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I’ve been a digital nomad for more than three years, so it’s safe to say I know a thing or two about digital nomad visas.
Even in 2020, there still aren’t any official digital nomad visas, but there are plenty of ways to get long-term visas for digital nomads in a variety of countries around the world.
This guide will help you do it.
- Short vs. long-term visas for digital nomads
- The legal gray area of the digital nomad lifestyle
- Schengen vs. Non-Schengen Visas
- 9 countries with long-term visas for digital nomads
- Visa do’s and don’t’s
- What to do if you overstay your visa
- Outsourcing the visa process
- And so much more!
If you’re ready to ditch the office and build a location independent lifestyle, this digital nomad visa guide has everything you need to know.
Short vs. Long-term Visas for Digital Nomads
Even if you’ve traveled abroad a lot in your life, you may not be super familiar the visa process because most countries allow most citizens to enter for short periods of time without them.
It’s only when you want to start living abroad for months or years at a time that you’ll find yourself up against the all-knowing and all-powerful visa-issuing agencies.
Luckily, there are still some countries where you can stay up to a year without getting a visa (nice!) and I’m going to share them below.
But, unfortunately, you’ll need to jump through some hoops and complete a lot of paperwork if you want to get a digital nomad visa in most places around the world.
The Legal Gray Area of the Digital Nomad Lifestyle
Is it legal to be a digital nomad?
Well, kind of.
Because this lifestyle is so new, most countries don’t really know how to legislate laws around digital nomads and taxes and visas and all that fun stuff yet.
So, for now, old laws remain in place that just don’t really address it.
For example, you’re not really supposed to work and make money when you’re in countries on a tourist visa, but that’s usually only referring to working in the country – ex. working as a bartender or tour operator – rather than making money online.
I mean, anyone with a salaried job is getting paid vacation, so they’re basically all digital nomads when they travel because they’re making money from a foreign company while abroad. It’s not illegal for them.
So, where to draw the line?
Most countries haven’t decided yet.
They want the income that comes from digital nomads living and working in their countries so, for now, most of them turn a blind eye on the digital nomad communities and you can rest assured you’re not going to be deported for it – probably – any time soon.
Schengen vs. Non-Schengen Visas in Europe
Ah, the lovely Schengen Zone. If you want a digital nomad visa in Europe (and you’re not an EU citizen) you will quickly become familiar with the Schengen Zone.
It encompasses most of the EU and allows travelers to stay in it for 90-days at a time. Total.
So, if you’re in Germany for 30 days, you can’t move to France and reset your visa because they’re both Schengen countries. And there are a lot of Schengen countries.
This is a big reason why most digital nomads move to Asia, South America, and Eastern Europe instead because the visa laws in Western Europe are so strict.
This guide to the best Non-Schengen Countries for Digital Nomads breaks down absolutely everything you need to know about the Schengen Zone and ranks all 20 Non-Schengen countries in Europe based on visas, cost of living, infrastructure, and safety.
9 Countries with Long-Term Visas for Digital Nomads
This list of countries with long term visas for digital nomads covers ones where you can stay at a minimum for one year and at maximum, well, the rest of your life. The options vary from freelance visas for digital nomads to passive income visas to working holiday visas and much more.
Even better, these visas are available in nine different countries across four different continents and will help you settle down in:
- Costa Rica
- the Czech Republic
- and two bonus countries!
So, if you’re sick of jumping from country to country every 90 days, keep reading because these nine long term visas for digital nomads may be right for you.
1. Germany Freelance Visa for Digital Nomads
Visa Duration: Up to three years.
Germany offers both an Artist and a Freelance Visa for digital nomads.
If you’re interested in the Freelance Visa in Germany this article shares a lot of helpful information including what you need to apply, what to expect from the process, and much, much more.
The Freelance Visa in Germany is a popular visa for digital nomads because it gives you a way to sidestep the strict Schengen Visa requirements that only allow 90 days of travel in the entire Schengen zone (aka most of the EU) in every 180 day period.
