- Digital nomads combine remote work with travel – often for long periods of time.
- It’s a trend accelerated by the pandemic that dates back to the 1980s.
- Countries continue to woo digital nomads – who often have to pay fees or demonstrate they have enough money to support themselves – to prop up economies.
- There’s a clear winner for South Africans looking for a working island getaway without shelling out a fortune. But several European countries, and Georgia, also have tempting proposals.
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Digital nomads are people who work remotely while traveling. And increasingly, countries are offering digital nomad visas to foreigners to attract wealthy long-term visitors and bolster economies.
Although Covid-19 has reinvigorated digital nomadism, it’s a trend that’s been around for some time. Popular computer magazine refers to the term in the early 1980s. As technology improved and corporate policies relaxed, it became the domain of more than the rogue startup founder or restless writer.
Internet is full of not–then–humble boasts of people who have left office jobs to check off countries while working remotely in paradise. But its rapid acceleration and popularity in the wake of Covid-19 is not without controversy. Full-time residents of popular digital nomad destinations repel against foreigners crowding cafes and bemoaning the joys of cheap rent – often in towns where many residents cannot afford the same luxuries.
Even so, governments continue to woo digital nomads by offering specific visas that allow visitors to earn income in their home country — and then, between Zoom calls and Slack updates — pump in some of that currency. foreigner in the local economy.
And although the South African passport is notoriously weak, some countries are still open to local digital nomads who can meet specific requirements. At the center of most applications is a standard visa for the country or region, on top of which you can stack a long-stay, temporary residence or digital nomad visa.
While terms, conditions, and eligibility change frequently, here are a few destinations worth investigating if you fancy making your co-workers back home look down on you even more:
Anguilla is an idyllic British Overseas Territory in the Eastern Caribbean that includes the main island and several islets. The destination was one of the first to introduce a digital nomad visa program in 2020 called “Lose The Crowd Find Yourself. Work. Life. Bliss”. It allows eligible visitors who encounter a multitude of requirements and pay a fee of R34,000 to live and work from Anguilla for three to 12 months.
The Bahamas offers a extended stay visa called BEATS, which allows digital nomads to work remotely from its 16 islands for a year. Applicants must be eligible to enter the Bahamas or have the required visa, pay a small application fee, and provide medical insurance and proof of employment. Successful applicants must then pay R17,000 to receive the digital nomad visa.
Bermuda allows those who meet specific conditions to apply for a Bermuda Labor certificate. Remote workers must prove their employment or business registration, funds to support them for a year and pay an application fee of R4,500.
Costa Rica offers a temporary residence visa called Rentist. Application fees are low and allow visitors to stay for up to two years. Successful applicants must meet various requirements, including demonstrating a monthly income of R43,000.
Croatia is a popular tourist destination for South Africans, and some options are available for those wishing to stay longer and work remotely. You will have to meet Croatia visa entry requirements for South Africans, then submit an application for temporary stay that meets specific requirements. You can expect to pay upwards of R3,500 in submission and administration fees.
The Czech Republic offers a entrepreneurship visa for those “who intend to run a business or be independent, statutory body or member of a statutory body of a company”. Applicants must complete several steps, including an in-person interview with the consulate and proof of financial means. This allows digital nomads and other freelancers to stay in the country for up to a year.
It is possible to live and work in Dubai for up to a year under its new virtual work program. Applicants must have valid health insurance in the UAE, employees must show proof of employment of R85,000 per month and business owners must show proof of a business of one year or more with a minimum income of R85 000 rand.
The Estonia digital nomad visa allows successful applicants to stay in this country for up to one year. Applicants must have valid health insurance, provide proof of at least R60,000 and pay a visa fee of R1,700.
For some time, South Africans have been able to enter Georgia without a visa and stay there for up to a year. Although Georgia launched its Far from Georgia digital nomad program during the pandemic, this does not appear to have significant benefits or changes to the existing relationship with South African visitors.
Germany offers a three-month residence permit for self-employed and freelancers, often referred to as the German Independent Visa, which can be extended for up to three years. South Africans must apply for a visa at a local German consulate, travel to the country, and then submit additional documents for a residence permit.
Greece now offers a new digital nomad visa which allows people, including the self-employed, to live and work in this country for up to one year. Applicants must submit proof of at least R60,000 income per month. If the first year goes well, digital nomads can apply for a digital nomad residence permit valid for two years.
Malta has launched a nomadic residence permit which allows digital nomads to live and work in the archipelago for up to a year. The permit is open to people who generally require a visa to enter Malta. It requires proof of a gross monthly income of R46,000, valid travel documents, health insurance, background check and property rental agreement.
Mauritius offers a Premium Visa encourage foreigners to visit the island as long-term tourists. The visa is valid for one year, is renewable and costs nothing. Successful applicants are not eligible to enter the Mauritian labor market, primary income and earnings must be outside the country, and they must provide basic documentary evidence to support the application.
from Mexico temporary resident visa allows successful applicants to live and work remotely in that country for up to one year. There are several requirements for passing, including demonstrating economic solvency of R725,000 earned in the previous 12 months or a monthly income of R44,000.
Norway allows digital nomads to live in this country for up to two years under its independent entrepreneur visa. Applicants must provide proof of a business outside of Norway and earn at least R610,000 per year, among other requirements.
from Portugal D7 Residence Visa is intended for those who wish to obtain a residence permit in Portugal. It allows successful applicants to stay in Portugal for one year, can be renewed for successive periods of two years and can be converted into a permanent residence permit five years later.