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Digital nomad visa – what is it?

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire world in many ways and one of the most significance changes was visible in the new work environment. Working from home, also referred to ‘remote working’ was already popular before, but the pandemic has strengthened this tendency significantly.[1]This development has presented challenges for both employers and employees, but also for the national and European legislation. Young people, nowadays, often want flexibility, and remote working fits that vision. A research done by Jabra illustrates this. 5000 knowledge workers around the world were asked what they wanted from the future of their work arrangement and 59% of respondents reported that “flexibility” is more important to them than salary or other benefits.[2]

First and foremost, it is important to understand the meaning of digital nomads and remote workers. Interestingly, even though this type of work is increasingly in demand, a harmonized definition of a digital nomad does not exist yet at EU level. The OECD, refers to a ‘location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle’.[3]

Only some EU member states have legally defined the meaning of digital nomad. For example, Spanish law defines digital nomads as ‘International teleworkers who stay in Spain to carry out remote work or professional activity for companies located outside the national territory, by means of the exclusive use of the computer, telematic, and telecommunication means and systems. In the case of exercising an employment activity, the holder of the visa may only work for companies located outside the national territory. In the case of exercising a professional activity, the holder of the visa will be allowed to work for a company located in Spain, as long as the the percentage of such work does not exceed 20 % of his total professional activity’.[4]  

The difference between digital nomads and remote workers is that digital nomads are generally considered as people working remotely, while at the same travelling or living in different locations. Working remotely gives them more options and flexibility with traveling/living in different places of the world, while at the same time continuing with their work. They can work anywhere, for example in places such coffee shops. Remote workers, in contrast, can also work in different locations, but it is more common to work at home. Furthermore, the type of work often varies significantly. Mostly, digital nomads have jobs that allows for more flexibility, such as programming and digital work, whereas remote workers often work for old-fashion types of companies and have the option to do the work at home.                                                     

EU policy regarding digital nomads?

Regarding remote work in general, the EU has not adopted specific directives or regulations yet that address the issues related to telework or clarify the definition of digital nomads. Several directives, however, are relevant to mention.[5] For example, with the EU Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working conditions (EU Directive 2019/1152), it). It has adopted rules which also address matters of teleworkers. This directive requires that provisions are made in relation to the place of work and that work patterns are clarified in the employment contract. This ensures more predictable working time patterns for workers, which could have a positive impact on work-life balance. Having these rules is certainly important, because teleworkers often have more flexible working hours, which can also increase their risk of working longer and unusual hours.[6] Recently, in a survey of company representatives in Germany, 66% of the respondents revealed that that employees teleworked more often during unusual hours and 30% mentioned that they worked more often at the weekend (Hofmann et al, 2021).

The main collective measure adopted by the EU in this field, is the first autonomous framework agreement: The EU Framework Agreement on Telework (2002). Several principles were laid down to guide employers and employees. Within this agreement, digital nomads were not specifically defined, but telework was defined as a ‘form of organising and/or performing work, using information technology, in the context of an employment contract/relationship, where work, which could also be performed at the employers’ premises, is carried out away from those premises on a regular basis’ (Article 2).

Dogital Nomad Visa

A digital nomad visa is a type of visa that allows you to work remotely for a company registered outside of the country you have chosen to currently live in. Typically, to work in another country, you must have a work permit and be registered as a taxpayer. An EU digital nomad pass does not exist yet. For EU citizens living and working for 3 months as a digital nomad in another Member State is possible without necessarily requiring a nomad visa or having to meet certain requirements. EU citizens can also stay for more than 3 months if they meet the conditions depending on their status such as a ‘worker’ or ‘self-employed’.[7]  In addition, member states usually have other specific permits.

Currently, the topic of getting a collective EU remote work policy is not being discussed by the European Parliament or European Commission. Notwithstanding, the Global Nomad Guide for the Conference on the Future of Europe has recently launched a legislative proposal in order to create an EU-remote working policy for working as a digital nomad in the EU, which would make the EU more attractive for people coming outside the EU. [8]

At national level, digital nomad visas are becoming increasingly common. Therefore, especially the more ‘tourist depended economies´, adopted measures in order to attract digital nomads.[9] Given the financial benefits, it does not come to a surprise that EU member states have been responsive towards this trend. Digital nomads typically spend and bring more to the local economy than standard tourists. Portugal, but also recently Spain, are some of the EU member states that have embraced this development. Within Spain´s  new ´Ley de Startup´, approved in November 2022, a specific section is reserved for digital nomads. Digital nomad visas are applicable for people outside the EEA and Switzerland, and it offers a year of stay in Spain, which can eventually be extended to an additional five years.

In Spain, you can apply for a permit if you are employed by a company that exists for at least a year, have at least 3 years of professional experience or have a university degree, have sufficient income to stay in Spain by showing a minimum monthly income of at least twice Spain’s monthly minimum wage. Interestingly, the rules for bringing family are also relatively flexible, but more costly. For every person the applicant wants to be reunited with, it needs to show an additional 75% of the country’s monthly minimum wage.[10] After that, they need to show 25% for each additional dependent. Getting the license to work as a digital nomad in Spain only takes twenty days.[11]                                        

Working as a digital nomad in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has no specific digital nomads visa yet. Assuming that a digital nomad would want to work remotely in the Netherlands for a period of time, perform services exclusively for the foreign company, other permits are required. People from the EEA and Switserland can work here remotely for 3 months without needing a permit. People from outside the EEA and Switzerland often need a work permit (if less than 3 months) or a residence and work permit (if longer than 3 months). Simplified procedures apply to highly skilled migrants and skilled and highly educated foreign nationals. One is considered as highly skilled migrant primarily on the basis the salary. One is considered a highly educated foreign nationals   based on the education attended.

[1] Teleworking in the COVID-19 pandemic: Trends and prospects (oecd.org)[2] https://www.jabra.nl/hybridwork[3] Should OECD countries develop new Digital Nomad Visas? (title) (oecd.org)  and Remote workers and digital nomads working in different EU Member States | Mazzeschi Legal Counsels (www-mazzeschi-it.translate.goog)[4] Ley 28/2022, Artículo 74 bis [5] telework–20post-covid.pdf (euagenda.eu)[6]The rise in telework: impact on working conditions and regulations, Eurofound, ,  ef22005en.pdf (europa.eu) p.26[7] Directive 2004/38/EC[8] EU Digital Nomad Pass, a way to make the EU more attractive to Digital Nomads – GlobalNomad.Guide[9] https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/post-pandemic-digital-nomads-march-on-in-europe/[10] https://costaluzlawyers.es/blog/faq-guide-to-the-new-digital-nomad-visa-in-spain/[11] article 76.1 of the Law on Support for Entrepreneurs