Should I become a digital nomad?
I’ve had several clients come to me recently asking “should I become a digital nomad?”
And if so, where?
Adviserly itself was born out of my own experience as a digital nomad in Lyon, France.
I had a conversation with a friend living in Lisbon about how difficult it was to find good quality legal, accounting and tax services in a country where you are not a native.
Most professional services are not designed for digital nomads, who need cross-border, tech enabled, good value advice.
What is a digital nomad?
Broadly, a digital nomad is someone who can do their job remotely. More specifically, it is usually considered to be a worker who is not native to their host country, employed by a company or contracted to clients outside the host country.
If you work for a multinational company and move abroad, you could be a digital nomad.
If you are self-employed, servicing clients in your home country, and you move overseas, you could be a digital nomad.
The ability to be a digital nomad is a privilege – you have a job in services and have a passport that allows relatively easy access to other countries.
But this is a problem with immigration systems, not the fault of digital nomads themselves.
The grey economy
There is a distinction between (1) the general passport and visa requirements that all countries have; and (2) the new digital nomad visas and residence permits that countries are specifically introducing for this increasingly popular way of life.
People with the “best” passport (i.e., those allowing visa free travel to the most countries – Germany and New Zealand are currently top) often work from overseas for short periods on a tourist visa.
Most don’t give a second thought to the rules – why bother, for such a short period of time? They can’t usually get a work visa because they would need a contract with a local business. But working in this way is a legal and tax grey area.
Until Adviserly, there has been no one able to serve these digital nomads with legal and accounting advice from both home and host jurisdictions.
The big firms are just too big, and high street firms just too small.
Digital nomad ‘visas’
Countries recognise that there is demand from relatively well-off digital nomads for sunny places with decent food. This has been accelerated by the pandemic, as more service workers eye a nicer climate and pace of life.
I have recently been contacted about Greece, Croatia and Indonesia (specifically Bali).
Rules vary but the deal usually is a simplified process for those able to prove they are remote workers and will not need financial support from the host country.
As always, countries are prickly about immigration, so only those from certain countries will be able to apply.
Croatia introduced its new digital nomad residency permit (it’s not technically a visa) earlier in 2021. You’ll need health insurance, a rental contract and to pass security checks.
What’s the big advantage of these schemes? Usually, you’ll pay no local tax. This is a massive boon because, quite apart from the money involved, it’s a nightmare of translation, bureaucracy and paperwork to figure out where you should be paying tax.
So hooray for this.
Some countries, like Greece, are going one step further, encouraging digital nomads to move their tax residency by promising that only 50% of a person’s income will be taxed.
Meanwhile, the EU-wide ETIAS scheme will start from 2022 allowing non-EU citizens to travel across the Schengen Area for up to 90 days at a time.
Should I become a digital nomad?
If you can, yes!
There is so much about the world to learn, so many great people to meet, it would seem daft not to explore if you have an opportunity.
And of course, Adviserly is there to help, every step of the way.
By Raja Khan 02.07.21