Working remotely is something I've done for nearly 5 years. Being able to take my work on the go with me has truly been a dream come true and I'm sure since you're here reading this, you're aiming to take your work abroad, too.
That's where the real magic comes into play: remote worker visas.
Although they all mean essentially the same thing, these visas are known by a handful of names:
- Freelance Visa
- Digital Nomad Visa
- Self-Employed Visa
- Visa of Independent Means
- Whatever cute name the country decided to give it instead
Most commonly these visas are referred to as "digital nomad visas" but I have a real problem with that name. It's contradictory. A nomad is someone who doesn't have a home base; it's someone who hops from country to country or city to city. Adding the word "digital" to the title just means they take their job on the go with them.
These visas though are intended to get remote workers to stay in a given country for a year or even longer, striping the nomadness out of the lifestyle. While it's all just semantics, I do think it's important to understanding the intention of these visas and what they offer you as someone who works online.
Currently, I'm a digital nomad. I've been a simple nomad in the past. I've been an expat. I've been employed in person abroad. These titles have greatly changed my lifestyle and knowing what to chase is key to making the first critical steps of moving abroad.
As of 2022, 31 countries around the world are offering visas for remote workers. See the complete list of remote worker visas with countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa included.
Living in Europe and having access to stay in the region for longer than usual is a dream come true for most. With well-preserved history, fresh food, and an ease of travel within the region are just a few of many reasons why living in Europe as a remote worker is such a convincing route.
Let's dive into the requirements of getting a remote worker visa in Europe and the countries in Europe currently offering them.
What is a Remote Worker Visa?
First the elephant in the room, what even is a remote worker visa, or freelance visa, or digital nomad visa?
These are specific visas offered by some countries that allow you to legally reside in a country while working online. In simple terms, they are visas that say you can bring your work and do it from inside their borders.
The visas for European countries inside the EU are geared towards non-EU citizens, since EU citizens don't need to deal with the hassle. They're targeting those with residency outside of the EU to be able to enjoy the region for longer. Not all remote worker visas in Europe are for EU countries though.
Most visas will require you to get local health insurance but in case it doesn't, I recommend Safety Wing for basic health insurance around the world.
It's super important that you know not all visas are created equally.
A few of the key differences you'll see between each visa are:
- In some, you'll owe taxes to your new country of residency, in others you'll be exempt.
- In some, you need to be a business owner, in others you must be an employee.
- In most, your clients or employer will need to be based in another country, in a few you'll need local clients in order to get the visa.
- In most, you'll be able to renew the visa to stay for longer than a year, in a handful, you'll be one (or even less) and done.
- All of these visas should allow you to bring your family members along with you. Just keep in mind that your monthly income requirement will most likely increase with the number of dependents coming with you.
What isn't a Remote Worker Visa?
As important as it is to what a remote worker visa is, it's equally important to know what it's not.
These are a few things that you shouldn't expect from the country you go for:
- These visas don't always come with residency. They can be a step towards a residence permit but they could also just be a simple visa for X amount of time.
- They don't always give you a free pass to come and go. Some might force you to spend a certain number of days in the country if you want to extend your visa in the future.
- They won't necessarily give you a free pass to the EU. You might still just get 90 days every 180 days to every other EU country, except for the country that gave you your digital nomad visa.
- Their rules are not set in stone. Visas are fluid, they adjust with time. What you might see as a requirement today might not be one in a year. Especially since all of these visas are brand new, I expect they'll iron out some wrinkles throughout the years. This might make these visas more attainable or more exclusive.
How to Find Legitimate Visa Information
Since working remotely is a hot topic and something that so many are already doing or are dreaming of getting into, there's a lot of information about digital nomad visas out there.
My biggest recommendation: take what you read online or see on a trending Reel with a grain of salt.
A lot of what circulates are visas that haven't yet been officially approved. Many are ones that a representative said "they're working on" so do your research before you get your hopes up.
Stick with trusted resources that are experts in the field (hi, that's me!), or go directly to the source.
The source in this case is either an official government website and/or the nearest embassy or consulate to your home address. For example, if you live in Nashville, TN and you want to move to Portugal as a remote worker, you'll want to contact the Portuguese consulate in Washington D.C., not the ones in LA or NYC, since that's the closest one to your home of address.
In most cases, your visa will be approved or denied by your nearest embassy or consulate so they know exactly what they're looking for in an applicant. You can reach out to them either by email or a phone call.
