many European countries have recently announced extra visa categories to accommodate more startups, freelancers and digital nomads looking to isolate somewhere new. With remote work becoming increasingly the norm (thanks pandemic!), more people are putting thought into where they should base themselves. Is the outragous rent prices worth it for a little box of prime real-estate when nothing is running on schedule?
I am not gonna lie, I am super excited about the positive change towards remote work in the last few years. Seeing more companies and whole platforms geared towards remote workers and digital nomads is amazing.
A lot of the lists you find online are simply that, a list. Any country with any sort of digital nomad scheme seems to be listed in these kind of articles, without consideration to the realities behind the process. When I started writing this article I thought that I would include around 8-10 countries. However, putting the research into some of these schemes I found some things that are big red flags!
Many of the so-called digital nomad visas are often almost impossible to get if you are not a European citizen or a citizen of another English-speaking majority country. Another common incidence is visa-by-investment schemes advertised as digital nomad visas, you will not find those here! So here are 3+1 realistic scenarios for digital nomads to move to Europe.
Digital Nomad Vias - Pros & Cons
Here is my little disclaimer: Traveling the world and the "laptop lifestyle" can LOOK very appealing, but the reality can fall short of the dream if your expectations are unrealistic. Expect to be out of your comfort zone constantly, for people to have different views, ways of communication, or norms than you.
So is this lifestyle worth it? 100%, hands down, no further questions! I have never heard of anyone that has regretted making travel a priority - have you?
Disclaimer #2: Nothing of what you will find below is legal advice (duh!). Do your research, ask other people that have done this before, and follow through to the links below if you need more information on a specific country. Especially at this time, things do change all the time. Anything from border restrictions, or application dates can be very fluid, and with the idea of vaccine passports floating around a lot in European circles, that too may change any moment.
So time for the fun stuff... because yes, as tidious as it may sound planning to move to a different country, it can be a LOT of fun. Let yourself daydream and picture what this new life will be like, you deserve it!
Your requirements for the digital visa sort-through
Having moved to a few countries inside and outside Europe before, these are some of the things that I was looking for in a place before taking the leap. It may be different for you and your circumstances, so make a little list of what you think it's important. Again, you will find a lot of articles online listing a gazillion countries with digital nomad visas, making your own list of requirements will help you identify the strongest players.
- cost of living vs. quality of life (if you haven't seen this amazing tool by Nat Eliason, I highly suggest you check it out!)
- proximity to other places/countries - this is why some smaller/ island countries are a not ideal for digital nomads, if your main reason for relocating is traveling more you will want to consider the cost and proximity of travel to and from the place you chose
- SAFETY (especially around women, and potential issues with being a solo female) - this is super important if you are not moving with someone else.
- Language barrier - I speak both English and Greek, and although I didn't want to settle in an English-speaking country, I prefer places that the language barrier is not huuuuge!
- how many things/sights/places there are to visit outside the main city I would live in - if the last year has taught us anything is plan to have to stay around for a while!
So without further ado, below you will find five European countries that have tuned up their startup visa schemes to attract more digital nomads and satisfy most of the above criteria!
Known for the staggering scenes at Game of Thrones, Croatia has bedazzled millions of travellers in the last few years. They recently announced some changes to their residence permit laws that can accommodate digital nomads from around the world. Being a country in the Balkans, Croatia is a crossroad between east and west, which has led to a lot of conflict in the past. The are a lot of benefits to reap from a startup visa in Croatia, including the proximity to many other parts of Europe and a relatively cheap lifestyle, whether you choose to base youself in Zagreb or smaller towns.
- proof of being a digital nomad
- health insurance that is valid for the entire time of your stay
- background check in your home country
- Croatian address
- Completed application
- Valid travel documents
- proof of having sufficient funds (must show income of 2,700 USD per month or above)
- up to 1 year
- family members can join you
- no income tax while in Croatia
- can't work for a Croatian company
- doesn't lead to permanent residency or citizenship (additional requirements needed)
- Croatian can be quite hard to learn but not needed
More information: Sara has a whole blog dedicated to helping people have a smooth landing in Croatia, check her blog on digital nomad visas here.
Did you know this little gem of the European north is one of the best places for entrepreneurs to be? Boasting a high number of succesful start-ups (including Skype), while also being unofficially crowned the most digital country in the world, working online and living in Estonia will be a lot easier that less digitally-conscious places... stable WiFi is a must right? (Coffee shops around the world take note!)
Granted... if you absolutely cannot stand the cold, you will struggle. But on the other hand, beautiful snowcapped villages, and close to other European gems, such as St. Petersburg, Helsinki, and Riga has to count for something!
- work for a company based outside Estonia
- or freelance for entitities primarily based outside Estonia
- you can apply after being in Estonia already (just make sure you have time for the application to be processed)
- easy, cheap and straight-forward process
- short and long stay options available
- must prove an income of 3,504 euro per month for the six months preceeding your application
- depending on your status and country of origin you might need to pay income tax in two countries (do your research!)
- the cold - or perhaps a pro, I will leave that up to you.
More information: Take this as a good sign... the official website of Estonia on digital nomad visas (and e-residency visas) is definitely the most accurate and up-to-date point to start your research at.
Another great resource to compare between countries is Financially Mint, especially for those thinking of residing in Europe long-term.
By far the most popular choice for digital nomads in Europe, Portugal offers a lot different visa categories that can suit digital nomads. For simplicity we will focus on the D7 visa, that is the one most often quoted as the digital nomad visa equivalent, and allows you to work and travel independently in Portugal without investement.
Portugal offers so many pros to digital nomads and freelancers that is hard to chose a few. It was voted one of the best places for foreigners to live in, and with several different business hubs in Lisbon, Porto, Lagos, or Ericeira, you are sure to find a spot that suits your budget and lifestyle! Surfing everyday anyone?
- for the D7 visa you will need to prove a passive income of more that 7,200 euro for a single applicant per year (differs for couples etc)
- police clearance in Portugal
- for the complete application you can have a look here
- very low passive income requirements compared to other countries
- huge variety of cosmopolitan cities and towns to chose from (compared to smaller countries)
- longer term (2-5 years)
- can be a pathway to Portugese nationality
More information: Being a very popular choice for foreigners, there are a LOT of online brokers that can manage your Portugese visa application. Do your research to compare between fees and services offered, and of course make sure that it is an approved and trusted provider. Otherwise, you can file an application with the Portugese embassy or consulate in your homecountry.
Here is a place you need no visa for! Well... almost. If you ever wanted to live in the polar north, Svalbard, is a Norwegian archipelago where no one needs a visa to visit or to live. Just note, that you will need a firearm to go outside the main township of Longyearbyen, that's for the polar bears! This is not a digital nomad visa, and neither is it an easy solution, life in Svalbard can be challenging, expensive, and cold! But I thought it deserved an honourable mention in this list!
For everyone else looking to live in the Norwegian mainland, there is an option to get the independent contractor visa. However, unlike other schemes you need to show that you will be mainly working for a business based in Norway. The cost of application and proof of income is significantly higher than other digital nomad visas, making it one of the most expensive countries to relocate to in Europe. For the reasons I mentioned above, I would not call it a digital nomad visa, but definitely a beautiful part of the world to base yourself.
No matter where you choose for this next adventure to take you, do your research and don't be afraid to take it slow (trial a place for a few weeks or month before making the big decision to move). Living in a different country can be one of the most rewarding experiences, and it will allow you to explore and travel cheaply without rushing. Let me know what you think on Instagram at withgiota, are you ready to take the leap?