What Is a Digital Nomad Visa—and 10 Exotic Places You Can Work With One

Want to get away while you get down to work? Use a digital nomad visa to work remotely from locations around the world.

I’m writing this article in my pajamas with my legs tucked under the covers, a cup of coffee by my side. I haven’t been in an actual office in years. Apparently, I’m not the only one. The pandemic made remote work mainstream: According to a June 2022 report from McKinsey and Company, 58% of Americans have the opportunity to work remotely at least once a week, and 35% can work from home five days a week. Unsurprisingly, some countries around the world are trying to capitalize on this shift by offering a digital nomad visa to remote workers.

Call it a pandemic silver lining, or just good luck. Either way, it’s an opportunity for remote workers to get the job done while exploring far-flung locales. Sound right up your alley? The pandemic isn’t over, so remote work is still the name of the game—and may even be here to stay. Make sure you understand these work-from-home tips (focus is key), and then read on to learn everything you need to know about getting a digital nomad visa. If you’re looking to make an even bigger change in your work life, check out some recession-proof careers worth pursuing.

What is a digital nomad visa?

A digital nomad visa makes it possible for people to legally work remotely from outside their home country. Unlike a tourist visa (which has a short time limit) or residency visa (which is open-ended), a digital nomad visa covers remote workers who want to stay in a country for more than three months, says Tim Leffel, a digital nomad who has interviewed more than 100 expats in his long career as a travel writer. In other words, with a digital nomad visa, you can get paid by your U.S.-based company while working remotely from Costa Rica over the winter.

These visas generally target workers who can perform their jobs from anywhere in the world, says Patrick Ward, the founder of NanoGlobals, an expert-led platform that helps tech companies tap into global markets. Many come from the technology sector—think software development and other in-demand jobs. But since digital nomads just need a laptop and internet connection to get the job done, they’re often in careers such as digital marketing, content creation, e-commerce and web design.

Why are some countries offering digital nomad visas?

Digital nomad visas have surged in recent years, bolstered by a tech sector that has, thanks to the pandemic, embraced a remote-first working style. Many countries find these highly educated workers—and their relatively high incomes—attractive. After all, bigger earners tend to be bigger spenders. And the influx of digital nomads is helping support tourist numbers that have been lagging since the pandemic, Ward says.

“With increasing mobility to the tech sector, along with a number of start-ups embracing ‘hiring talent regardless of location,’ digital nomadism is a trend that is likely to continue, and the countries that can capitalize on the trend stand to benefit significantly,” he says.

Of course, as we know from the work-from-home boom, tech workers aren’t the only ones who can do their jobs remotely. Writers, web designers, artists, marketers and consultants (among others) can all become digital nomads. And they, too, can boost these countries’ economies by working remotely there.

How long does a digital nomad visa last?

The length of a digital nomad visa varies from country to country. On average, they last 12 months, but some are good for six or nine months, Leffel says. You can often extend your digital nomad visa at least once.

Before you set out, make sure you have everything you’ll need to be successful working from home.

How do you get a digital nomad visa?

Applying for a digital nomad visa is no different than applying for a regular, nonresident visa for a particular nation, Ward says. Digital nomad visas may have requirements regarding proof of income or employment, insurance and the ability to provide for yourself and your dependents. There’s generally a minimum income level you must meet, and sometimes there’s a background check to see that you don’t have a record. You’ll also have to sign a statement saying you won’t be working for a local employer.

The application is more involved than a straightforward tourist visa, but the idea of digital nomad visas is to make it relatively easy for mobile workers to do their jobs from anywhere. After all, the countries encouraging these programs are looking for a source of visitors and potential economic activity, Ward says.

So, where exactly do you get one of these applications? In most cases, you need to apply for the digital nomad visa at immigration (or occasionally online) in the country after arriving on a tourist visa and showing that you meet the criteria to obtain the visa, Leffel says.

Which countries offer digital nomad visas?

digital nomad visaAnnika McFarlane/Getty Images

While it’s not clear who hosts the most digital nomads, more than 40 countries have either launched a digital nomad visa or announced that they’ll have one in the future. (The United States isn’t one of them.) Here are some places where the digital nomad visa is up and running.

Grenada

Length of stay available

One year, with the option to renew for an additional year

Additional perks

You can save a lot of money while working from home, but to save even more, move to Grenada. You can work from the beach and live super inexpensively, especially since you won’t be paying any income tax the entire time you’re there. As a bonus, when you get a digital nomad visa in Grenada, you may bring your spouse and any dependents under the age of 18.

Cayman Islands

Length of stay available

Two years

Additional perks

The Cayman Islands boast a high quality of life, and English is the official language, so there’s no need to download Duolingo for your trip. Plus, getting a visa is quick and easy: You’ll apply online, and the process takes four weeks or fewer. As an added perk, you may bring your extended family with you when you get a digital nomad visa in the Cayman Islands. Yes, that means you can bring your spouse, kids, parents, stepparents, grandparents and even half-siblings. It’s like a mini vacation on top of the nine-to-five.

