Costa Rica Joins in Digital Nomad Opportunities

More businesses are saying they won’t return to an office as more countries like Costa Rica join in extended stay visas for digital nomads.

March 2, 2021

By: Bobby Casey, Managing Director GWP

The ramp up continues in the digital nomad space! This is very exciting for myriad reasons. I love that countries around the world and even cities within the US are getting on this train.

Things were already slowly trending in this direction anyway, prior to the pandemic. The pandemic just gave all this a kick in the pants. Businesses that were once reticent to allow remote work, are doing so in order to stay open. Businesses that had flexible hours are now becoming even more flexible.

Companies like Spotify will never return to the office again! Remote work is like homeschooling. It’s not that the social aspect has been taken away, it’s that the distracting aspects have been taken away. And socializing can happen at appropriate, scheduled times that make sense and enhance the work or educational experience.

Once the dust settles and the politicians finally let go of the fear-mongering, sales people can still make calls on their clients and meet up with them. Team members can still get together on a quarterly basis or at the office now and again.

There are some people that do operate better in a more institutional environment. And those jobs will still be around. There are also companies who let go of their lease rather than their talent and don’t miss their lease or the ancillary expenses like utilities and equipment.

The isolation and mandates were and are economically destructive. Remote or flexible, working conditions became the inevitable work-around.

Benefit #1: The Great Work-Around

When government response first rolled out every single business had to find a way to work around the mandates, and ever-changing regulations.

Restaurants had to pivot to take- away. Retailers had to pivot toward e-commerce and curb-side delivery. Office workers had to convert to virtual models where their employees work from home. These were the immediate responses by businesses around the world and the US where and if possible.

As we moved from “two week to flatten the curve” to stay home until all sickness is eliminated, people started to push the envelope. Young folks returned home to their parents so they weren’t alone all the time. Families moved away from their office hubs to more affordable suburbs. And now that it’s gone on for nearly a year, people are leaving the states and countries!

Hospitality was hit hard. No tourism, then very restricted tourism. And then countries dependent on tourism found the perfect work-around: visas! Tourist visas appealing to people who would come on a short vacation didn’t make sense. The hassle and effort wasn’t worth it. But redefining tourism as short-term residency and inviting people to stay longer than a tourist, did make sense when people were no closer to going back to an office.

Country after country jumped on the opportunity to be a destination of choice for the newly emerging market of digital nomads!

So from 30 day tourist visas to 6 month-2 year temporary residence visas! To be fair, that wasn’t so much a viable option before as working remotely was not popular enough to warrant it. But now, if whole corporations are saying good-bye to the office life, then this might very well become a fixture for as long as remote work does.

The benefit here is getting more than a few days to enjoy another corner of the earth. It provides a test run for people considering expatriation. And many of these new programs include options for families, not just individuals.

With this becoming more normalized and more widely adopted, people at much younger ages will become much more worldly. Net positive for humanity!

The list continues to grow as more countries join in on this trend. The latest is Costa Rica. It’s still up for a final vote, but they are looking to offer up to two years:

Government legislators recently introduced a bill called the “Law to Attract International Workers and Remote Service Providers,” which would allow digital nomads and their families to live and work in the Central American country for up to 24 months.

Here are a few highlights from the proposed legislation:

  • Individuals must earn at least $3,000 USD per month; families at least $4,000 USD per month.

  • Must provide private health insurance coverage for themselves and family members while in Costa Rica.

  • Not required to pay Costa Rican income tax or make contributions to the country’s social security program.

Benefit #2: Streamlined Business Models

Nothing says gains like reducing costs and making a profit. It’s like getting a raise, but also reducing your bills; or exercising, and reducing caloric intake. The change in the bottom line both in productivity and savings is tough to walk away from.

Another growing list is businesses who won’t be returning to the office in the foreseeable future (if at all!). In addition to Spotify, these other companies won’t bother returning: Facebook, Okta, Shopify, Slack, Square, Twitter, and Zillow.

New businesses will likely form and model themselves with as much flexibility as possible. They will start off on a cloud rather than a server. They might not even bother getting office space at all.

Benefit #3: Streamlined Work Models

Just like companies aren’t looking forward to paying for rent or utilities, individuals aren’t looking forward to commutes and daily face-time with coworkers. That work-life balance will be realized in a way that will make and has made people far more productive.

Here’s the real kicker: according to a recent article from USA Today, 30% of working professionals would quit if they were asked to return to the office even after a vaccine is rolled out!

Remember when snacks in the break room and bringing your dog to work was the cool perk that drew in talent? Now it’s absolutely flexibility. Without a doubt, people don’t want to commute. They don’t want to “people” unnecessarily. They don’t want to be rooted into one place with only two weeks of reprieve in the form of PTO.

They like having lunch dates with their kids or spouses. They like low mileage on their cars, saving money on gas, and saving time from commuting.

Dolly Parton recently received some backlash for an ad she did for Squarespace. She did a take on her hit song “9 to 5” but instead sang “5 to 9”. The ad was talking about people turning their online side hustles into fully realized businesses to escape the dreary corporate office life.

The criticism was that she was somehow romanticizing the idea of two jobs and ignoring the struggles those people have. Nothing could be further from the truth. She was romanticizing the idea of people pursuing their dreams.

This is the direction the world is headed in. People are jumping headlong into virtual business models! And this is just the transition we are witnessing. Multiple streams of income is the future, and that’s as it should be.

Benefit #4: Open Global Marketplace

Now that this is a flashing neon light on every business’ radar, I’m expecting them to run with it. This is how they will compete for talent and mind share.

As visas become easier to get, and as people start to warm to the idea of these relaxed policies, so too will they open up to the idea that jobs whether you’re hiring or applying can be location independent.

People will be coming and going to the point where borders will hopefully become a more tepid issue… like having a driver license. It’s paperwork, but it’s no big deal.

I’m hoping to see a reduction in nationalism. American jobs are whatever jobs Americans get… wherever they get them.

I think all of this amounts to a bunch of roses grown from the thorn bush of the pandemic. A lot to look forward to in the coming months and years. As businesses and individuals optimize their life models, and navigate around government regulations and intrusions, so too are they building freer lives for themselves overall.

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