Countries with digital nomad visa: where can you move in 2021?
Digital Nomadism is the future
I’ve been a digital nomad since 2013 and have experienced hardships with visas. As a Philippine passport holder, it is 10 times harder for me to apply for visas to countries, often very tedious with no guarantee if it will be approved or not. Believe me, I always need to apply even if it’s just a tourist visa. Tourist visas are probably easier for you, especially if you are from the USA or Europe but for people like me, the process is really different. I can’t just wake up one day, hop on a plane and fly to Paris. My visa applications are always planned and sometimes, they take months to process depending on the country.
With every visa application interview in the past, I have always been asked: what do you do for a living? Each time I say, “I am a digital nomad,” I get this look from the consulate officers: “how do you mean?” I then explain to them that I am a full-time travel blogger with small jobs on the side. This will be followed by questions about how I earn from travel blogging and all the technicalities that go with it. It surely is hard to explain because being a digital nomad is a foreign concept. Nobody really gets it.
With this uncertainty, I always wished that there will be another visa category all over the world. I am not a tourist. I am just consistently moving. Tourist visa application is all about your nationality. The requirements depend on where you are from. There was a time in my life where I did not want to mention anything about being a digital nomad in my visa interviews. I always just have to say that I am a tourist even if I plan to max my visa and just work remotely.
In Tsugio Makimoto book Digital Nomad, he wrote over 20 years ago that digital nomadism will be the future. The book provided a deep insight into the future of our lifestyle even before COVID-19. He emphasized how success in 21st-century business will indeed depend on our ‘ability to master the nomadic environment’.
And this prophecy is coming to life. If you are someone who’s been working in an office environment for years and have been forced to work remotely because of COVID-19, think about moving to these countries with digital nomad visa!
Why should you apply for a digital nomad visa?
I know you’re wondering why you should apply for a digital nomad visa when you can easily just go as a tourist. To tell you honestly, there are no regulations in any country in the world that says you cannot work in their country as a remote worker. How will they find out anyway if you just enter as a tourist?
But in my personal experience, it is quite tedious to think about visas when you finally settle down and find your place in once country. Most countries give 30-90 days tourist visa stays that you can take advantage of but what if you want to stay longer? Sure, going in and out of the border is easy but for some countries, it is not very simple. I got lucky because Mexico offers a 6-month tourist visa for Philippine passport holders like me so that’s plenty of time to plan my travels outside of Mexico.
However, that is me. I get excited every time I need to do a visa run because that means I get to explore another country. But at this time of COVID, I am not really sure I would like to do that often. I travel a lot within Mexico but traveling to another country is really a hassle this time. Plus, if I do not have a valid visa (digital nomad or residency) in a particular country, it will be challenging to come back. Traveling during COVID is a little complicated because the rules can change anytime. I kept thinking, “what if I do a visa-run to Guatemala from Mexico then have problems coming back?” I never want that to happen so it’s better for me to have a legal visa to come back to Mexico.
Think about your circumstance. Is it worth the hassle to go in and out of the country every 90 days? Or would you rather enjoy where you are for a longer time without thinking about these legalities?
Digital Nomad vs Freelancer
I get this question from a lot of people: what is the difference between a digital nomad and a freelancer.
So I have a friend. Let’s call her Karen?… She’s been working a corporate job for 7 years. She goes to the office every day and stays there from 9:00 – 17:00. She has legal documents that she is employed by this powerhouse company and can apply for visas easily because of this. When COVID-19 hit, her employer told her that everyone should work from home. Karen is new to this lifestyle and did not have any idea on how to work from home. But as time passed and her routines have developed, she realized she doesn’t need to be in a certain place to work at home. That she can give up her apartment, travel the world, and still keep her job.
Karen asked me if she should tell her boss that she will be relocating to another country to work. At first, her boss was a little adamant about it but in the end, she didn’t really need to ask for permission since she’s working from home anyway. All she has to do is to be online according to the office hours. The tricky thing is that Karen is from the Philippines and if she wants to move to Mexico, these two countries have a 14-hour time difference. Meaning, she will have to start working in the evening if she ever decides to be a digital nomad in Mexico.