Plus, Berlin is one of the cheapest capital cities in Western Europe and just a really cool place in general. I spent Christmas in Berlin and loved it, and now I’m seriously considering putting in the work for this Freelancer Visa as well.
Explore unique stays on Airbnb – like this converted water tower in Berlin – and the top-rated hotels on Booking.com to plan your stay in Germany, or check out the top food, culture, and outdoors experiences in the country. I personally love Berlin, but cities like Munich and Frankfurt offer two great (but totally different) experiences as well.
2. Estonia Digital Nomad Visa
Visa Duration: One year.
The Estonian long term visa for digital nomads is currently in the works but not available quite yet.
I emailed the Estonia Ministry of Interior in October 2019 and they told me that ‘Our goal is to achieve acceptance of a law by the end of 2019 and implementation of the visa during first half of 2020.’
When it does, the Estonian digital nomad visa will be more than just a freelance visa in Estonia.
For example, it will be different from the Freelance Visa in Germany because it won’t require you to pay taxes in Estonia. Instead, it will just ensure that you are paying taxes to someone, somewhere.
The Ministry of Interior also told me that it will allow digital nomads to work and travel in Estonia for one year (no word on if there will be an option to extend it) and that ‘Digital nomads can only come to Estonia through trusted intermediaries, who will also be responsible for the digital nomad.’
All visa fees, background checks, and proof of sufficient means that other Estonian visas require will be required for this digital nomad visa as well. And finally, to get it, you’ll need to make your way to an Estonian Embassy because they won’t be available online.
I’m following this story closely because I would love to snag one of these babies soon, and I’ll update this section as the Estonian digital nomad visa becomes available in 2020.
3. Australia Holiday or Working Holiday Visa
Visa Duration: One year with the option to extend to a second.
The Australian Holiday Visa is pretty chill, just like most things in this country.
The visa allows visitors to travel in the country for one year and the Working Holiday Visa even allows you to work with Australian companies for up to six months per company.
Some important things to note for this long term visa for digital nomads is that you can only apply if you’re between the ages of 18 and 30. Additionally, if you want to extend your Working Holiday Visa to two years you’ll have to work for three months in rural Australia… something I doubt that many digital nomads want to do!
If you’re interested in this option, you can find more information about Australian visas here. Canada also offers a similar Canadian visa program that you can explore.
Explore unique stays on Airbnb – like this modern dome house in Sydney- and the top-rated hotels on Booking.com to plan your stay in Australia, or check out the top food, culture, and outdoors experiences in the country!
4. Costa Rica Rentista Visa
Visa Duration: Two years with the option to extend it.
Costa Rica is one of the closest places to paradise that you can find on earth today.
The country has generated 98.53 percent of its electricity from renewable sources over the past four years and they were even named the happiest country in the world by the Happy Planet Index.
Luckily, long term visas for digital nomads in Costa Rica aren’t too difficult to obtain. The Viva Tropical website shares a lot of helpful information about the Rentista visa, but the basic requirement is that you need to show proof of a steady income while you live in Costa Rica.
How much? At the moment, it’s $2,500 per month.
Explore unique stays on Airbnb – like this geometric tree house – and the top-rated hotels on Booking.com to plan your stay in Costa Rica, or check out the top food, culture, and outdoors experiences in the country. Some popular expat havens in Costa Rica are the Guanacaste region on the coast and the mountainous Central Valley area.
5. Thailand Hand to Hand Combat Education Visa
Visa Duration: One Year
Most digital nomads staying in Thailand have to make visa runs out of the country every 90 days. If that’s not really your thing you should consider the Hand to Hand Combat Education Visa in Chiang Mai.
This visa costs 35,000 baht / 1,000 usd (steep, I know) but comes with some perks.
First, you actually get to learn hand to hand combat every week which sounds pretty cool. Plus, they’re flexible about missing classes for travel and help you with the required immigration appointments every 90 days.
On the downside, you’ll have to be based in Chiang Mai instead of Bangkok or on the islands, but on the upside, I spent 3 weeks in the country and Chiang Mai was by far my favorite place. Learn some self-defense and get one of these long term visas for digital nomads, what’s not to love about the situation?
