbean countries listed above, the Czech Republic’s remote-work program isn’t new. While many digital nomads call this freelance or self-employed visa the “Zivno visa,” the name actually refers to the trade license, or Zivno, given to freelancers. The Zivno trade license is most often issued to English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers or creatives and artists who are self-employed.
The Zivno visa used to be very easy for U.S. travelers to acquire, but the process has gotten more complicated in recent years. And this program isn’t ideal for most digital nomads who can’t prove they have local ties to the Czech Republic in the same way that ESL teachers can provide letters of employment from local schools.
Still, U.S. applicants have the added flexibility of being able to apply through any Czech embassy in the world, as long as they can get an appointment and produce the correct documents and proof needed for the claim.
According to MovetoPrague.com as of January 2020, here’s what you’ll need to do to secure your Zivno visa:
- Book an appointment with the Czech embassy of your choice.
- Prepare for an immigration interview, where you may be asked to explain your business plan, your housing situation, educational background and work experience as well as your knowledge of Czech tax, social security and healthcare systems.
- Collect all required documentation:
- Completed application form
- Passport with a minimum of two blank pages and at least a year and a half of validity left at the time of the appointment.
- Two passport-sized photos
- Proof of local accommodation, arranged for at least one year in advance. (Reports say this is particularly hard to arrange if you aren’t physically in the Czech Republic already, so plan ahead.)
- Proof of funds totaling a minimum of $5,500 (124,500 CZK) in your bank account. You’ll want to ensure that you maintain this amount throughout your application process, as the Czech government may want to confirm your financial situation before approving your Zivno visa.
- Proof of trade license as well as other documents validating the purpose of your stay.
- Proof of health insurance coverage will be required when you collect your visa.
- Criminal background check from your country of origin, as well as any countries where you have lived for more than six months any time within the past three years.
- In early January, MovetoPrague.com said the “health check” seemed to be mostly optional in their clients’ experience. However, COVID-19 has changed global standards for wellness, so it’s extremely likely that current applicants should be prepared to demonstrate proof of good health in the application process.
- The official approval timeframe for the Zivno visa can take anywhere from two weeks to more than four months.
- Be prepared for a potential follow-up interview or requests for additional documents.
- Collect your Zivno visa from the embassy where you initially applied, and activate your trade license online.
- Upon activation, you will be registered to pay income tax and social security, as well as public health care for a period of one year.
Not so interested in the application process any more? Take heart. There are a lot of other countries you can choose from for your next work-abroad adventure.
Estonia announced a new “Digital Nomad Visa” (DNV) for foreigners working remotely for any company registered abroad, and is also welcoming freelancers to legally live in the country for a year.
Unfortunately, U.S. travelers aren’t currently eligible to enter Estonia because of COVID-19-related travel restrictions barring entry to the EU. So, while you can apply for the DNV, your application will almost certainly be rejected until the U.S. is able to successfully flatten its infection curve and get on the list of approved countries.
For qualified applicants, applications for the DNV opened Aug. 1. Forms can be completed on a computer but must be printed, signed and submitted in physical form at select embassies and consulates, which can be found in this list. Estonian police and Border Guard offices will also accept the applications.
In addition to documents needed for standard visa processing, applicants must provide the following to establish their eligibility as a digital nomad:
- Evidence of income for six months preceding the application submission. Monthly income must exceed $4,152 (3,504 euros) before tax.
- Documents certifying that the work duties can be done independent of location and that telecommunications technology is required to do the work.
- Certification of employment with a foreign-registered employer or being self-employed, and some form of evidence of providing services to clients with a foreign establishment for freelancers.
- Description of study and professional life course.
The Estonian government has compiled a list of frequently asked questions for anyone interested in applying for the visa, which can be found here. Estonia is also issuing e-Residency newsletters to give the latest updates on the DNV. Application fees to stay long-term are 100 euros (about $118) for a D-visa, or 80 euros ($94) for a short-stay C visa.