Karen is a freelancer because she has one job that she needs to keep. Her new lifestyle is to work from home while living in a place on a long-term basis. Karen can definitely relocate every 6 months or less as she pleases.
As for being a digital nomad, that’s me and also someone I know whom we can call… Matt. Matt is very equipped with video editing, photo editing, and all things artistic. He moves to different cities every 3 months to get to know the culture of every place he visits. Matt’s jobs are short-term and often contractual so he can choose to accept and decline jobs if he likes. He also juggles 4 projects at the same time so he can prepare for his next move. As long as there is Internet, Matt’s job is secured and with the level of his expertise on being a digital nomad, she will surely know how to manage moving around at the same time completing the projects assigned to him.
His job transactions are very fast. He can have zero projects this month and have 10 the next month. The number of projects he works on depends if he accepts them or not. He has total control of his time while keeping in mind the ideal salary/budget that he needs to maintain his frequent moving.
These countries with digital nomad visa below apply to freelancers as well. Note that this visa type is different from tourist and resident visas. The digital nomad visa is a new category that some of these countries thought to implement to better their economy and to make up for the lost profits during the pandemic. They realized how inviting digital nomads to live and work in their country can contribute to their economy. At present, digital nomads are the only ones who are traveling but more and more people are starting their digital nomad careers.
#1: Mexico Digital Nomad Visa (1-year temporary resident)
I am currently based in Mexico and this is the visa type that I have been trying to get this year. I already had my interview scheduled last June 2020 but they, unfortunately, canceled it twice because of COVID. I’ve been trying to re-schedule with the help of a lawyer but still no luck. I will update this post once I get my Mexico digital nomad visa and will probably make a video about it. You do not need a lawyer for this visa but since my tourist visa expired, I had to seek legal help which also doesn’t cost a lot. If you’re not comfortable in processing the visa on your own, I can pass you my lawyer’s contact. Just get in touch via e-mail or Instagram!
Mexico is a digital nomad favorite because of its very generous 6-month tourist visa. Lots of digital nomads, particularly Americans love to relocate to Mexico because of the beaches, amazing food, and cheap cost of living. I am paying for a 2.5-bedroom apartment with two floors, a garden, and private security for $500 USD per month. Of course, I have to pay separately for a fiber Internet connection which is around $80 – $100 USD.
You might also like: How good/bad is Sayulita wifi for digital nomads?
This type of Mexican visa is not new. A lot of American and Canadian retirees have this visa type. Most of my friends who are Mexican digital nomads have been on this visa for years. It’s easy to apply but for the first time applying, you need to schedule your interview in a consulate outside of Mexico. In my case, my lawyer put me in the consulate of Mexico in Costa Rica. Apparently, the application is smoother there. After you get your temporary resident visa in another country, you can go back to Mexico and process your resident ID. This is valid for a year and you don’t have to go out of Mexico if you are renewing your temporary resident visa. After three years with this visa type, if you still choose to live in Mexico as a digital nomad, you can apply for a permanent resident visa which does not expire.
Mexico digital nomad visa conditions
Honestly, when I first started gathering my documents, my lawyer only told me that I need proof of economic solvency. The minimum income requirement is $1,620 USD and you must have these records for the past 6 months. If you also have $27,000 USD in your account, then you don’t have to provide the month by month income. This document needs to be apostilled in your home country. And that’s it! That’s all they asked! They did not even ask for an employment certificate though I asked my clients to make one for me.
See also: 12 cities in Mexico for digital nomads
Mexico digital nomad visa requirements
The requirements for this type of visa is really basic. Make sure you have the following:
- Visa application form printed on one page, double-sided, properly completed, and signed.
- Passport or valid travel and identity document, original and a photocopy of the page containing the photograph and personal data.
- Original and a photocopy of the migratory document proving your legal migratory status in Canada (only for applicants who are not Canadian citizens).
- One photograph measuring 3.9 cm x 3.1 cm, face uncovered, no eyeglasses, frontal view, in color, with white background.
- Payment of fees in cash for the issuance of the visa.
How to apply for a Mexico digital nomad visa
- Fill out the application form here.
- Schedule your appointment at the Mexitel website. Make sure to pick the right category for your visa.
