About Author: Hi, I’m Jessica Suess, an Aussie who moved to the UK for studies and ended up on a global journey as a freelancing digital nomad. I’m recently settled in Brazil, navigating finances and sharing what I have learned. See My Full Bio.
If you are considering traveling abroad while working remotely, then you have probably heard of digital nomad visas (DNVs). You may be less clear on what exactly they are, who is eligible to apply for a DNV and your rights and responsibilities as a visa holder.
In this article, I’ll give you a general overview of how digital nomad visas work. I’ll talk about the standard terms and conditions that you can expect in most cases, some of the implications of traveling on a DNV, and how to apply.
If you are looking for countries that offer digital nomad visas (there are currently around 60), then check out our article listing all the countries that currently offer DNVs.
What is a Digital Nomad Visa
Digital nomad visas are specifically designed for remote workers who want to work for an employer (or themselves) based in one country while living in another. The visa lets workers live in a country as long as they continue to draw their income from overseas. The visa does not allow the holder to work for employers or clients in the country where they will take up temporary residence.
Countries offer this visa to attract wealthy workers to spend their foreign income in the local economy as a type of long-term tourist. Some countries also see this as an opportunity to attract experienced tech workers to stimulate local innovation.
The exact terms and conditions of digital nomad visas are set by individual countries, but a fairly standard template has evolved. This is what I’ll be talking about below, but always check the specific rules if you are thinking of applying.
When looking for these visas, remember that they are rarely officially called digital nomad visas. They will often be a variation of a long-stay visa or will have a special name such as a White Card (Hungary) or a DE Rantau (Malaysia)
How Long are Digital Nomad Visas?
Most digital nomad visas are granted for an initial period of between six months and two years. Most are then renewable for at least another term if you continue to meet the criteria.
Many countries cap renewals at the point just before you become eligible for permanent residence. This is to ensure that the DNV is not a pathway to citizenship. But other countries are letting their DNV become a pathway to permanent residence, and eventually citizenship.
If you want to renew the visa after the initial period, you often have to show that you were resident in the country for a substantial period while holding the visa. This is often 180 days per year.
What Are the Digital Nomad Visa Requirements for Eligibility?
The main eligibility criteria for most digital nomad visas is that you have a job with income coming in from another country that you can do remotely.
Some countries will also stipulate that you must work in the digital or technology sectors. However, this is often interpreted quite broadly. It will include programmers and cybersecurity specialists, but also social media managers and online content creators.
Some countries also require you to prove that you are highly skilled. This usually means a relevant qualification or proof of sufficient work experience.
Minimum Income Requirement
Digital nomad visas come with a minimum income requirement to ensure that you will have sufficient funds to support yourself. The minimum income is usually specified in the terms and conditions of the visa and is often a multiple (for example 2.5 times) the local minimum or average wage.
Most digital nomad visas allow you to be accompanied by family members, specifically your spouse, civil partner, and dependent children. Their applications will be appended to yours and you will need to provide proof of your relationship (e.g. marriage certificate or birth certificate).
In most cases, this pushes up the minimum income requirement. While this varies, you can expect around a 30% increase per person.
The majority of countries require that you demonstrate that you have comprehensive health insurance valid for that country to cover yourself and all of your family members for the duration of your proposed stay.
Clean Criminal Record
Most countries require that you show proof of a clean criminal record for all applicants. These will usually need to cover everywhere you have lived for the past three to five years and must be certified with an Apostille.
In many cases, you will need to have this document translated into the local language. While the embassy or consulate in the country where you are applying will probably accept documents in the language of that country, you may also need to give this document to the local police when you arrive to obtain your residence permit. For this, it needs to be translated into the local language.
Right to Reside
Increasingly, visa applications require that you prove that you have the right to reside in the country from which you are making the application. For example, if you are applying for the Hungarian DNV at the Hungarian Embassy in Canada, you need to prove that you currently have the right to reside in Canada.
Your Rights on a DNV
Once you receive a digital nomad visa for a certain country, you have the right to reside in that country for the period specified by the visa. In theory, the visa can be revoked at any time if you cease to meet the requirements.
Your visa should be multi-entry, so you can leave and return. You should be able to sign contracts and open a bank account. School-age children should have the right to attend public school.
However, you do not have the right to seek employment or work in the local economy. You also don’t have the right to local healthcare benefits.
Implications of Traveling in a Digital Nomad Visa
The biggest implication to consider when traveling on a digital nomad visa relates to your tax status.
Under international law, if you stay in a country for more than 183 days you become a resident for tax purposes. So, before this time, you are required to pay income tax on the money you earn in the country where your employer is paying you. But when you become a tax resident, you become liable to pay tax on your international income in the country where you are living.
This often leads to issues of double taxation since, in most cases, you continue to be considered a tax resident in your home country or previous country until you have been away for at least one full tax year.
Many countries have double taxation treaties to avoid exactly this problem. But countries negotiate these on an individual basis. You need to research whether there is a treaty to cover you, and you will probably need the assistance of an accountant to manage your taxes. Some digital nomad visas do include a tax exemption for visa holders to circumnavigate this problem.
How to Apply for a Digital Nomad Visa?
While some countries have created online portals to facilitate digital nomad visa applications, in most cases you will have to apply at their closest embassy or consulate, just as you would for any other long-term visa.
Make an appointment, pay the non-refundable application fee (which can be nothing or as much as USD 3,000), and attend your appointment with your application form (downloaded from the embassy website) and supporting documentation.
In most cases, you will get the result of your application within one to three months.
In many cases, the visa allows you entry into the country, but you have 30 days after arrival to report to a local office to apply for a residence permit. There is usually another small fee for the emission of a residence card.
Ready to Travel?
While every DNV is different, the above is what you can expect from most digital nomad visas. While the required documents and application process can seem complex, these actually tend to be highly accessible visas for remote workers who want to stay somewhere for more than the standard 90 days permitted by most tourist visas.
If you are looking for a DNV for your dream destination, don’t forget to check out our list of countries that offer digital nomad visas.