70 million people could become digital nomads in the coming years

by MMC
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Are you considering working remotely from abroad? Join the growing segment of unattached people: In the United States alone, 17.3 million Americans, or 11% of the workforce, now identify as digital nomads (traditional job holders and self-employed ), an increase of 2% from 2022, according to the August 2023 report from American workforce management company MBO Partners. Another 70 million are considering or planning to become digital nomads in the next two to three years.

Therefore, the list of attractive destinations that cut red tape and offer remote work visa programs is growing. It includes more sites in the North, as industrialized countries are often described. Indeed, the competition is aimed at long-term talents and not temporary tourists.

Since 2023, the Spanish residency visa has been open to “international teleworkers”, allowing digital nomads to live in the land of Don Quixote, paella and Mediterranean beaches for up to a year. while working remotely for an externally based employer. from Spain. You can apply at a Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country.

If you are already in Spain with a tourist visa, you can apply for a digital nomad residence card, valid for three years and renewable for two.

Open to non-EU citizens, Spain’s one-year remote work visa requirements, among others, include an income of at least double the Spanish minimum wage (more than €2,600, or $2,750, per month, or approximately $33,000 per year, for a single traveler, a clean criminal record, private health insurance, a one-year employment contract with a company outside of Spain and a proof of sufficient work experience or university degree in this field. Expect an expedited processing time of 20 days.

Canada, which has long welcomed digital nomads for stays of up to six months on visitor visas, announced it was working on a new “tech talent strategy” to attract foreign workers here the end of this year. The government is consulting with provinces and territories to find ways to promote Canada to digital nomads, and it is working to allow startups to apply for work permits for up to three years.

“In the longer term, we expect that some digital nomads will decide to stay in Canada by seeking employment opportunities with Canadian employers and bringing their skills to the table,” says Isabelle Dubois, communications advisor and spokesperson. word of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. in an emailed statement. “This would mean applying for a temporary work permit and/or permanent residency, and thus contributing more to Canada. »

“Ultimately, the strategy is tailored and best fits the needs of highly skilled tech workers who have the ability to work remotely,” adds Dubois. Details about Canada’s remote working initiatives will be shared in the coming months, the Office of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has confirmed.

Among the richest countries in South America, Uruguay opened residence permits to digital nomads in May 2023 for a period of six months, with the possibility of extending it for up to a year. The procedure is simple, provided you do not hold a passport requiring a visa for entry: complete an online data form, sign an affidavit stating that you can support yourself financially during the stay and provide a vaccination certificate. The possibility is there to apply for temporary or permanent residence after this initial trial period.

The Uruguayan government said in a statement that it was attracting talent as part of its reputation as a “hub of business and innovation” in the region.

In total, more than 60 countries currently offer remote work visa programs. It’s a trend that will accelerate, says Prithwiraj Choudhury, an associate professor at Harvard Business School who studies future workplace trends. “The whole world is moving towards hybrid work. »

Choudhury says there’s a much bigger reason why Western countries like Spain and Canada have opened their doors to digital nomads, beyond taxes and consumer money.

“They want to integrate their knowledge economies, because if a few hundred really smart knowledge workers spend time in the local community, then connections could form between these digital nomads and the local population,” he says. The local community would then benefit from the knowledge spillovers.

This strategy is not new, Choudhury adds, citing Chile’s innovative startup initiative launched 12 years ago. Although it wasn’t called a digital nomad visa at the time, the ability for foreign entrepreneurs to come on an annual visa and spend time in Chile to start their business led hundreds of other entrepreneurs to do the same for a decade.

“They hired locals to work in their companies, and many of those locals went on to start their own companies. Chile now has a vibrant startup scene,” says Choudhury.

Since its inception in 2010 until at least August 2022, Start-Up Chile has attracted more than 5,000 entrepreneurs from 88 countries and supported 2,200 startups, an article by Choudhury confirms.

Spain’s digital nomad visa program is actually part of a new startup law that aims to foster the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and attract innovation and talent. The remote work visa transformed into a residence card can count towards obtaining permanent residence there, which requires a five-year stay.

Working part-time for a Spanish company is also allowed provided that the salary does not exceed 20% of the remote worker’s total foreign income.

Jovana Vojinovic, director of business development at UAE-based Nomad Capitalist, which helps entrepreneurs set up operations abroad, notes that taxes are high in Canada and can deter remote Western workers, but the program Canadian could be an attractive option for digital nomads who come from Latin America, Southeast Asia or the Middle East. They are more likely to convert their visa into a regular work opportunity, she says.

Choudhury sees a similar opportunity for foreign workers who might be denied a U.S. visa or green card renewal, given the 65,000 annual U.S. immigration cap for the H-1B visa, the temporary permit for three to six years allowing employers to request foreign professionals in a variety of specialty areas. These employees could move to Canada and work remotely for their American company.

Notably absent from the race for qualified digital nomads: the United States. “As a destination for talent, America is losing out” to Canada, Spain, Portugal, Brazil and other countries where the cost of living or the weather are more favorable, says Choudhury.

Ease of access to long-term stays or citizenship abroad, notably through property investments with tax breaks, has caused friction in countries like Portugal, where wealthy foreigners are accused of increase the cost of real estate and cause a housing crisis for locals. . Yet no country has canceled the remote work visa so far, Vojinovic says.

The most popular requests received by Nomad Capitalist, Vojinovic adds, are for Mexico, Costa Rica, Portugal, United Arab Emirates, Panama, Thailand and Indonesia. Another continent to watch for digital nomadism: Africa.

“Many African countries are starting to introduce visas for digital nomads, which I think will be an important step forward for the economies of these countries,” says Vojinovic. Namibia is the latest to open the door to a six-month remote work visa. Others include Cape Verde, Mauritius and Seychelles.

What should digital nomads pay attention to when choosing a destination? It depends on your goals, says Vojinovic.

“I would advise you to check if a country meets the lifestyle you want and if the cost of living is affordable. Why do you want to leave your home country? We were always looking for these reasons and trying to match them.

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