- Go to your appointment. Remember, you need to do your interview in the Mexican consulate in your home country or outside of Mexico. In my case, I scheduled an appointment in Costa Rica.
- Once your temporary resident visa is approved, you can go back to Mexico and process your Mexican residency card. In my experience, I paid almost $500 USD (with lawyer fees) to complete the process.
Mexico COVID travel update [November 2020]: Mexico is not on lockdown and has been accepting tourists since July 2020. If you do not plan to apply for a Mexico digital nomad visa yet, come test the waters with a tourist visa. If you decide to come, don’t forget to get in touch! I lived in Sayulita as a digital nomad for 2 years but now I am based in Nuevo Vallarta.
#2: Georgia Digital Nomad Visa (Remotely From Georgia; 1 year)
In 2017, I needed to do a visa-run while being a digital nomad in Israel. Georgia randomly popped out in the cheapest destinations from Tel Aviv list. Since the Georgia visa application for Filipinos was easy (it’s online), I decided to go to Georgia even if I have no idea what this country was like. It did not disappoint.
Georgia was a dream! The people are really nice (I hang out with a bunch of locals), the cost of living is cheap and their food is really great! I spent three months there before moving to Armenia. However, if you don’t like winter, Georgia can get really cold in the winter months. I was there from December to February and it wasn’t the best time for me – it was really cold! I had a chance to re-visit Georgia during Spring (June – September) and it looked way different than my first visit! Georgia is a destination for nature-lovers. You will definitely enjoy the outdoors during summer and spring! I really really really really love Georgia and I hope you can visit!
See also: Why visit Georgia?
On September 2020, Georgia announced its new digital nomad visa program called Remotely From Georgia, a system that will allow digital nomads all over the world to work and live in Georgia on a one-year visa. Georgia was one of the first countries to announce that they are accepting Americans so a lot of people considered looking into this program. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) did not label Georgia as Coronavirus-free, the country is confident that they have everything in control and have frequently mentioned they have lower cases than most of their neighbors.
Natia Turnava, the economy minister of Georgia says that this program aims to encourage international citizens to work from Georgia remotely. The project will be focused on freelancers and self-employed foreigners. Turnava added that so-called long-term visitors will have to go into 14-day quarantine at their own expense. On top of that, they will also need to obtain travel insurance valid for six months.
Georgia digital nomad visa conditions and requirements
In order for you to apply for your Georgia digital nomad visa, you need to own a location-independent business and must work remotely for a company outside Georgia. Unlike Mexico or other countries, with this visa, you will need to prove financial capability to pay taxes while you are in Georgia. A minimum of $,2000 USD salary per month is also required so you must be able to prove this, too.
As for COVID, the Republic of Georgia requires travel insurance valid for 6 months and a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
See also: Best Wifi cafes in Tbilisi, Georgia
How to apply for a Georgia digital nomad visa
- Fill out the application form here.
Georgia COVID travel update [November 2020]: Georgia is one of the first countries in the world who took serious COVID-19 precautions. They went through a lot of travel restrictions this year. Georgia re-opened its borders for travelers from five countries, Germany, France, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Citizens of these countries can freely visit Georgia via direct flight. Remotely from Georgia project is applicable for 95 country nationals and residents such as US, EU, GcC countries, etc.
#3: Germany Digital Nomad Visa (6 months - 3 years)
I spent my younger years living and studying in Italy so I frequented Germany. I spent weekends here because Berlin is so cheap and there is great nightlife and urban art! I also love the underground bars of Berlin where I met a lot of artists and digital nomads from all over the world. We’re still in touch up to now!
Germany’s Aufenthaltserlaubnis für selbständige Tätigkeit (I swear, this is what Germany’s digital nomad/freelancer visa is called. I can’t even say it.) allows foreign nationals to live and work in Germany for 6 months. Sometimes, they can even give up to 3 years depending on your documents and your financial status in your freelance job.
This type of German visa can take up to 3-4 months of processing before getting approved. There are also a lot more requirements as it is very similar to their resident visa application but it should be easier because it is for self-employed individuals.
Germany digital nomad visa conditions and requirements
If you own a company, are self-employed, a sole-proprietor, or have entrepreneurial responsibility for the company you work for, you are definitely eligible to apply for a residence permit in Germany under the self-employed occupation category.