Some embassies respond quickly, others can be a pain in the ass to contact so have some patience with this step.
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Which Countries in Europe Currently Offer Remote Worker Visas?
In this article, I'll do a deep dive into these 13 visas and what it's like living in each of these European countries. Keep in mind that other countries have mentioned offering a digital nomad visa but these are the ones that as of 2022 you can actually apply for.
At a quick glance, these are the remote worker visas you'll learn about:
- Germany Freelance “Freiberufler” Visa
- Czech Republic “Živnostenský” Trade License Freelance Visa
- Portugal Freelance or Self-Employed Visa (D7)
- Estonia Digital Nomad Visa
- Croatia Digital Nomad Visa
- Malta Nomad Visa
- Iceland Long-Term Visa for Remote Workers
- Greece Digital Nomad Visa
- Romania Digital Nomad Visa (Long-Stay Visa D/AS)
- Hungary White Card
- Norway Self-Employed or Independent Contractor Visa
- Spain Non-Lucrative Visa
- Belgium Self-Employed Worker Visa (Visa D)
Ok, let's get into the good stuff!
Germany Freelance “Freiberufler” Visa
Germany is one of the most sought-after countries for expats to move to. Ranked as one of the best places to live in Europe, this visa might be the most intriguing to you but do know, it also has some of the strictest requirements.
Germany, as you might have guessed, is a place where bureaucracy rules. You'll be expected to jump throw a few hoops, dot your i's and cross your t's, and have some serious patience to be awarded this visa.
But, if you dream of living in Berlin or living in Hamburg, this will all be worth it.
Requirements for the German Freelance Visa:
- Completed visa form
- Proof that you're a freelancer or have a pension
- Passport with additional pictures
- CV and Cover Letter
- Visa Fee (€22-100)
- Health Insurance (most likely from a German provider)
- Letters of Recommendation
- Professional Authorization (proof of expertise)
- Certifications of Education
- Proof you can financially support yourself (either by employment or through a pension plan)
- Letters of commitment from future clients (proving your income will continue)
- Proof of local accommodation with a signed lease called an "Anmeldung"
Some of these requirements will need to be done before moving to Germany, while others can be taken care of once you arrive.
Germany highlights the type of industry you must work in on their government site. The only difficulty I came across was finding out the amount of income that's "adequate" as a freelancer. The German Office for Migration and Refugees has a hotline that can answer any specific questions and give you the most up-to-date information though.
Czech Republic “Živnostenský” Trade License Freelance Visa/Entrepreneur Visa
The Czech Republic, or Czechia, is a landlocked country in Central Europe best known for its vibrant capital city, Prague. A huge perk to living here is you'll have easy access to all of Europe but Czechia has a low cost of living when compared to its neighboring European countries.
This visa is intended for those that want to work as a freelancer with Czech clients. The most common type of person to apply for this visa is an English teacher. Since it can quite difficult to get a sponsored work visa in the Czech Republic, teachers instead get a visa allowing them to be self-employed and offer their services to schools, language institutes, or private classes.
If you're Canadian though, it'd be easier to apply for the Youth Mobility Visa instead.
Requirements for Czech Republic's Freelance Visa:
- Passport with additional pictures
- A background check
- Proof of funds (required to possess at least 50x 2,980 CZK = 149,000 CZK.)
- Proof of accommodation (signed by your landlord once you're in CR)
- Proof of health insurance
- Ability to pay taxes once you’ve been approved
The initial steps are to be completed at an embassy in your home country but some nationalities are allowed to complete this at any Czech Embassy.
Portugal D7 Visa
Currently, Portugal's option for digital nomads is their D7 visa. This visa wasn't made for remote workers but is the one being used by them. They're working on a specific digital nomad visa but that hasn't yet been officially launched. Until that happens, your option is the D7.
Portugal has boomed in popularity with remote workers in the past couple of years. Once a relatively well-kept secret, Portugal now accepts the most remote workers into its borders. This is a double-edge sword in my opinion.
If you're seeking a country that's farther off the grid, I'm not so sure Portugal is the European spot for you anymore. If though, you want a destination where it'll be easier to make friends with people from all over the world and have a tight-knit community of other online workers, you should short-list it.
You can also be strategic about the area you moved to and pick it based on it's number of other expats or lack there of.
