- Mark Johnson
In March 2021, the United Arab Emirates unveiled a one-year residence permit for remote workers, in an effort to attract new talent to the region.
This visa allows foreign professionals like Julian Tremblay, a 31-year-old software engineer from Montreal, to live in Dubai while continuing to work for employers abroad.
This visa also gives newcomers access to a resident ID card and most public services, so for example, Tremblay can legally rent accommodation or even open a bank account, all while being exempt from paying any local income tax.
Tremblay says: “When you became a digital nomad five and a half years ago, there were very few visa options, but now the situation has changed. If you don’t intend to stay in your own country do not live, it is also easy to prove that you have left and that you have become an expatriate.”
Previously, digital nomads often lived in legal limbo as they were not technically allowed to work in a foreign country, nor were they employed locally.
The new digital Bedouin visas create a more stable foundation and introduce a legal framework that gives remote workers and the companies that hire them more peace of mind.
These visas are not seen as a loophole for tax evasion, as most digital nomads still pay taxes in their home countries to maintain citizenship or access public health benefits.
More than 25 countries and territories have so far introduced digital Bedouin visas, according to the New Migration Policy Institute report.
This trend, fueled by the epidemic, began in the small European and Caribbean countries that depend on tourism.
Larger economies such as the UAE, Brazil and Italy are now launching their own initiatives in this area.
For these countries, digital nomad visas are a way to attract new ideas and talent to their shores, as well as take advantage of the growth of remote work to inject foreign capital into local economies.
Meanwhile, the new visas offer digital nomads like Tremblay stability and exposure to the local culture “rather than treating host countries as temporary diversions.”
Requirements for digital Bedouin visas vary from country to country, but usually include proof of remote work, travel insurance and a minimum monthly income, all to ensure that visa holders can support themselves without accepting local work.
The required monthly income varies between $5,000 per month in the United Arab Emirates and $2,770 in Malta or $1,500 in Brazil.
There is also a fee to apply for this visa (ranging from $200 to $2000).
While the length of stay varies from 6 months to 2 years depending on the visa, some applicants can recoup this money through benefits. For example, Argentina plans to offer its new visa to digital nomads with preferential rates for accommodation, co-working spaces and domestic flights with Argentine Airlines.
Luca Carabita, an Italian member of parliament for the Five Star Movement, says Italy is combining the best elements of other digital nomad visas to come up with its own, which will be issued by September at the latest.
In the first year after its issuance, Carrapetta expects the Italian visa to attract 5 percent of the global digital nomad market, which is estimated to be around 40 million people.
“A digital nomad can bring us skills in everything from architecture to different fields of engineering, so it’s a good way to open up our country to outside skills,” he explains.
Karapita also sees this temporary visa as a way to attract younger residents (Italy is the largest in Europe in terms of age) to experience life in Italy to settle in the country. over here”.
In preparation for issuing the new visa, Carrapetta says Italy has spent more than 1 million euros to strengthen IT networks, improve transport and modernize infrastructure in rural communities, all in the hope that the digital nomads moving to those regions drawn in Italy. will help develop their economies.
Meanwhile, cities like Venice and Florence have already developed programs to help digital nomads settle easily once they arrive.
Prithwiraj Chowdhury, whose research at Harvard Business School focuses on the changing geography of work, says the benefits for countries like Italy are enormous.
“Firstly, remote workers spend their consumption dollars in the local economy, and on top of that they also connect with local entrepreneurs,” he explains.
Choudary believes that skills exchange is one of the biggest opportunities for countries, and notes that it will be important for them to try to attract the right kind of digital nomads who can add value to the local community.
He points to the Chilean Entrepreneur Program as a historical example.
Launched in 2010, this program offers cash incentives and visas to foreign entrepreneurs to spend a year in Chile to develop their own startups and mentor local talent.
Back then, Chile’s entrepreneurial market was nascent, and now, a decade later, thanks to an exchange of ideas, Chilean entrepreneurs have launched companies valued at more than $1 billion, including vegan food tech company Nutco, an on-demand -app for grocery delivery. .” Corner Shop”.
“This is a good example of how you can create a business ecosystem if you invite talented foreigners to your country even for just one year,” explains Chaudhry.
“Those who will benefit most from digital nomad visas are from emerging economies or small countries that have traditionally lost talent to larger countries,” he adds.
“Before, companies fought for talent, and now countries and regions also fight for talent,” he said.
Choudhury predicts that larger economies may soon offer visas to digital nomads to stay competitive.
He believes that people who create the best ecosystem for remote workers will reap the greatest benefits.
“You have to help them during the stay by connecting them with like-minded people and like-minded investors, and once they leave, you have to set up a program that allows them to stay connected, to continue to contribute to the community and to constantly come back,” he says.
Digital Bedouin visas may offer many promising opportunities, but they can also create new challenges. For example, they can lead to a rise in the local cost of living, increased competition for resources and the creation of “privilege bubbles,” according to Kate Hooper and Megan Benton, authors of the Migration Policy Institute report.
The researchers cite Bali in Indonesia and Goa in India as examples of centers of attraction for today’s digital nomads, two regions that have faced these problems in recent years. The existence of a class of workers who use local infrastructure and services but pay no taxes on them can also provoke resentment among tax-paying residents.
Some experts also question whether digital Bedouin visas will get much attention in the first place.
“Larger segments of digital nomads still use the 3- to 6-month tourist visa option for various reasons, such as the complexity of applying for digital nomad visas,” said Danesh Soomro, founder and CEO of global mobility database Facebook. io.
Cumbersome paperwork, expensive medical exams and challenges to prove monthly income (especially for those without contracts) can make many digital nomads more likely to just enter as tourists and take a quick “visa tour” across the border when needed, adds Soonro by. Above all, they are wanderers by nature.
After 5 years of entering the world of digital nomads, Tremblay says he is glad to have applied for the digital nomad visa in Dubai. “It feels great to be treated like a local, even if he hasn’t done the local jobs or invested,” he explains.
The software engineer plans to use Dubai as a base for the foreseeable future, that is, until this longtime digital nomad finds his next stable.