How to apply for a Germany digital nomad visa
- Find a place to live in Germany and register it with the Burgeramt.
- Book your appointment at the Ausländerbehörde.
- You also need to open a German bank account. I am not sure if they accept tourist visas to be able to open an account but I did this in Berlin a few years ago without problems. You can also tell the bank that you are applying for the Germany digital nomad visa.
- Health insurance is also required when applying for this type of visa.
- Complete the requirements needed to apply for a Germany digital nomad visa. It’s a little lengthy but I’m sure it will be easy for you to gather these documents.
- Results can take up to 4 months.
Germany COVID travel update [November 2020]: For more information about processing visas in Germany during the pandemic, you may refer to this Corona FAQ page.
#4: Spain Digital Nomad Visa (Non-Lucrative; 1 year)
I lived in Spain for a year and it is one of the best years of my life! While living in Barcelona in 2012, I had the chance to apply for Spanish nationality but it didn’t push through because I decided to go to South America. However, I am seriously considering to go back to Spain next year because it’s really one of the places I loved living in.
Spains non-lucrative visa allows you to stay in Spain for 1 year, rent your own apartment, and have Spanish bank accounts. You can also keep renewing this yearly and after 5 years, you can apply for a permanent residency. This visa does not allow you to work legally in Spain nor obtain government benefits. It usually takes one week to a month depending on your documents and eligibility.
Spanish non-lucrative visa application requirements
- Passport valid at least for one year past your application date. You need to photocopy all the pages of your passport including blank pages and personal information pages.
- Driver’s license (actual and photocopy)
- Completed National Visa Application form [click here to download]
- Fill out the authorization residency form (EX-01). [click here to download]
- Fill out the “Tasas Extranjeria Modelo impreso 790 form. [click here to download]
- A criminal background check is also required (3-6 mo validity)
- Medical certificate proving you are in good health. This is not medical insurance but you should get a certification from your doctor that you are not sick.
- Health insurance valid for one year.
- Proof of financial capability. The last time I checked, you should be earning at least €2151 per month for the past 6 months. If you have €25,816 in savings, then you don’t have to show your monthly income report.
- Proof of accommodation in Spain.
How to apply for a Spanish non-lucrative visa
- You need to apply for this visa before coming to Spain, most likely in your home country. The first step is to schedule an appointment in the consulate near you.
- Make sure to bring all the requirements above.
- Go to your interview.
- Once your visa is granted, you have 3 months to go to Spain from the date of your visa issuance.
My friend Earl successfully got his non-lucrative visa in Spain in under 10 days. See his step-by-step guide on how to get a residency visa in Spain.
Spain COVID travel update [November 2020]: Spain does not accept US citizens at the moment unless you meet the specific requirements to live in Spain. Member countries of the European Union and Schengen area are allowed to enter Spain. Countries that have a reciprocal agreement with Spain for accepting travelers include Australia, China, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, Thailand, and Uruguay. In all cases, a negative PCR test carried out within 72 hours prior to your arrival in Spain is mandatory if you are traveling from a high-risk country.
#5: Antigua & Barbuda Digital Nomad Visa (Nomad Digital Residence; 2 years)
This is probably one of the countries you won’t think of moving to nor even visit. Antigua and Barbuda is a little expensive with an average monthly cost of living of $3,000 USD. The city of St John’s is the usual digital nomad hub but the Internet speed there is only up to 7 MBPS.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Digital Nomad Residence visa offers a long-stat visa program for people who work remotely. This country prides itself as the safest island in the Caribbean with modern amenities and improved infrastructure.
Applications are reviewed for approval and applicants must meet the eligibility criteria’s set.
Antigua and Barbuda’s nomad digital residence visa conditions
If you wish to apply for this visa type, you must meet a certain requirement to qualify. Of course, you need to be self-employed but you need to prove that you are paying taxes in your home country. This visa does not make you qualified to work for any business organization in Antigua and Barbuda. Your income must come from another country. With this visa, you are allowed to travel and live in Antigua and Barbuda for 2 years. Applications and payments are to be made in their online portal.
