As national economies across the globe suffered during the recent lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a new form of visa was introduced to boost national incomes. Working remotely using a computer and internet connection has swiftly become an attractive way of life for many people who enjoy the freedom of working when and, more importantly, where they want. Working remotely means that a person is no longer tied to an office or fixed location but can literally travel the world and generate income while doing so. To cash in on this new form of working and worker, many countries introduced a Digital Nomad Visa or a variation thereof.
What is a Digital Nomad?
A digital nomad should not be confused with a remote worker. Working remotely usually involves being employed by a single company and working out of the firm’s office on a number of days per week. Many remote workers work out of their own home office, although, for some, it is possible (and preferable) to use a nearby cafe, library or public place with internet access. A remote worker, however, is tied to one specific employer and one location, be it a small town or a large city.
These restrictions do not apply to digital nomads as they are free to roam where they will as long as they deliver the finished product (usually an article or piece of web content) on time. This means that a digital nomad will usually work for a number of companies (although this is not always the case) and is free to complete assignments anywhere in the world they desire as long as deadlines are met and contracts are fulfilled. Many digital nomads make a good living despite the associated costs of travel and accommodation. Still, it is primarily the freedom to travel that is the main driving force in choosing this lifestyle.
Digital Nomad Visa
Depending on the country, a digital nomad visa may be called something else. Common alternative names are Self-Employment Visa, Remote Working Visa and Freelancer Visa, but, whatever the name, these all perform the same basic function. These visas allow the holder to live temporarily in a country while being employed and working remotely for a foreign-based business.
Just as the visa name may vary, so can the conditions and restrictions that are applicable. In most cases, holders of a digital nomad visa:
- Are limited in the type of work that can be done
- Must be employed by a foreign company
- Cannot apply for work in the host country
- May not be eligible for state benefits such as medical care
A digital nomad visa is almost identical to a standard Schengen Tourist Visa but with the added benefit of earning an income while in the country. Another major difference is that it is usually possible to exceed the typical 90-day out of 180-day limit that applies to most Schengen visas, as the validity period can range from six months up to two years with a possible extension if required.
Eligibility for Digital Nomad Visa
Different names and different criteria may apply in different countries, but applicants for a Digital Nomad Visa will usually be required to:
- Demonstrate ability to work remotely by showing contract(s) and/or samples of work
- Prove the employer is based abroad
- Have enough funding to cover the entire intended stay
- Satisfy a minimum level of monthly income
- Supply accommodation plans for the stay
- Have an adequate level of health insurance
- Come from a country eligible to apply for a Digital Nomad Visa
- Have no criminal record
Very few countries currently practise any coronavirus restrictions, but this is subject to change at any time, and visa applicants should be aware of the vaccination requirements as they apply in the destination country.
Required Supporting Documentation
When applying for any visa, it is always necessary to provide supporting documents to prove that all criteria are met and regulations followed. This is also very much the case when seeking a Digital Nomad Visa, and the following will usually be requested:
- Copy of current, valid passport
- Copies of any relevant travel documents or visas
- Proof of employment by a foreign entity
- Proof of ability to carry out remote work
- Proof of income and finances for the duration of the stay
- Copy of adequate health insurance coverage
- Proof of rented accommodation or place of residence
- Police statement showing a clean criminal record
- Documentation showing onward travel or plans to return home, such as airline tickets
While all of these are fairly standard requirements, they may not be all the documentation that is necessary for a successful visa application. All Schengen visa applications can be lodged a maximum of three months before the first day of travel, and all documentation requirements should be thoroughly checked at this juncture as changes can occur almost overnight.
A Digital Nomad in the United Kingdom
Some, but by no means all, European countries operate a Digital Nomad Visa system, and these include some of the most popular tourist destinations.
Currently, the scheme is available in these countries: Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Portugal, Hungary, Greece, Germany, Italy, Malta, Iceland, Spain, Norway and Romania.
Citizens of a European Union or Schengen Member state are allowed to work in any of the other member states, while others will require some form of visa to enter, remain or work within the Schengen-EU borders.
At this moment in time, the United Kingdom does not operate a Digital Nomad Visa scheme. Digital nomads are viewed as freelancers and self-employed and must obtain another form of visa which covers these areas.
The Choices Available
High Potential Individual Visa – Limited to foreign nationals who have successfully graduated from a recognised top overseas university in the preceding five years, a High Potential Individual Visa permits the holder to seek or obtain work in the United Kingdom or become self-employed.
Global Talent Visa – Foreign nationals deemed to be outstanding talents in the areas of academia, research, arts, culture, or technology may apply for a Global Talent Visa, which, when granted, allows the holder to work or become self-employed and remain in the UK for up to five years.
Start-Up Visa – A Start-Up Visa is designed specifically for self-employed people with a proven track record who wish to begin a business in the United Kingdom.
Innovator Visa – Foreign nationals wishing to set up a new and innovative business will require an Innovator Visa as well as a good command of the English language and sufficient funding for the planned enterprise.
Skilled Worker Visa – A Skilled Worker Visa only applies to digital nomads who are employed by a UK company and allowed to work within the United Kingdom because of the employer’s sponsorship.
While it is possible to work as a digital nomad in the UK with one of these forms of visa they are not easy to acquire, and the simplest route is via a UK Temporary Worker Visa.
UK Temporary Worker Visa
A Temporary Worker Visa will allow the holder to work during a stay in the UK but only for a limited amount of time. Applications are made in the usual fashion, and there are a number of areas of employment to choose from:
- Charity Worker
- Creative Worker
- Seasonal Worker
- Government Exchange Worker
- International Agreement Worker
- Religious Worker
These visas are not ideal for everyone as each requires an applicant to have a UK sponsor and meet specific financial criteria. If, however, an applicant is mainly employed by a British concern, then this may be the simplest and quickest route available.