The pandemic has brought with it the opportunity to work remotely and the desire to reside somewhere pandemic-free. And with tourism-dependent countries desperate to replace lost dollars, a flood of digital nomad visa programmes has hit the market in recent months, extending the portfolio of opportunities offered by the global citizenship and residency by investment industry.
Barbados was the first country out of the digital nomad blocks, in July, when it unveiled its Barbados Welcome Stamp. Designed to attract remote workers to stay (and work remotely) on the island visa-free for up to 12 months, the Caribbean island nation (which doesn’t deliver a formal CBI Programme) has already secured some 1,100 applications since July.
Since then, there has been a tsunami of other countries worldwide launching similar initiatives.
Caribbean island nation Antigua & Barbuda, which already delivers a highly successful citizenship by investment programme, upped the global mobility ante in September, launching a digital nomad visa lasting up to two years. This followed Bermuda’s foray into the digital nomad visa landscape with its announcement in August of its Work From Bermuda one-year residential certificate.
The latest places to roll out the red carpet for global remote workers are Dubai and the Cayman Islands, the former offering a one-year visa allowing workers and their families to stay for up to 12 months, providing they earn a minimum monthly US$5,000, and the latter delivering its brand-new Global Citizen Concierge Program (GCCP), giving remote workers the chance to live on the Caribbean island for up to 24 months.
But it’s not just in exotic locales and on tropical islands where the digital nomad visa is being rolled out. Small countries in Europe have also jumped on the remote-working residency bandwagon, targeting remote workers with coronavirus blues and money to spend.
In August, tech-centric Estonia opened applications for its Digital Nomad Visa (DNV), which allows up to 1,800 foreigners to reside in, and remotely work from, the Baltic nation for up to 12 months; while the same month, Georgia, one of the world’s safest (Covid-free) countries, officially debuted its digital nomad visa programme. Aptly named ‘Remotely From Georgia’, it allows citizens of 95 countries (including the otherwise travel-banned countries of the US, UK, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Russia and Canada) to work in the country remotely for a year.
And word on the digital nomad street is that Croatia is set to follow suit with its own temporary residential programme.
These programmes may all have different names, demand different requirements and deliver different duration periods, but ultimately, they offer the same.
Designed to tap into the digital flexibility being offered by today’s businesses (remote working), these programmes invite foreigners (be they self-employed or employed with the ability to work remotely), to reside in, and work from, their respective countries – to enjoy their climates, hospitality, laid-back lifestyles and cultures.
Because what the countries offering these digital nomad programmes have in common is that they have managed to handle the pandemic both quickly and efficiently, making them attractive propositions especially to remote-working HNWIs in hard-hit regions such as the UK, Spain, Italy, France, Brazil, India and the US.
As Antigua’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne explained during the unveiling of the twin-island nation’s Nomad Digital Residence programme, “Antigua & Barbuda is in a unique position to offer the Nomad Digital Residence programme because, with our very low fatalities from Covid-19, very small number of active cases and our effective system of containing community spread, our country is one of the safest environments in the world.”
He’s not wrong. Antigua has had just 122 cases and three deaths. Barbados has reported 224 cases and seven deaths, Bermuda 188 cases and nine deaths, and the Cayman Islands, just 236 cases and one death. Even the harder hit European countries like Estonia and Georgia have fared better than most, with 4,247 and 22,800 cases and 71 and 178 deaths, respectively.
What they also have in common is that they are all popular tourism (and expat) destinations, and with tourism having ground to a halt, these tiny tourism-dependent countries are all looking to replace their lost financial gains as well as market themselves to the world.
According to Antigua’s PM Gaston Browne, the foreigners who take advantage of Antigua’s digital nomad programme “will rent accommodation, lease motor vehicles, shop in supermarkets, eat in restaurants, visit places of entertainment, and help to… aid the economy” and this offers “an opportunity for the country to earn some of the money that we have lost from the decline in the tourism sector that has affected everyone”.