Requirements for Portugal's Self-Employment Visa
- A fully remote job or service
- Proof of a minimum monthly income of €800 (can usually just show the past 3 months)
- Proof €7000-8000 in a Portuguese bank account
- A background check
- Portuguese Tax ID Number
- 1-year (typically) signed lease for housing in Portugal
The minimum monthly income for this visa is reflected based on the minimal wage of a Portuguese employee. If you're close to this cut off point, doublecheck the current minimum wage in the country as this number will fluctuate.
Each embassy handles the application process and exact requirements a bit differently, so if you think this could be the visa for you, it's best to reach out to the nearest embassy to doublecheck requirements.
Estonia Digital Nomad Visa
Estonia was ahead of its time when years ago they launched their e-residency permit, allowing non-citizens to establish their business in Estonia without actually having to live there. Again, they're here with the trend-setters with their digital nomad visa.
This digital nomad visa is intended for those who would like to live in Estonia up to one year.
Whether you may realize it or not, Estonia is an extremely technologically advanced country. If you're eager to live in a country on the forefront of technology and AI, you'll love living here. Just get ready for a pretty chilly winter!
Requirements for Estonia's Freelance Visa:
- Proof you're a remote worker
- Proof of active employer contract or proof you own your own business and your clients are primarily not Estonian.
- Monthly income of €3500 for the past 6 months
- Application fee €80-100 based on nationality
This visa is typically processed in 30 days and is honestly a breath of fresh air compared to the others. The official website for Estonia's digital nomad visa is easy to understand and outlines clearly the steps you'll need to take to be able to live in Estonia.
Croatia Digital Nomad Visa
If you crave great beaches, delicious food, a low cost of living, and a laidback lifestyle, you'll probably love living in Croatia. Most expats love living in Split but there are more than a handful of beautiful places in Croatia for you to check out either as your future home or just a weekend getaway.
This visa will allow you to stay in the country for one year. You can apply for a second visa but it must be 6 months after the first visa expires. This is a weird requirement but it's in place to avoid digital nomads from staying in Croatia and working towards permanent residency. If you know you'd like to stay in the country for longer than a year, there are better Croatian visas to apply for.
If you'd just like to give Croatia a try, keep in mind that while it is in the European Union, it's not in the Schengen Area, meaning you can stay in the country for 3 months as a tourist without needing to combine that time with entrance to any other country. Most nationalities don't need a tourist visa to enter.
Requirements for Croatia's Digital Nomad Visa:
- A completed application form (provided by the embassy)
- Proof you work online
- A background check from your home country or country of residency
- A copy of your passport
- Marriage certificate, if applicable
- Proof of health insurance
- Proof of sufficient funds (income of around $550 USD per month)
- Croatian address (usually a hotel will suffice until you can move to the country and find an apartment)
Malta Nomad Visa
Malta is a European gem that hasn't yet gotten the international attention it deserves. A small island off the boot of Italy, Malta is one of those places where you'll get everything that brought you to Europe to begin with in a pretty small package: a crystal clear sea, history at every corner, fresh food, and a more relaxing lifestyle.
A hindrance for most people is that the cost of living in Malta is relatively high- remember it's an island! That also means it's income requirement is higher than many other European countries, although it's certainly not the highest.
Their nomad residence permit allows applicants to stay in the country for one year, renewable annually.
Requirements for Malta's Nomad Visa
- Proof of income (€2,700 per month)
- Proof that you work online
- A background check from your home country or country of residency
- Maltese health insurance
This visa seems to be pretty straight forward so long as you pass these requirements. You can reach out to the nearest Malta embassy to get started with the visa. Once you have applied, it should only take around 30 days for your visa to be processed.
Iceland Long-Term Visa for Remote Workers
While Iceland is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, it's also one of the most expensive. Iceland's Long-Term visa for remote workers is targeting foreigners to stay for 90-180 days.
Iceland is not in the EU but it is in the Schengen Area. Since this visa won't give you a long-term residence permit though, this distinction won't be too important to your day-to-day life but might be helpful to keep in mind if friends of yours plan on visiting you while living here.
For some of the most unique landscapes in the world, Iceland is the perfect place to live if you crave spectacular nature, have a passion for photography, want a quiet lifestyle, and aren't too bothered about exploring other European countries while there. Remember that Iceland is an island, so the cost of living is far more expensive than many other countries on this list, if not all of them.
If you dream of living in Iceland for longer than 6 months, this isn't the visa for you. As you'll quickly see with the requirements, it's also only for someone with a highly monthly income.