Explore unique stays on Airbnb – like this jungle chalet in Chiang Mai- and the top-rated hotels on Booking.com to plan your stay in Thailand, or check out the top food, culture, and outdoors experiences in the country.
6. Residency Visa in Svalbard, Norway
Visa Duration: Lifetime
This is by far my favorite long term visa on the list because Svalbard is an incredibly interesting place.
First of all, their official website states that “Polar bears are common in Svalbard, and it is not advisable to travel outside Longyearbyen [the largest city] without a proper firearm for self protection.” I have to admit, I’m intrigued.
Svalbard is a set of islands that sits far north of where any sane person would ever choose to live. The average temperature in the summer is 41 degrees Fahrenheit and they have 24 hours of darkness from mid-November to February.
Oh, did I mention it’s one of the most expensive places in the world?
Who in their right mind would want to go to Svalbard and, more importantly, who in their right mind wouldn’t?!
The official Svalbard site shares a lot of important information about the visa and the main requirement for entry is simply proving you can afford to live there.
As I said, I was intrigued so I decided to check out some Airbnbs in the area. Honestly, they’re not as expensive as I thought and this nice house will only run you $1,500 a month.
7. Mexico Temporary Resident Visa
Visa Duration: One year with the option to extend annually up to four years.
The Mexico Temporary Resident Visa which is one of the best options on this list and one that Dan and I have talked extensively about pursuing in 2020.
Mexico City is one of our favorite places (explore the complete Mexico Series to see why) and as we enter year four of the digital nomad lifestyle the prospect of getting an apartment in the lovely Condesa neighborhood with this Mexico Temporary Resident Visa is mighty tempting.
Mexico’s tourist visa requires visitors to leave every six months, but you can get around that with the Temporary Resident Visa. It allows you to stay in the country for one full year and even extend it up to three times for four years total.
Some things to note, though: you need to get it before you come (you can’t change your visa status after arrival) and you will need to show proof of a certain amount of income before you’re approved. This helpful article about the Mexico temporary resident visa shares many more details on the topic.
Explore unique stays on Airbnb – like these light-filled lofts in Mexico City – and the top-rated hotels on Booking.com to plan your stay, or check out the top food, culture, and outdoors experiences in Mexico. I love living in Mexico City, but other popular spots to check out are Oaxaca and the coastal cities like Puerto Vallarta.
8. D7 Passive Income Visa in Portugal
Visa Duration: One year, but can be renewed for two-year periods after that.
The D7 Passive Income Visa from Portugal is similar to the Rentista Visa in Costa Rica because the main requirement is that you must show proof of sufficient income to live in Portugal, whether that income comes from inside the country or not.
This is an attractive visa for digital nomads looking for a really long-term solution because you can apply for permanent residence in Portugal after five years if you can pass a Portuguese language test. You also don’t have to pay taxes to Portugal on your foreign income (although, I’m sure it’s complicated to iron that out) if you play your cards right.
And finally, it’s freakin’ Portugal. Sunny, warm, beach-lined, beautiful Portugal. What’s not to like about settling down here for a few years?!
This guide to the Portugal passive income visa will help you get a better understanding of what’s required and start the application process on the right foot.
Explore unique stays on Airbnb – like this camper you can #vanlife around the country with – and the top-rated hotels on Booking.com to plan your stay in Portugal, or check out the top food, culture and outdoors experiences in the country.
Thanks, Rhiannon for sharing this visa in the comments so I can share it with our readers!
9. Zivno Trade License Freelance Visa in the Czech Republic
Visa Duration: Somewhat unclear – various sites say it must be renewed after 6 months, 8 months, or one year, but after that, the renewed visa will last at least one year and can be as long as two years.
The Long Term Stay Business visa costs $217 at the moment and requires proof of at least $5,600 for your year-long stay. They also need proof of accommodation, an affidavit that you’ve never committed a crime, and more stuff in a long list of Czech long term visa requirements that I stopped reading because it was technical and boring.
This interview with a teacher on the freelance visa breaks it down into much more manageable prose and explains how she got the visa (you have to apply inside the country, and then leave to finish the process at an embassy outside of the country), how much she paid, how to renew it, and more.