And for the takers, in addition to year-round sunshine, swaying palm trees and a laid-back lifestyle, they are guaranteed a safe environment and great broadband (Barbados, for example, boasts higher broadband speeds than the UK, according to Speedtest Global Index).
According to the Bermuda Tourism Authority, “the island has the fastest ‘true’ Fibre offering of any other country across the Caribbean” and the island’s “connectivity up to 500Mbps speeds, and available WiFi mesh technology, in particular, allows for all-over coverage so there is no worry about spotty service”.
So, as an alternative to the long-established citizenship and residency by investment programmes, which have also seen a surge in interest since the pandemic started, the digital nomad visa is characterised by its residency-only condition, professional status (self-employed and/or remote workers), duration (from six months to two years maximum, depending on the programme) and minimum monthly salary requirements.
And rather than giving traditional residency by investment or citizenship by investment programmes a run for their money, such programmes can only add to the diversity of the global mobility visa/permit/passport industry that is thriving in the current coronavirus circumstances.
And who knows? They may even lead to such countries offering more permanent citizenship by investment programmes. Watch this space.
DIGITAL NOMAD VISA PROGRAMMES
THE CAYMAN ISLANDS: Global Citizen Concierge Program (GCCP)
What: Launched October 21, this program offers travellers the opportunity to work remotely, alone, with their spouse and/or children in the Cayman Islands for up to two years via its GCCP Global Citizen Certificate
Processing cost and time: US$1,469 for up to two persons, plus US$500 per dependent pa.
Requirements: Applicants must provide a valid passport, proof of employment with a non-Cayman Islands firm, notarised bank reference letter, proof of health insurance coverage and have a minimum household income of US$100-180,000 and will be subject to background checks.
The case for the Cayman Islands: Located in the western region of the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands offer a tropical climate with year-round sunshine, along with breathtaking beaches, a laid-back lifestyle, state-of-the-art healthcare facilities and cultural diversity.
To apply: Apply by clicking here
BERMUDA: Work From Bermuda
What: Unveiled August 1st, this is a one-year residential certificate allowing foreigners and their family to work remotely from Bermuda for a year as long as they have sufficient proof of funds to support them. It can be extended for a second year, but with a new application.
Processing cost and time: US$263 per applicant and takes five working days.
Requirements: Applicants must have ‘substantial means and/or have a continuous source of income’, a clean criminal record, a valid passport, demonstrate employment with a legitimate company or own company outside of Bermuda,
The case for Bermuda: Internet speeds are as blazing here as its year-long sunshine and the island offers direct flights to the US, Canada and London, among others. Considered the ‘shipwreck capital’ of Atlantic with 400+ wrecks and ringed by coral reeks, it’s one of the world’s greatest diving destinations. Though tiny, there’s lots on offer, from the sprawling pink-sand beaches, to its lush golf courses.
To apply: Apply by clicking here
BARBADOS: Barbados Welcome Stamp
What: Introduced in July, this Stamp allows foreigners and their families to work remotely from the island for one year with visa holders able to leave the island and return as often as they want during the 12-month period. They will not be subject to Barbados income tax and children can attend private school or public school for a stipend. It can be extended for a second year, but with a new application.
Processing cost and time: US$2,000 per person or US$3,000 per family and takes five working days.
Requirements: They must provide a valid passport, proof of medical insurance while in the country and proof of earning an income of US$50,000 or more for the 12 months resident. There’s also some national security vetting involved.
The case for Barbados: Palm trees, year-round sunshine and blue skies aside, the Caribbean island is mainly English-speaking, already has an active expat community and a robust healthcare system. It also have an excellent education system (99% literacy rate and The World Economic Forum ranks Barbados as having the joint ninth-best schooling system. Even more importantly, Barbados has high broadband speeds that have been ranked above the UK’s. Activities on offer include surfing, scuba diving,
To apply: Apply by clicking here
ANTIGUA & BARBUDA: Nomad Digital Residence (NDR) Programme
What: A further extension of its seven-year-old successful CBI Programme, this initiative launched in September allows eligible foreigners and dependents the opportunity to live, and work remotely from, the island for up to two years. Visa holders will be able to travel into and out of the country as they wish but will have to maintain accommodation in the country. There will be no expectation to pay income tax in the country.