Requirements for Iceland's Long-Term Visa for Remote Workers
- Proof of self-employment or proof of employment
- Must not have been awarded a long-term visa in Iceland in the past year.
- Must have a monthly income of $7,000
- Application fee
- Passport photo not older than 6 months.
- Photocopy of passport.
- Health and accident insurance
- Documents that confirm the purpose of staying in this country, either
- confirmation from your employer that you are allowed to do your job in Iceland remotely, or
- confirmation that you are verifiably self-employed in the country where you have permanent residence or work regularly.
- If there is reason, the Immigration Service may request that the applicant submit a criminal record.
This visa can only be applied for via mail. For more details on how to submit your application and the accompanying documents, Iceland's Immigration Website is helpful.
Greece Digital Nomad Visa
Who hasn't day dreamed of living in Greece? I know I sure have. I've imagined a scenario of moving onto a sailboat, spending my days munching on Greek food with crystal clear water just outside my "front door," and sailing to new islands each weekend.
If that doesn't tempt you, we have very different goals in life. Even still though, with cities like Athens, you can get a metropolitan lifestyle instead of one on remote islands.
Greece's digital nomad visa is one of the newest ones to be launched. Just like any new digital nomad visa, I imagine they'll make some tweaks to the requirements as time goes on.
Requirements for Greece's Digital Nomad Visa:
- Proof of a salary of €3,500 per month after taxes
- You can be either a remote employee or self-employed
- If you're applying with a spouse, you'll need to make 20% more each month.
- If you're applying with children, add 15% to your monthly income for each child.
For more details about what it's really like working remotely from Greece, Work From Greece does a good job outlining everything you'd want to know.
Romania Digital Nomad Visa (Long-Stay D/AS Visa)
Just like Croatia, Romania is an EU member-state that doesn't abide by Schengen restrictions. That means if you'd like to only spend 90 days in Romania, you can do so without it affecting how much time you have in other European countries.
For those that dream of living in the home of Dracula, the digital nomad visa in Romania might just tempt you. I'll be honest though, the requirements for their digital nomad visa really surprised me when they were announced.
Given that Romania boasts a relatively low cost of living, the minimum income requirement was not what I was expecting. Although some digital nomads spend far more than their local counterparts, many of us are frugal and live as locals do. Given that they're asking for you to make 3x the minimum wage per month though, it seems they're trying to attract a certain type of digital nomad, although in my opinion, just because you make a high salary doesn't mean you'll spend it.
I'll be curious to see if that income threshold stays that way or if they adjust it over time.
Requirements for Romania's Digital Nomad Visa
- Proof of monthly income 3x Romanian average gross salary for the past 6 months (confirm this with the embassy for updated numbers when you want to apply but for reference, in Oct. 2022 this would mean you're making a salary around $3,800 USD).
- Proof of online employment for at least 3 years.
- Letter of intent stating why you want to work remotely from Romania
- Proof of paid taxes
- Travel Medical Insurance
- Travel tickets confirmed
- Proof of accommodation
- Clean criminal record certificate
- 2 recent passport sized photographs
This page from the Romanian government goes into more detail about each of these requirements and the process applicants must take.
Hungary White Card
While Budapest certainly gets the hype within Hungary, there's a lot more than just it's buzzing capital city to enjoy here. Although, if you crave an affordable city with excellent public transportation, 4 seasons, and no lack of things to do, Budapest is for you.
This remote worker visa is geared towards anyone who makes their living online, whether you're a freelancer, business owner, or online employee, you're welcome to apply for Hungary's White Card. They only ask that you provide proof of employment or that you do own your company and that you don't work with a Hungarian company or have Hungarian clients.
Hungary's White Card is a residence permit that allows you to stay in the country for 1 year. You can then renew it for another year.
Requirements for Hungary's White Card
- Provide proof of a remote source of income with a minimum income of $2,000 USD/month
- If you're employed, you'll need to prove it with a job contract
- If you're self-employed, you'll need to prove ownership or shares in the company.
- A passport
- Passport photos
- Health insurance
- Return flight from Hungary (this is in case your application in Hungary is denied)
- Proof of accommodation (a hotel or a lease)
- Completed application form
For the official information on Hungary's White Card and how you can apply, their government website clearly outlines all of the details.
