Any digital nomad who’s been working remotely while traveling long term can probably attest to the headache that visas can cause. Many digital nomads hop around country to country rather quickly, which usually doesn’t result in any visa troubles. Things get a bit more complicated if you'd like to stay longer, but we're here to help clear it up.
If you want to stay in a country longer than a typical 60 or 90 day stay (depending on the country), most of the time you will either need a long term visa, or you will need to leave the country after the allotted time period. With some countries’ visas, rules are slightly more lax. If you reach your max amount of days, you can exit the country, get an exit stamp on your passport, head to another country for a day or so, and then return problem free. The time limit will reset itself. In the digital nomad community, this is commonly referred to as a visa run. However, there are regions where this isn’t an option.
What is the Schengen visa?
If you’ve been a digital nomad in Europe before, you’ve probably heard about the strict Schengen visa. According to the Schengen area’s website, “You cannot stay within the Schengen Area for more than 90 days in a 180-day period of time.” This means that after 90 days in the region, you’ll have to leave for 90 days before returning. This can make long term stays in Europe tricky if you want to be a digital nomad in Schengen Area countries, which include some digital nomad favorites like Germany, Spain, Portugal and The Czech Republic. There are 26 total countries in the Schengen Area. You can see all of the participating countries here.
How long can you travel in Europe with the Schengen visa?
90 days, either consecutive or spread between a 180 day time frame.
If you want to stay in a certain country for longer than the typically allowed time, you will have to apply for specific long term visas. Sure, plenty of digital nomads hop around from place to place pretty quickly, but there are definitely benefits to staying in one place for longer time periods, especially if you really fall in love with a place! That’s where long term visas come in, and there are some visas that bypass the Schengen Area visa restrictions, too.
Here are a few examples of long term visas that can work for digital nomads and remote workers.
German Freelance “Freiberufler” Visa
This visa specifically for freelancers is perfect for digital nomads! The German Freelance “Freiberufler” Visa can be extended for up to 3 years. In order to qualify for this one, the local tax office must deem your freelance job “liberal” versus a commercial profession, and this will determine whether you qualify. If you do end up qualifying, note that you will have to pay taxes to the German government.
A subset of the freelancer visa is the artist visa, which is only applicable in Berlin and of course, for artists, which can range from painters, musicians, writers ... ultimately, it will be up to your case manager if you qualify as an artist ... and then you’ll get to make art in one of the coolest cities in Europe, which also happens to be a digital nomad favorite!
Czech Republic Long Term Visa
If you’d like to stay long term in Prague, one of the best cities for digital nomads, check out the Czech Republic’s Long Term Visa with the purpose of business. With this long term visa, you can stay for a year. You will have to have a plan for housing sorted out prior, as you will have to prove you have set accommodation in order to qualify. With low cost of living and fast wifi, the Czech Republic in general is a great option for digital nomads.
Spain’s Self Employment Visa
The Self Employment Visa that Spain offers is a great choice for digital nomads who are self employed – and it is pretty common for digital nomads to be self employed freelancers! Like the previously mentioned visas, this one will grant you up to a year’s stay. When applying, you will need to prove you have sufficient funds to “establish and maintain employment indefinitely” and you’ll have to pass a background check. Then, you can join in on the digital nomad scenes in Barcelona or Madrid!
Mexico Temporary Resident Visa
Is a hot climate calling you? A Mexico temporary resident visa allows you to stay in the country for a year on average, and after that, you can renew it annually for another 3 years! You will need to provide documents proving that you had a monthly income of over $1,620 USD over the last 6 months or a bank account balance of over $27,000. The digital nomad scene in Mexico is growing, with Mexico City being the biggest hotspot.
Australian Working Holiday Visa
An Australian Working Holiday Visa is a great long term visa allows you to stay for a year! However, you must be between 18 and 35 years old to qualify for this visa. This visa can be extended to a “Second Working Holiday Visa” for a second year if you complete 3 months of specified work in the country, typically some kind of farm work in rural Australia. The line is blurry here if digital nomads can simply get by with a e600 Visitor Visa -- a long stay visa that can let you stay for up to 12 months, as well. There are plenty of places to cowork and meet fellow digital nomads in Melbourne and Sydney.
Estonia's Digital Nomad Visa - Coming Soon!
This visa will be the first of its kind – a visa specifically geared towards digital nomads! Estonia's digital nomad visa was planned to launch in early 2019, but unfortunately, we're still awaiting it. When launched, it will allow digital nomads to stay for a year in this progressive country. Estonia is actually one of the world's most digitally developed countries. They already have a very unique e-residency program which allows people to create and run a EU based business online from anywhere in the world! For this very digital country, a digital nomad visa makes sense as a next step.
Some Basic Visa Quick Tips
- If you aren’t sure about visa requirements coming from your country entering another country, VisaHQ.com is a really great resource for quick info. You can also find country specific information on the US Department of State website, which will inform you of visa requirements as well as travel and safety advisories.
- Never leave visa applications until the last minute. A lot of these will require some time to be processed and for you to get accepted (possibly up to 2 months in some cases) so you’ll definitely need to plan ahead. You’ll also need to make sure you have all of your things together that need to go along with the visa application. Depending on the country and application, you might have to provide extra materials like proof of a place to stay, health records, or criminal background checks.
- Be sure to do your research on the visa to make sure that this is the right fit for you and ensure that you have everything in order to send in your application. If you need additional help, there are some agencies or travel agents out there who can assist you throughout the application and help streamline the process.
- Read applications and fill them out very carefully. If you miss some spaces on applications or fill things out incorrectly, you might get automatically rejected. Additionally, be sure to take note of whether the application information needs to be filled out in the country’s language.
- Always be sure to abide by countries’ visa laws. You don’t want to get into trouble while you’re traveling – you could get fined or detained.