Explore unique stays on Airbnb – like these cozy houseboats on the Vltava River- and the top-rated hotels on Booking.com to plan your stay in the Czech Republic, or check out the top food, culture, and outdoors experiences in the country. Start your trip in the popular (and absolutely gorgeous) city of Prague.
Thanks, Chris, for sharing this visa in the comments so I can share it with our readers!
Bonus: Georgia and Albania Tourist Visas
Visa Duration: One year
When ranking the best Non-Schengen countries for digital nomads, I discovered something crazy: both Georgia and Albania offer one-year tourist visas! That means you can show up in either country and stay for an entire year without any paperwork, fees, or other annoying shenanigans.
Out of all 20 Non-Schengen countries that I rated based on safety, internet speed, visa length, and cost of living, Georgia came out at the very top of the list along with three others. If you go, you’ll also quickly discover that Georgian cuisine is some of the best in the world.
If going through the motions with all the visas above seems like a little too much commitment for you at the moment, consider making a one-year move to Georgia or Albania on their super simple tourist visas instead.
Digital Nomad Visa Do’s and Don’t’s
When you dive into the wonderful world of digital nomad visas, keep these visa do’s and don’t’s in mind.
Do: Thoroughly research a country’s visa policy before you book a flight. Snagging a last-minute flight to India and then getting turned away at the gate because you needed to get a visa from an Indian embassy weeks in advance is no fun.
Do: Be patient with the visa process. As with any bureaucratic government process, getting a digital nomad visa going to be slow, so don’t put it off until the last minute.
Do: Stay organized. There’s going to be a lot of paperwork like background checks and payment receipts. Keep it all in one place and make a checklist to make sure no crucial steps get forgotten!
Don’t: Overstay your visa. That can lead to fines, deportation, and even permanent bans from the country. More on that below.
Don’t: Rely on a third party visa company without thoroughly vetting it. There are plenty of visa scams online today and you don’t want to waste money and time with a fraudulent visa company.
What to do if you overstay your digital nomad visa
The best way to avoid issues with overstaying a visa is to just not do it, but you (probably) won’t rot in prison for the rest of your life if you accidentally do.
First, you should research the country’s laws so you know what to expect and how to fix the situation.
Second, try to rectify the situation immediately. Immigration and border patrol officers will be a lot more lenient if you make a mistake and overstay for a few days than if you blatantly overstay for weeks or months at a time.
Third, be ready to spend money. Because you’re going to have to spend at least some money to make this problem go away.
Fourth, be remorseful. Even if you’re not sorry, you should definitely at least pretend like you are.
Fifth, and finally, take your punishment like a champ. You did break the law, after all, so pony up what they ask you to pay or high-tail it out of there if they ask you to leave to prevent the matter from escalating any further.
Outsourcing the Visa Process
Last up on the digital nomad visa guide is outsourcing the visa process.
If moving to Georgia or Albania on a tourist visa isn’t appealing to you, then a long-term visa for digital nomads is going to take some work.
Luckily, there are companies that will happily take on that work for a fee.
I haven’t personally used one but this article on visa services compares some of the top options online today to help you get started. Though not listed in it, I know iVisa is becoming a popular choice as well.
Just make sure to read reviews and testimonials for any visa service you choose so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises when it comes time to go through immigration!
The Complete Guide to Long-Term Visas for Digital Nomads
I travel as a freelance writer and at the moment I’m enjoying my location independence and our ability to move wherever we please every few weeks.
However, I know there are also negatives to traveling full time and securing a long term visa as a digital nomad definitely has its perks.
If you’re on the market for somewhere more permanent to settle down for a bit, this list of nine countries with long term visas for digital nomads includes freelance visas for digital nomads, passive income visas for digital nomads, and much more, and will help you find the perfect place!
Ready to go? Take the leap, buy that ticket, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!
This article is part of the Digital Nomad Series. Read the rest below:
Then, explore the complete Long Term Travel series for more insider tips on making the transition to a location independent lifestyle.
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