The eastern European country of Georgia is inviting foreign citizens to work and run their businesses from the country remotely in its coronavirus-free environment.
The Remote from Georgia program went live on Aug. 27, with more than 2,700 applicants in the first few weeks the online application was released.
“Georgia has the image of an epidemiologically safe country in the world, and we want to use this opportunity,” said economy minister Natia Turnava in July when the program was announced. “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.”
Foreigners from 95 countries are allowed to apply for the program if they intend to stay in Georgia for at least 180 days.
Here’s what you need to know about the Remote from Georgia program (application link here):
- Designed for freelancers, full-time employees or business owners who are able to stay in Georgia for at least 360 days without a visa per their passport or other travel documents. (U.S. travelers fall in this category.)
- Qualified foreigners seeking to enter Georgia long-term must fill out a mandatory application form and obtain preliminary confirmation required for border crossing.
- Applicants will first select what type of application form he or she is filling out, and choose from the list whether they are a freelancer, a full-time employee or an entrepreneur (business owner).
- You’ll also need to provide personal information:
- Full name
- Passport number
- Country of residence
- Phone number
- Date of birth
- Passport or residency copy
- Marital status
- Declare whether you are traveling to Georgia alone or not
Applicants must also prove they have the financial ability to pay taxes while staying in Georgia, and should have a minimum monthly salary of $2,000. Foreigners must also have health insurance for the time they spend in Georgia.
After completing and submitting the application, foreigners granted permission to travel and work from Georgia must undergo a mandatory 12-day hotel quarantine upon arrival, at their own expense. After quarantine, they will undergo PCR testing, and if no signs of coronavirus are apparent, they will be able to remain in Georgia.
As with the Czech Republic, Germany’s work-remote program isn’t new. There are two types of permits: One for entrepreneurs who own businesses, and one for self-employed freelancers, creatives, academics and similar. Both types of visas require comprehensive applications and require between four to six weeks to process for a cost of 100 euros ($118).
To apply for the freelance visa, you’ll need:
- Proof of freelance employment as a self-employed academic, artistic, literary, teaching, educational or similar professional.
- Non-U.S. travelers over age 45 must provide proof of an adequate pension plan.
- Proof that you’ve established primary residence in Berlin.
- An in-person visit to the German embassy.
- The following forms and documents:
- A passport valid through the duration of your intended stay.
- One current biometric photo measuring 35 by 45 millimeters, facing forward, with neutral facial expression and closed mouth, looking straight into the camera, with a light background.
- Application form for issuance of a residence permit (only required for first-time applicants).
- Revenue forecast form.
- For artists and language teachers, you must provide proof of other regular income.
- A resume or CV.
- Proof of health insurance.
- Proof of local lease or home ownership (original documents required).
- Proof of sufficient funds to cover monthly rental or cost of the home in Berlin in original forms.
Our neighbor to the south offers a generous temporary resident visa program that’s been around since well before the coronavirus pandemic. The one-year visa is a great fit for travelers who plan to enter Mexico for more than 180 consecutive days, and can be renewed for a total of four years of temporary residency. After five years of temporary residency, foreigners can apply for naturalization and citizenship if they so choose, which includes a Spanish language proficiency test and interview on Mexican history, culture and values.
Eligible travelers must provide the following documents for consideration:
- Your visa application form printed on a single page, double-sided, properly completed and signed.
- Valid passport or comparable travel and identity document in its original form, as well as a photocopy of the page containing the photograph and personal data.
- One photograph measuring 1.53 by 1.22 inches with face uncovered, no eyeglasses, facing forward, in full color, with a white background.
- Payment of fees in cash for the issuance of the visa.
- Proof of financial stability including an overall bank balance of more than $27,000 over the past 12 months, or a monthly income of more than $1,620 over the last six months.
Under this visa category, you’re not allowed to seek employment from any Mexican company; you can only earn income from businesses based overseas.
