what HR needs to know

Digital nomads are those who combine work and travel, using technology and the internet to connect from anywhere. This work/travel formula is not new but, after the success of remote working during the pandemic, and now that the borders have reopened, more people want to try it.

While technology has made remote work very accessible, historically the immigration status of digital nomads has been a trickier issue, with many working without immigration clearance from whatever beach they choose. This is because most countries only offer work visas when the employee is sponsored and employed by a local company, guaranteeing that they will receive a minimum wage and meet certain skill requirements. This doesn’t always work given the transient nature of digital nomads, who are often self-employed and don’t need or want a sponsor forcing them to work in one place.

However, countries like Dubai, Italy and Brazil saw this as an opportunity. Dubai was one of the first countries to offer a remote work visa, giving top earners the chance to work for their employer remotely from Dubai for up to one year. It wasn’t long before Brazil and Italy followed suit, offering similar visa routes. But why?

Digital nomad visas tend to be relatively cheap and easy to apply for, and reduce the likelihood of illegal work. Often issued for limited periods, they are also a practical palliative for immigration policy – ​​allowing an influx of potentially high-earning individuals to provide a quick and rapid boost to the local economy, without cutting jobs. valuable to local people.

So what should employers do if their employees ask if they can apply for a digital nomad visa? Before saying yes to this request, you must understand what the law says in the country of destination. For example, although the employee may be eligible to work remotely from Portugal, you should check how their salary should be taxed to ensure they do not fall under Portuguese tax and social security requirements. Employees working remotely can benefit from Portuguese labor rights (such as the right to disconnect outside normal working hours) from day one, regardless of what their employment contract stipulates. Other considerations include whether there is a requirement to register the employee with local authorities, whether there are any cross-border data transfer issues, and what the minimum health and safety requirements are.

If you decide to allow it, you need to have clear processes in place so your employees know how to apply for a visa and when it needs to be done. Will the visa be entirely the responsibility of the employee to organize and pay? Will they need a letter of support from you?

In most cases, the employer will have no obligation to inform the Home Office in the UK that an employee is working remotely. But you may want to inform your staff of any impact remote working may have on their right to work in the UK: if an employee is working on a UK visa, the time spent outside the UK can prevent it from setting in. here permanently.

Alex Christen leads the business immigration team at Capital Law

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