Barbados

Length of stay available

One year, but you can reapply for an additional visa

Additional perks

Live the island life while working remotely by spending a year in Barbados. To qualify for a digital nomad visa here, you must make an annual income of at least $50,000. The application fee is $2,000 (note: it’s nonrefundable), and the process is super fast: You’ll be approved within a week.

Dominica

Length of stay available

A year and a half

Additional perks

This small Caribbean island offers plenty of reasons to stay and play while you work remotely. Let’s start with the fact that the cost of living in Dominica for one person is about $1,000 monthly—an apartment costs about $450 per month. Admittedly, the internet tends to be slow (about 43 megabits per second), but many service providers offer high-speed internet. (You can test your internet speed to get a baseline for what you’re used to at home.)

The visa comes with plenty of perks: There are duty-free concessions when you import your items to the country, an income tax waiver and the ability to get a driver’s license here. You can bring your family over on your digital nomad visa, and your children can enroll in state-owned and private schools.

Portugal

Length of stay available

You can get a D7 visa, which is designed for stays of 12 months or longer.

Additional perks

Spend the year working remotely from Portugal and explore not only this gorgeous country but other must-see European cities. You must earn at least 8,460 euros (about $8,473) annually to qualify. Once you’re in, you can open a bank account, rent property and have visa-free access to the rest of the Schengen region of Europe. In other words, sign up for a D7 visa in Portugal and you can travel visa-free to Spain, France, Belgium, Italy, the Czech Republic and 20 other countries.

Greece

Length of stay available

One year, with the possibility to extend

Additional perks

Living in Greece is very affordable, with a one-bedroom apartment in Athens averaging $500 per month. You must apply in person at a Greek embassy or consulate, and there is an application fee of 75 euros ($75), plus an administration fee of 150 euros (just over $150). To qualify, you’ll need to earn a minimum of 3,500 euros (about $3,505) per month. You’ll know quickly if the country approved your application: It’ll be approved within 10 days.

Malta

Length of stay available

One year

Additional perks

It costs only 300 euros (about $300) for a digital nomad visa for Malta, though the cost of living here is about the same as it is in the United States. But you get the added benefit of living on an island in the Mediterranean Sea. It takes around 30 days for the government to send approval after you’ve applied for the visa. That’ll give you plenty of time to get a passport if you don’t have one already.

One thing that’ll increase your chances of acceptance is making sure you meet the income requirements: You must make at least 2,700 euros (about $2,704) per month to be eligible. Apply at any consular office of Malta (you can’t apply online).

Panama

Length of stay available

This is a permanent residency permit.

Additional perks

Between Costa Rica and Columbia, you’ll find a country with a vibrant city, rainforests and the sort of history and outdoor activities that’ll keep you busy whenever you’re not working. And you don’t ever have to leave.

You’ll need a local lawyer to help with the process of applying for a digital nomad visa in Panama, but if you’re approved, you get some major perks: Dependents over 18 can come with you if they have a disability or if they’re enrolled in a college in the country. You may work remotely or for a company in Panama. With this visa, you become a permanent resident of the country and may become exempt from paying taxes in the United States.

Costa Rica

Length of stay available

One year, with a potential 12-month extension

Additional perks

Living in Costa Rica is its own perk: When you’re not working, you can explore rainforests, beaches and the local wildlife. Need more reason to get a digital nomad visa here? You’ll have tax exemption from income originating outside of Costa Rica. To qualify for the visa, you must have a minimum monthly income of $3,000 and proof of health insurance. Your application will be approved within 14 days, and you may apply online.

Mauritius

Length of stay available

One year, renewable for another 12 months

Additional perks

Scuba diving, white sand beaches and a bustling capital city? If your answer is “yes, please,” Mauritius is the remote work location for you. This island in the Indian Ocean (it’s off the east coast of Africa) allows people with a digital nomad visa to enter and leave as often as they want. Apply online for free, and in 48 hours, you’ll see if you’re approved. You must earn a minimum of $1,500 monthly and have a ticket for a return flight from Mauritius. (Looking to book now? Here’s the best time to buy flights.)

If you spend more than 183 days here, you become a tax resident and must pay taxes.

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Danielle Braff
Danielle Braff regularly covers travel, health and lifestyle for Reader's Digest. Her articles have also been published in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Boston Globe and other publications. She has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and a master's degree in musicology from Oxford University in England. Danielle is based in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and two children. See her recent articles at www.Daniellebraff.com. You can follow her on Facebook @Danielle.Karpinos, Twitter @daniellebraff, and Instagram at danikarp.