Know your worth: If you can prove that you’re a freelancer with a skillset needed in Portugal, you can apply for a one-year remote-work visa. Qualified reasons include scientific research, higher education professorial activities, amateur sports, show business and performing arts, unpaid student internships or study abroad programs and other “highly qualified” activities. That last option is up for interpretation, so you’ll need to contact the local Portuguese embassy to make your case.
U.S. travelers can visit bureaus in the U.S. in Boston and New Bedford, Massachusetts; Newark, New Jersey; New York City; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C.
The basic application requirements include:
- The official application form
- Passport or equivalent additional travel document valid for three months beyond the duration of the stay.
- Two passport photos, up-to-date and in high-enough quality to identify the applicant.
- Valid travel insurance that includes health insurance and coverage for medical emergencies and repatriation.
- A history of criminal record by the Immigration and Border Services (SEF) from your country of origin or your last country of residence for any applicants over 16.
- Proof of financial stability, which can take the form of a statement of responsibility, signed by a Portuguese national or by a foreign national legally resident in Portugal.
Additional work documentation requirements can be found here.
If you can prove your source of income doesn’t come from a Spain-based company, you may be eligible to apply for the country’s nonlucrative visa. The aptly-named permit allows travelers to stay in Spain for more than three months, and is only valid for people who live within the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Spanish Consulate, which includes residents of Southern California (Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Sand Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties), Arizona, Colorado and Utah.
You must know the following details before applying:
- All nonlucrative visa applications must be submitted and picked up in person; no proxies or courier services will be permitted.
- The application must be submitted no more than 90 days before your intended date of travel.
- Your processing fee will not be refunded under any circumstances, even if your visa is denied or canceled.
- All visas must be picked up within one month of issuance, beginning the day after you’re notified of approval. Visas that are unclaimed after the one-month mark will be marked invalid.
Applicants must submit the following documents to their nearest Spanish embassy:
- Completed and signed visa application form.
- One 2 by 2-inch passport-style photo on a white background, with face clearly visible. No self-made and printed photos will be accepted.
- One original passport or equivalent travel document, as well as a photocopy of the main page. The passport should be no older than 10 years, be valid for the duration of your stay and must have at least two blank pages for the new visa.
- One form of identification that proves your place of residence is within the jurisdiction of the Spanish Consulate of Los Angeles (original and photocopy). You can provide any of the following documents: U.S. driver’s license, state identification card, voter registration card or a current student ID.
- Non-U.S. citizens must also provide original and photocopy versions of their U.S. Resident Alien Card or valid U.S. long-term visa. Holders of B-1 and B-2 visas cannot apply in the United States; they must apply in their country of residence or country of origin. Applicants holding student visas must also present their I-20 (original and copy) signed by the university on the last page and a copy of their F-1 Visa.
- EX 01 Form printed, filled out and signed.
- 790-52 Form printed, filled out and signed.
- Medical bill of clean health (original and photocopy, original translation and photocopy of translation if required): This document must be issued no more than 90 days before your appointment date, must include letterhead and original signature and/or stamp from a doctor (only M.D. or D.O’s will be accepted).
- Certification of “absence of police records” for applicants 18 and older (original, photocopy, translations into Spanish and photocopy of translations): You must obtain a background check verified by fingerprint comparison. This document is valid for a maximum of 90 days after the issue date mentioned on it, and must be legalized with the “Apostille of The Hague” then translated into Spanish to be accepted.
- Proof of financial stability.
- Copy of most recent tax return.
- Proof of health coverage that isn’t issued through travel insurance.
- Visa fee of $152 in money order form, addressed to the “Consulate General of Spain Los Angeles.” See the following link for fees.
Traveling while doing your day job, sometimes known as destination coworking, isn’t new. But in this day and age of border restrictions and quarantine requirements even for domestic traveling, stepping outside the front door can seem a daunting task to complete.
So, if you’re yearning to leave your desk to explore in reality — not just through Zoom backgrounds — perhaps these programs can help you enter the digital nomad lifestyle with ease and take advantage of flexible work-from-home and virtual education policies.
Additional reporting by Brian Kim.
Featured photo by Luis Alvarez/Getty
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