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US-based remote workers, rejoice! Another country has embraced the Digital Nomad trend and will begin issuing residency visas for eligible foreign nationals, including Americans. If you’ve never heard of this Eastern European country before, allow us to introduce you to the wonders of fascinating Latvia:
One of the most affordable places to visit on the continent is a jewel of the Baltic Sea bordering Lithuania and Estonia and a nation steeped in history and tradition. Although not the most obvious tourist destination, Latvia has grown in popularity in recent years, especially among travelers looking to escape overtourism.
So what exactly makes Latvia such an attractive Digital Nomad destination?
A country that has been an up-and-coming digital nomad hotspot for years
Latvia is a relatively new country. While the Latvian language dates back centuries, the region the Latvian people today call their homeland has existed as a province under several empires throughout history. The most recent example is the Soviet Union, which collapsed in the early 1990s and paved the way for Latvia to declare independence in 1991.
Fast forward 31 years later and you will find a well-developed nation that has managed to shake off the ghosts of its communist past, and despite its proximity to Russia, is now member of the European Union and NATO. Latvia is no stranger to change, and since regaining its freedom, it has constantly sought ways to revitalize its economy.
Riga, its picturesque capital of 632,000 inhabitants, has been a entrepreneurship center for yearsattracting people from all over Europe and beyond due to its very affordable cost of living and low bureaucracy for those starting a business. In fact, the Latvian government is committed to a “zero bureaucracy” policy.
Their goal is to reduce unnecessary paperwork in the public sector and facilitate business prosperity. For this reason, Latvia is at the forefront of the digital revolution in Europe: according to European Commission data, it ranks 17th in the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) , out of a total of 44 European countries and territories.
Without surprise, the launch of a new Digital Nomad Residence Permit is the natural next step moving forward. As we discussed in detail in this other article, solo travel and extended travel are here to stay, now that the pandemic has spurred the digitalization of the economy and remote working is more popular than ever. .
Latvian Visa for Digital Nomads: The Easy Path to EU Citizenship for Americans?
From now on, only citizens and residents of OECD countries (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) will be able to apply for the Latvian Digital Nomad visa. This includes natives of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Turkey, and many more.
The visa allows digital workers, whose companies or companies employing them are registered in OECD states, to live in Latvia for up to two years, without requiring local sponsorship. Additionally, the country will offer apaccess to permanent residence for those applying to stay in Latvia after two years.
After five years of continuous legal residence in Latvia (for example, two years under the Digital Nomad program, then another three years as permanent residence), foreigners are eligible to apply for Latvian citizenshipwhich would grant them EU citizenship to a certain extent, and the right to move freely through whole European Union.
What are the visa requirements?
In order to apply for this visa, digital nomads will need to meet the following requirements:
- They cannot hold Latvian citizenship or other EU/EEA citizenshipor Swiss nationality*
- Their own company or the company they work for must be registered in an OECD country, such as the United States, Canada or Mexico
- They must be highly qualified professionals
- They must prove at least six months of employment with a foreign employer or register as an entrepreneur abroad
- Their monthly salary should be 2.5 times higher than the national average in Latvia**
* EU, EEA (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein) and Swiss nationals already enjoy freedom of movement in Latvia in accordance with the Free Movement Directive, with no other condition than nationality. If you hold a US passport, as well as a European citizen, you can already move freely to Latvia by presenting proof of your other nationality.
**The minimum wage in Latvia is approximately US$521.00 in January 2022, according to Eurostat.
Other requirements, such as completing an application form, presenting proof of compulsory health insurance and visa fee payment can be detailed at a later date once the new visa is officially launched. Essentially, non-Europeans must prove that they are qualified professionals in their field and a stable source of income of at least $1,302.50 per month.
Latvia is the latest European country to issue digital nomad visas, following:
- Croatia (Already launched)
- Italy (Launch planning)
- Romania (planned launch)
- Hungary (planned launch)
Latvia could be the digital nomad capital of the world
Several other EU countries will also open their doors to digital nomads in the coming months, but none have been as generous as Latvia regarding financial visa requirements. The country’s authorities believe that the introduction of this category “helping the tourism industry” by bringing in a “large number” of international travelers working remotely.
Marija Golubeva, Latvia’s interior minister, conceded that countries with a “more open” immigration policy have higher GDP, lower unemployment rates and a “better educated” workforce. In addition to being open to the digital revolution, Latvia has the potential to be one of the world’s digital nomad hotspots.
It is at the forefront of broadband coverage and is already ready for the wider 5G rollout that will take place next year. As the European Commission stated in its latest DESI report, one of Latvia’s “greatest assets” is extremely advanced fast broadband coveragecomprising 93% of the territory – slightly above the European average of 87%.
Latvia has 99.9% 4G coverage and was one of the first in Europe to allocate radio spectrum for 5G once it was fully implemented. This means digital nomads can find a reliable internet connection to carry out their daily work anywhere, from the metropolis of Riga to the idyllic Latvian countryside.
Eastern Europe is our favorite destination to travel to right now, mainly because of its affordability compared to other western states, like France or Spain, and the freedom travelers now enjoy country trips in the region. With few exceptions, the East has no travel restrictions in place – luckily Latvia is part of that collective.
By making Latvia (an EU country) their base, American nomads will enjoy a higher standard of living compared to the United States, an incredible culture and almost negligible levels of crime. As mentioned above, they will also have the opportunity to apply for Latvian citizenship, provided they integrate into Latvian society and demonstrate language proficiency.
More information can be found on the government website.
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Disclaimer: Current Travel Rules and Restrictions may change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm entry of your nationality and/or any changes to travel conditions before travelling. Travel Off Path does not approve travel against government advice