- Bali and Costa Rica launched their long-awaited “digital nomad visas” this summer.
- They reach dozens of countries in hopes of attracting virtual workers to boost the local economy.
- Three digital nomads from Ghana, the UK and Canada gave Insider insight into the application process.
Bali and Costa Rica have recently joined the growing list of countries offering residency visas specifically for remote workers, also known as “digital nomad visas”.
Before the pandemic, the term digital nomad was fundamentally at odds with the corporate 9-to-5 crowd. Now, tourism-dependent countries are hoping the new wave of remote workers with consistent paychecks will create a source of business economical more reliable.
This is the case of Sean McNulty, CEO and founder of the asset management company XIB International. The 38-year-old Canadian has been living and working remotely from Bermuda with his wife Jana as part of the island’s digital nomad program since November 2020. He told Insider that they plan to live on the island for at least three years older and were planning to raise a family there.
After applying through the program’s website, the couple were approved “within a week,” McNulty said, adding that working in finance likely helped their application as Bermuda seeks to diversify economic activity across the country. island.
Applicants must pay a $263 fee, provide proof of off-island employment, and demonstrate they can afford the local cost of living.
“The lifestyle and work-life balance here, I don’t think you can beat that anywhere in the world,” McNulty told Insider. “If you’re just a good human and having fun, it’s hard not to be happy here.”
Benjamin Rogers, a 23-year-old marketer from the UK, told Insider he was in the process of applying for a temporary residency visa in Mexico. He said he plans to work overseas without permission from his current employer, but hopes to keep his job with the company. Applicants must be earning around $2,600 per month to apply.
Once in Mexico, Rogers said he plans to stay at Airbnbs in different parts of the country and create content for his travel blog, The Lonesome Wanderer.
“It feels like we’re on the brink of the 60s, but with less acid and more Microsoft teams,” he told Insider, adding that he sees the digital nomad community as a “movement” that values creativity.
For 35-year-old music blogger Osei Kojo Enoch, working remotely from abroad was more of an economic necessity than a lifestyle option.
“You really have no choice because unemployment in Ghana is a very serious thing,” he said. “The reason I started [a virtual business] was the result of not finding a job after graduating from school.”
After launching his website from Ghana, Enoch said he wanted to work in a country with better electricity, better internet access and clean water. However, his travel options were severely limited by his West African passport, he told Insider.
“Unlike people in the West who can just take their passport and travel to any part of the world, people from places like Asia and Africa, almost anywhere you go, you will need ‘a visa,’ Enoch said.
Last year, Enoch applied for the Dubai Remote Worker Visa, a program which was launched in 2020. He said he chose Dubai because of the city’s infrastructure, security, weather and the absence of personal income tax.
To be eligible, applicants must show proof of employment for the one-year duration of the visa with a minimum monthly salary of $5,000. The entire application process took a total of six weeks, according to Enoch.
“I needed better opportunities in life, that’s what brought me to Dubai, and I also love to travel,” he said. “It’s like killing two birds with one stone.”
Even with a Dubai work visa, Enoch said he was still unable to travel outside the UAE due to his Ghanaian passport, which he says resulted in a UK tourist visa being refused. .
The experience prompted him to apply for the Malta Digital Nomad Visa, which allows travel within the Schengen Area – a region containing 26 member countries of the European Union where travelers can move freely without having to face the border control. For this, he called on Citizen Remote, a start-up that offers digital nomad visa consultation and assistance.
Enoch said he paid a total of €2,800 in fees throughout the application process, which he described as much stricter in terms of vetting compared to Dubai. However, Malta’s digital nomad scheme only requires a monthly income of €2,700, which is about €2,300 less than Dubai’s monthly income requirement.
Despite the growing overlap between digital nomads and influencer territory, Enoch warned that the lifestyle isn’t always as good as it looks on social media.
“It gets very lonely,” he told Insider. “In my year of working in a coworking space, I really haven’t been able to make a lot of friends…a lot of people come in and they don’t tend to live in that place for long.”