Processing cost and time: US$1,500 for a single applicant, US$2,000 for a couple, US$3,000 for a family of three or more.
Requirements: Will need to provide a valid passport, a certificate of medical insurance coverage for the period of the intended stay, police clearance, evidence of employment, proof of expected income of no less than US$50,000 for each of the two years.
The case for Antigua & Barbuda: If the twin island nation’s 365 beaches (one for each day of the year) isn’t enough to lure you, then the fact the country has the most technologically advanced hospital in the Caribbean and modern medical facilities just might. It offers direct flights (just returning due to Covid) to 26 destinations in 19 countries, including the main cities in the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, Italy and many parts of the Caribbean. Average temperatures range from 22-32C, English is widely spoken and due to its position as an ultra-high-end travel destination, it offers many luxurious resorts, fine-dining restaurants and upmarket facilities.
To apply: Apply by clicking here
DUBAI: Remote Work Visa Program
What: Unveiled in October, this virtual working programme allows international citizens and their family to take up residency (housing, schooling, telecom, utilities, and more) in the Gulf super city in order to work remotely, either as self-employed or remotely for an overseas employer, for up to one year. There’s no personal income tax to pay.
Processing cost and time: US$287 per person plus medical insurance.
Requirements: Passport with at least six months’ validity, health insurance with UAE coverage validity, confirmable income of at least US$5,000 per month with a letter from your employer confirming at least a year on your contract (or evidence you’ve been running your own business for a year) and will need to supply your last three months of bank statements.
The case for Dubai: Daily year-round sunshine with an enviable mix of breath-taking beaches and a dynamic fast-paced city life and a blend of cultures and huge expat community. It boasts a strong digital infrastructure, is a leading entrepreneurial hub and boasts a wealth of top co-working spaces. It is considered one of the safest places to live (little crime).
To apply: Show your interest by applying via this link, click here
GEORGIA: Remotely From Georgia
What: This remote-working programme his allows remote workers (entrepreneurs, business owners and even remote-working salaried employees) to stay and legally work in Georgia. It also lets them circumvent the current Covid-related entry requirements that ban most of the world from entering Georgia right now, with the programme allowing 95 countries to apply.
Processing cost and time: Takes 10 business days.
Requirements: Applicants will need to show a monthly income of at least US$2,000, show proof of health insurance for the duration of your stay, have a valid passport with more time left on it than you intend to stay, and you will need to quarantine for 12 days and at your own expense in one of 19 government-approved hotels.
The case for Georgia: Strategically located between Europe and Asia, with easy access to European countries (direct flights form the capital Tbilisi daily to London, Paris, Athens, Istanbul, Dubai, Berlin), Georgia has a very low cost of living compared to mah European countries. Mobile data and home internet is fast and cheap. Climate reaches highs of 30 in summer and lows of 0 in winter.
To apply: Apply by clicking here
ESTONIA: Digital Nomad Visa (DNV)
What: An extension of Estonia’s e-residency programme, the DNV was launched August 1st and permits non-Estonians who are engaged in jobs independent of location (self-employed or remotely employed) to work remotely in Estonia.
Processing cost and time: 15 days
Requirements: Valid passport. Must provide proof of an active work contract with a company registered outside Estonia or as a partner shareholder or freelancer of global countries. Provide evidence of a monthly income of €3,504 (gross of tax).
The case for Estonia: Renowned as a country immersed in technology, finance and marketing. You will be eligible to travel to other Schengen countries on the same visa
To apply: You must complete the visa application form, available online at the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Click here