Antigua and Barbuda’s NDR visa requirements
- A full-color passport size photo for each applicant. Dimensions are as follows: 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm.) Head must be positioned between 1 -1 3/8 inches (25 x 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. JPEG format.
- Colored photocopy of your passport bio-page. Passport must be valid for more than two (2) years.
- Birth certificate of the applicant and/or any dependent(s). (If applicable.)
Marriage certificate. (If applicable.)
- A certificate of medical insurance coverage of applicant for the period of intended stay in Antigua and Barbuda.
- Police clearance for each applicant over the age of 16.
- Proof of employment, including self-employment. (Job letter, Salary payments, Work permit.)
- Proof of funds certifying: (a) Expected income of no less than US$50,000 USD per year; (b) That he or she has the means to support himself or herself and any accompanying dependent(s) during the (2) two years of stay in Antigua and Barbuda.
- Proof of payment once the application has been completed. (All payments are non-refundable.) This visa costs $1,500 USD.
How to apply for Antigua and Barbuda’s NDR visa
Fill out this form and make sure your requirements are complete! All applications are done online so you don’t need to go to a consulate or an Embassy.
#6: Czech Republic Digital Nomad Visa (Zivnostensky Visa; 6 months - 1 year)
The Czech Republic has one of the lowest costs of living in Europe. Aside from that, it is also beautiful, safe and the people are very friendly. I find Prague to be a great place for solo travelers.
Now, Zivno, Czech Republic’s visa is not a new thing. This is just the best time to take advantage of it since more people are leaning into being digital nomads in Europe. American English teachers, business owners, and self-employed individuals have been using this visa to live legally in the Czech Republic. This visa is not as easy to apply but if you really want to move here, you need a lot of patience to process this visa.
Related: The best European cities for digital nomads according to travel bloggers
How to apply for a Czech Republic digital nomad visa
- Get a bank certificate from your bank. As per this visa rule, the minimum amount you should have in your bank account is $6,000 USD. This document must be official with bank letterheads and signature from your bank manager.
- A criminal background check (document).
- Notarized proof of accommodation in Czech Republic (from your landlord)
- Register to be on the Živnostenský list.
- Schedule your appointment. You must do your visa interview outside of Czech Republic.
- Go to your interview. Most digital nomads prefer to do their interview in the embassy of Czech Republic in Berlin, Germany.
- Wait for the results.
- Health insurance is also required.
For a more personal experience, check out Wandertooth’s article about getting a Zivnostensky Visa in Czech Republic.
#7: Portugal Digital Nomad Visa (self-employed visa; 1 year)
The quality of life in Portugal is unreal! If you want to be surrounded by nature or live right next to the beach, then Portugal is a good choice. Most digital nomads in Portugal are surfers who enjoy the laid-back lifestyle in surf towns. They have the biggest wave/break in the world!
Portugal’s self-employed visa has two types: resident visa for independent workers and a residence visa for entrepreneurs. Internet speed in Portugal is decent and it’s capital, Lisbon, is considered one of the best digital nomad cities in the world. The cost of living is pretty fair compared to other European countries in the west. They definitely have a cheaper cost of living than their neighbors!
Portugal self-employed visa conditions
In order to be eligible in applying for this visa type, you will need to meet the following requirements:
- not been convicted of a crime
- not been prohibited to enter Portuguese territory
- have no indication of non-admission in the Schengen information system
- have no indication of non-admission in SEF’s information system
- be absent of any requirement that might disqualify you for a visa
Portugal self-employed visa requirements
- Self-employment visa application form.
- Passport valid for three months longer than the duration of your stay
- Two passport-sized photos
- Valid travel insurance
- Proof of legal stay if applying from a country other than your country of origin
proof of having sufficient means to support yourself during your stay, or a term of responsibility signed by a Portuguese citizen or resident
Additional requirements for independent workers may include:
(1) Proof of owning a business entity (e.g., a limited liability company, sole trader, etc.), or having a contract for providing services
(2) Declaration by a competent authority that you are qualified to take up employment in your work sector, when applicable
Additional requirements for entrepreneurs:
- proof that you have made investments
- Proof that you have sufficient financial means in Portugal and intend to make investments in the country
- A declaration by the IAPMEI that your business is in an incubator if you apply for a startup visa
How to apply for a Portugal self-employed visa
Start your online application at the SAPA portal. However, you can only use this portal if you are already in Portugal or have a Portuguese IP address. Alternatively, you can also visit the consulate/embassy of Portugal in your country.