Norway Self-Employed or Independent Contractor Visa
To live abroad in Norway, you'll have to meet a set of requirements a bit different than most. This visa is certainly not for your typical digital nomad but is instead for people who have their own sole proprietorship and have a specific contract with a Norwegian client or company.
Actually doing remote work while on this visa is prohibited unless it's a stated part of your contract with the Norwegian company. So, pretty much, it's for skilled workers that are contracted for a specific period of time to solely work on that project and nothing more. It's cool because in a lot of countries you'd do this contract work online but in Norway, you can do it in person.
Although you're time living in Norway wouldn't count towards permanent residency, it does allow you to stay up to 6 years at a time.
Requirements for Norway's Freelance Visa
- Education Documents (proof of schooling/training/competence at your job)
- Accommodation in Norway
- Contract with Norwegian client
- Documentation you’re self-employed as a sole proprietor, not LLC.
- Visa fee
For more information on Norway's Self-Employed/Independent Contractor Visa, scroll down to the section of this website titled "self-employed persons with a company abroad."
Belgium Self-Employed Worker Permit (Visa D)
Belgium is an incredibly unique country. With 3 cultures and languages squeezed into a relatively small area, you'll most likely feel as those you were given residency in 3 European countries, not just 1. Brussels is the hub of the action and home to people from nearly every country in the world.
The Belgium visa is a lot like the Norwegian one, it's not intended for stereotypical remote workers. It's intended for self-employed people who have services they can offer to Belgians.
Just like Norway, I debated putting it on this list to begin with but since they're both countries that get circulated a lot as offering a digital nomad visa, I think it's important you actually understand your rights.
While it's not at all meant for remote workers that simply want to open their laptop, connect to the internet, and call Belgium home, it is great for those that dream of living in Belgium and have a very specific service they can offer.
Requirements for Belgium's Self-Employed Worker Permit:
- Completed and signed application form
- Documentary evidence related to your professional activity;
- Visa fee
- A background check
- Medical check
You'll first apply to the consulate or embassy in your home country and upon approval, you'll finish up the process once in Belgium. Your residence permit will most likely be for 2 years. You'll be able to renew it up to 5 years.
Get all the details to Belgium's Visa D on the European Union immigration site.
Spain Non-Lucrative Visa
We're ending this list with a bang! Spain is easily one of the most popular countries for expats, tourists, and retirees in all of Europe. People dream of the siesta lifestyle, strolling the cobblestone streets, and, of course, the tapas.
From living in Madrid to living in Barcelona, you'll be hard-pressed to find a city not to love in Spain. While many young foreigners move to Spain as English teachers, working with either the popular BEDA program or as Auxiliares de Conversacion, this visa is actually intended for those making passive income.
Really, the Non-Lucrative Visa exists to attract retirees to enjoy sunny weather and spend their money in pesos. While this really isn't a digital nomad visa, it works as one. Remote workers have been flying under the radar, using their proof of income as their ticket in.
The chance of this working for you, too, will most likely depend on the embassy you apply at and the person actually in charge of your case. If they deny you, they're going by the books, if they approve you, know that you slipped in.
This option is extremely attractive though because it'll give you temporary residency which can be turned into a permanent residence permit. It'll a lot like what's going on with Portugal's D7 visa and just like Portugal, Spain has also talked about launching an official visa for remote workers but that hasn't yet happened.
Requirements for Spain's Non-Lucrative Visa
- Annual income of €26,000/year (or €2,100/month)
- Medical Check
- Passport + additional photos
- Background Check
- Health Insurance
- NIE Number- this is a special number used in Spain that should be applied for at the Embassy before you apply for the visa
- Visa fee (€80-500 based on nationality)
Like a lot of the other visa options on this list, you'll start the process in your home country and then finish up the paperwork once you arrive in Spain. All the fine details are highlighted on this government page.
Take Your Remote Work to Europe
Which of these visas is calling your name? Since nearly all 13 have different requirements, standards, and a unique target demographic, there should be at least one visa on this list you'd be able to apply for.
As the world continues to push towards remote working, I imagine more and more remote worker visas, freelance visas, or digital nomad visas will pop up. It's an exciting time for sure for all digital nomads who are craving a bit more stability and want a home base without having to go back to their home country or give up their job.
By choosing a remote worker visa in Europe, you're giving yourself access to incredible region with the perfect time zone to work with clients all over the world, too. Just keep in mind that the moment you find the perfect visa, apply before the requirements change!
Hero Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash.
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