Digital nomads have a growing number of options before them with new countries getting on board with programs to cater to this emerging market.
January 18, 2021
By: Bobby Casey, Managing Director GWP
Remote work has become a very strong trend in white collar work forces. The pandemic gave employers little choice but to let their employees work from home. It’s doubtful all offices will reopen and go back to the way things were.
Digital nomads are somewhere between tourists and residents, and that is proving to be a lucrative work-around for some industries hurt most by the government response to the pandemic.
I was talking about this with someone and their first response was to call it a Nomad’s Resort. The starters of this venture call it a Nomad Village. Either way, it sounds great!
I’m talking about the latest in digital nomad programs: Madeira, Portugal.
Madeira is an island of Portugal’s, and has been named Europe’s Leading Island Destination at the World Travel Awards for seven out of the past eight years. On the southern coast of Madeira island is Ponta do Sol. This town has an approximate population of 8,200, and is 43.3 sq km.
We’ve shared some opportunities for digital nomads in the form of various visas and residency programs, but I must say this is one of the more comprehensive options I’ve seen.
This program is rolling out in phases. Phase one launches on February 1st and runs through Jun 30th in Ponta do Sol. The goal is to have several of these types of “villages” established in different rural areas in Madeira.
It will offer:
A free work space with a desk and chair,
Access to a Slack community
Free internet from 8am to 10pm daily at the John do Passos Cultural Centre in the village center.
It will also host and put on fun events for the nomads. All of which happens at their community center.
As for accommodation, there is a commission free service through Startup Madeira that connects interested parties with hotels and home rentals in the area. With a Schengen visa, you can be working from a beautiful island with access to the rest of the EU.
This is just one of the many countries getting in on the digital nomad market. Greece, Dubai, and Mexico have all jumped on this bandwagon. If you’re a nomad, all that’s changed is more stuff has been introduced to the buffet.
Greece just passed a bill for a new Digital Nomad visa about a month ago. This seems to be the work around for travel because while there are restrictions on American tourists, the same restrictions don’t apply to these visas. Unlike Portugal, they are not looking to the Schengen visa to do the residency legwork.
Obviously, the hospitality industry around the world has taken a mighty blow. They are looking to this new wellspring of longer term travelers to help out. I’m heartened to see these governments working together toward this sort of solution.
Greece will likely have a website up and running for this new offering. Whereas Madeira was looking for people to stay from one to three months, Greece has their sights on years. Seven years to be exact. They are offering 50% off income taxes for the first seven years of digital nomad status.
According to their calculations, Greece gets more from gainfully employed individuals staying longer than a tourist than they would from income taxes. And let’s be honest: nomads have their pick of where to go. Why choose a place with high taxes?
Speaking of taxes: Dubai levies no personal income taxes, and they are offering a sort of “extended visa” to cater to digital nomads as well. You wouldn’t be eligible to get a job in Dubai. But this is great for people who can work remotely either for their employer or for themselves.
Personally, I’d take up this visa just to ride on Emirates Airlines. Have you seen what they’ve done to their international carriers? That experience alone is everything! But if you’re going to go through the process to get this “remote work visa”, you might as well get as much as you can out of the year it allows for.
What you’ll need:
Proof of $5000 gross per month income along with bank statements (this is a lot like applying for a mortgage in the US)
If you’re not self-employed, then a letter from your employer confirming employment and income
Proof of health insurance for the year
Dubai is remarkably cosmopolitan. As one person describes it: it took every great thing from around the world and got one of their own. They are rich in culture; hotels and restaurants everywhere, and a fantastic infrastructure allowing for high speed internet.
Internet is an important feature and often a deal-breaker for digital nomads. Greece might not have the same speeds as Portugal and Dubai, for now.
Mexico has 6 month tourist visas as well as Temporary Resident visas for those intending to say more than 6 months and less than 4 years. The four year visa is accomplished through a series of extensions offered to those who initially qualified for the Temporary Resident visa.
This Temporary Resident visa allows unlimited come and go privileges, and requires a minimum $1945 gross monthly income to qualify. You must apply and pre-qualify through the Mexican consulate in your country first. You then go to an immigration office within 30 days of arrival in Mexico to exchange your temporary visa for the longer term one.
It depends where you are, but definitely investigate how the internet is wherever you’re looking to touch down.
Much like Dubai, there isn’t any formal process to find a place to hang your hat while you’re in Mexico. Dubai has a considerable mount of hotels there. In fact, it made the top ten list of “Cities with the Most Hotels in the World”.
In both cases you’ll have to make arrangements for where you will go when you get there so you can then make arrangements on where you plan to stay once you get your bearings.
US Folks Looking for Another State?
After this last round of political nonsense, I’m sure some folks are looking at bringing down that cost of living and getting the most out of their remote working arrangements. These cities are among the most affordable in the US, and they are looking for folks to move there as if they were a suburb to your job.
If you’re looking for a permanent or a temporary switch, check out some of these guys:
Northwest Arkansas: Offering up to $10,000 and the choice of a free mountain bike or museum membership. You’re looking at life backed up to the Ozark Mountains. It’s not large city life, but it’s beautiful rural small town life.
Savannah, Georgia: offering up to $2,000 in relocation costs to remote tech workers.
Tucson, Arizona: They want to draw folks of any industry. They offer up to $1,500 in moving costs, free trial periods at local co-working spaces, one year of free internet, and they even partnered up with a service to help find your spouse a job if only one of you works remotely.
The Shoals, NW Alabama: This is another $10,000 offering. They pay 25% up front for moving costs. Another 25% 6 months later. And the last 50% installment upon completing a full year there. Basically $10,000 for just being there for a year.
Tulsa, Oklahoma: Another $10,000 grant for remote workers to move to Tulsa. Similar to The Shoals, the grant would be paid out incrementally over a year.
Topeka, Kansas: This city is offering $10,000 toward a down payment on a house or $5,000 toward a lease on an apartment.
No matter where you wind up, keep your eyes out for incentives and special visas that will help you meet your life goals.
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