#8: Croatia Digital Nomad Visa
Just like the Czech Republic, the cost of living in Croatia is also very affordable. Zagreb and Split are the two hotspots for digital nomads with an Internet speed of 23 MBPS. Croatia announced their digital nomad visa last August however, they do not have the framework for the application process yet. I will make sure to update this post with all the information. It should be ready by early 2021.
Croatia COVID travel update [November 2020]: To enter Croatia as a tourist, you need to have a negative COVID test done 48 hours prior to arrival. You will also need to do a 2-week quarantine. After that, you need to do another COVID test in Croatia. After receiving a negative test locally, travelers will need to contact a local epidemiologist to clear be cleared from self-isolation.
#9: Dubai Digital Nomad Visa (Virtual Working Program, 1 year)
Going back and forth to my home and Asia and Latin America, I’ve frequented Dubai, and man, the tourist visa is not that easy! In my first application, I applied for the visa twice and in the second one, I needed to do it three times! Dubai is a hub for a lot of Filipino workers (non-digital nomads) and some of them stay illegally. With this, the tourist visa application for Dubai has been really difficult for us. And also very costly!
The good news is Dubai’s one-year virtual working program is now available for everyone! Dubai is a first-world country and their Internet is really good, however, they have a high cost of living. According to my friends who live here, if you have a job in Dubai, it is so easy to maintain your lifestyle but if you are earning outside of Dubai, it can be challenging. Physical work in Dubai pays a lot. Since tourism is 90% of their economy’s income, the majority of physical jobs include construction (hotels), and hospitality. You can also live here with your family but you need to prove that you are financially capable. This virtual working program is valid for one year. The visa cost is $287 USD.
Dubai digital nomad visa requirements
- Passport with a minimum of 6 months validity
- Health insurance (UAE approved companies only)
- Proof of employment from your employer with one-year validity.
- A minimum of $5,000 USD per month salary stated in your bank statements for the past 3 months
How to apply for a Dubai digital nomad visa
You can apply online by clicking this link. I already got in touch with them and they respond very fast! They also answer all questions accordingly so you won’t have any problems with connecting with them. I am currently editing my video about the virtual work visa in Dubai so stay tuned!
#10: Costa Rica (Residency Visa, 1 year)
Costa Rica may not be my favorite country but you can surely have a different experience. The cost of living in Costa Rica is pretty high but people from all over the world still choose to be based here for the tropical weather. Costa Rica is definitely a surfer and nature lover’s favorite!
Santa Teresa is where all the digital nomads go, mostly because it has a 14 MBPS Internet speed. The average monthly cost of living is at $2,500 USD per month but rent should be as cheap as $450 USD per month.
See also: The best things to do in Costa Rica
Costa Rica residency visa application requirements
- $2,500 per month income for two years
- a Criminal Background Check from where you lived in the past 3 years
- Birth certificate (apostilled)
- Completed application form
- A letter to the Director of Migracion (Spanish)
- 2x passport photos
- Visa fee of $50 USD + $200 USD to change your visitor status to resident
- Registry documents
For a more detailed post, refer to Jenn and Matt’s article about how to apply for a residency visa in Costa Rica.
#11: Barbados Digital Nomad Visa (Barbados Welcome Stamp, 1 year)
Although Barbados is not something you’ll think about when looking for a place to move to, Barbados is a beautiful country and has lower COVID cases. If you can work anywhere as long as there is Internet access, Barbados is a beautiful country to explore. The cost of living in Barbados is pretty high though.
Their new program for digital nomads called Barbados Welcome Stamp allows digital nomads to work and live in the country for 12 months. The application process is pretty straightforward as you can do it online!
Barbados digital nomad visa application requirements
- Passport sized photograph
- Photocopy of the bio data page of the passport
- Visa fee of $2,000 USD
How to apply for a Barbados digital nomad visa
Complete your application process online here.