Thailand and Bali compete for Southeast Asia’s first digital nomad visa


The popularity of the digital nomadic lifestyle has exploded and with Covid-19 teaching many companies that telecommuting works, it will only increase. Now Thailand and Indonesia are in an idle race to attract these lucrative travelers with the first nomadic digital visa to Southeast Asia. Currently, many people are working online from their beach houses and tropical villas on Thai islands and Bali – in fact, the islands are among the most popular destinations for digital nomads – except the vast majority are technically working illegally. .

Despite the challenges of travel during the Covid era, the digital nomad is the biggest workplace transformation underway today.

A digital nomad is a person who works remotely from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection, not tied to a desk in an office and free to roam around the world. Freelancers often relocate costly economies from their home country to countries that offer cheap livelihoods, reaping the best of both worlds – their country’s high salary and their host country’s low cost of living. .

It has been named the most lucrative and fastest growing migrant worker trend in the digital age by Nikkei Asia. Unlike in the past where travelers and backpackers could score local gigs in low-paying jobs like farming or bartending, digital nomads earn high salaries allowing them to live abroad almost endlessly with more disposable income. higher than the average backpacker.

Most digital nomads flock to Asia on visa waivers or tourist visas that generally do not allow for any type of work. But last month, Indonesia’s Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno kindly spoke of a long-term visa that allowed for work, paving the way for the legalization of the digital nomadic lifestyle.

The tourism minister got the idea when he himself became a digital nomad, taking a vacation from his office in Jakarta to work from Bali and recharge his batteries. But current laws prohibit foreigners from enjoying Bali in the same way. There are 57 overseas surveillance teams looking for digital nomads and arresting them for violating Visa restrictions.

In Thailand, on the other hand, the Center For Covid-19 Situation Administration approved a plan to grant up to 4 years of visas to digital nomads and allow them to work legally. The program is part of the current Smart Visa program created to attract experts in science and technology as well as foreign investors for fields such as real estate and start-ups.

The idea was to attract the best and brightest in emerging fields and technologies to live and work in Thailand. But authorities have been stingy in handing out Smart Visas, with only 625 issued in the past 3 years. Still, the visa construction would be an ideal starting point to reinvent an option for digital nomads, break the floodgates, and allow these desirable tourists to legally live and work in Thailand.

This attractive tourist population of a traveler who can afford to spend money in the local economy for long periods of time is attracting the attention of many countries. Barbados, Dubai and Estonia offer visas to allow digital nomads to work there legally. But Asia has yet to embrace the trend, with freelance online work generally being illegal. Until Thailand or Indonesia or both adopt these plans that they have launched, the work of digital nomads is not eligible for a work visa and any form of work without the proper visa is prohibited.

As Thailand and Indonesia slowly come to terms with the idea and opportunity to legally welcome digital nomads to their countries, no concrete policies or timelines have been announced or endorsed in either country. It remains to be seen who wins the race for Southeast Asia’s first nomadic digital mecca.

Watch our video on the challenges of digital nomads HERE.

SOURCE: Morning Message from South China

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