Many countries have realized during the coronavirus crisis that their approach to citizenship and work visas may be outdated. Recognizing opportunity is different from seizing it, but maybe a sea change is ahead.
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Virtual Citizenship vs. Remote Work Visas
Virtual citizenship offers non-traditional residents or non-residents to acquire citizenship through atypical channels. Sometimes this comes in the form of “Selling Passports” whereby a wealthy person can pay money directly to a government in exchange for not just a passport but whatever citizenship may entail such as lower personal taxes for a particular period. Sometimes this can also be accomplished with a real estate purchase.
Remote work visas are different. Barbados recently made news with the announcement that the country would allow remote workers a visa to stay in the country for up to 12 months. It’s hard to think of a better place to work from a laptop than the beaches of tropical Barbados. The “Barbados Welcome Stamp” isn’t free, but the requirements are limited and the costs are just $2,000 for a single person or $3,000 for a family which can include a spouse and any dependents under the age of 26.
Interested parties can complete the application online.
Estonia has a much more affordable option (though the beaches are not as nice) for access to the EU nation. Short term Digital Nomad visas cost €80, long term e-residency visas cost €100. Applications are available online.
Remote work is different than normal visas because it is not threatening the local workforce. Remote workers in a particular location are not replacing work that would otherwise be administered by a person of that country. Remote work visas are issued by stamp or insert but not a new passport, tax implications remain the same for the person of primary domicile.
Those choosing this path, nomads can avoid foreign transaction fees on many cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Countries that Offer Solutions
According to La Vida Golden Visas, the following countries offer secondary citizenship opportunities in either the form of investment, real estate purchases, or remote work:
- St. Kitts and Nevis
- Antigua and Barbuda
- United States of America
- St. Lucia
- Cayman Islands
- United Kingdom
But additional research has shown that others have thrown their hat into the ring:
- St. Lucia
- United Arab Emirates
- Costa Rica
Will More Follow Suit?
Cyprus and Malta were some of the most popular for some time. The United Arab Emirates too have wanted to add citizens to increase the economic benefit and allow for choices for globally-minded citizens. Estonia has also been promoting itself as an EU-member nation for this purpose for many years, but countries like Barbados are new to the party. Others may consider offering something for the ever-changing economy, especially now that many more employers are comfortable with remote workforces and have adapted their business to leverage this.
It makes sense for countries, especially smaller ones, to add remote workers to the economy. Without fear that jobs are replaced by outsiders, countries have an opportunity to rent more accommodations, and it puts people into restaurants, buying goods, and contributing without an adverse effect on locals.
Tourist-focused nations will likely be the first to adapt to this new movement. Many have essentially migrated to Chiang Mai, Thailand for this purpose despite the country not offering the visa. Extended tourist visas instead take the place. Why not offer something more formal? The coronavirus effect on tourism will adversely affect nationals who are being protected by their governments from a health and safety standpoint but not from an economic one. In a country like Barbados, where up to 40% of the economy is linked to tourism, not replacing tourism with a creative take may make the government choose between protecting its people from the virus, or from homelessness.
Remote workers have more options than ever before. Some may take advantage of real estate purchases or e-residency options to ease the ability of entering countries that their current passport may find challenging. It’s good for the countries issuing options and the residents of those countries that have new, high-earner customers, that do not threaten their own livelihood.
What do you think? Would you consider remote worker, virtual citizenship, or similar avenues? If so, which country would you prefer to apply (either one of these or one not yet on the list?) If not, why not?