You might have thought the digital nomad lifestyle was just a passing trend but think again. Every year more and more people are making the leap and jumping on the digital nomad bandwagon.
In fact, founder of Nomad List, Pieter Levels predicts that by 2035 there will be 1 billion digital nomads and remote workers across the globe.
This figure might seem ridiculous at first but If you think about the increasing internet speeds, rising house prices,
Another thing you might have heard about recently that sounded crazy was the introduction of the digital nomad visa in Estonia.
Maybe it has left you thinking, why Estonia? And do I really need a visa to be a digital nomad?
The World´s First Digital Nomad Visa
In early 2018, a large community of digital nomads met with Estonia´s Minister of the Interior to discuss the creation of the world´s first digital nomad visa.
In 2019, Estonia will be the first country in the world to issue a digital nomad visa. The visa will allow digital nomads to live and work in Estonia for up to a year. The country sets to issue around 1,400 digital nomad visas.
And surely, we can only expect to see this number rise.
For such a small country, Estonia has a lot to offer. It is fast becoming a digital nomad hotspot.
The coastal capital city of Tallinn has one of the most beautiful old towns in Europe, full of history and medieval architecture.
And what do I like most about Tallinn?
It seems the rest of the world is yet to discover it. Now´s the perfect time to visit Tallinn before it becomes overrun with tourists and digital nomads.
Estonia is also part of the Schengen zone which means you can expand your horizons much further and enjoy worry-free travel around the other 24 Schengen zone countries, a huge advantage if you are from a non-EU country.
Estonia – The Digital Society
Estonia isn´t just a beautiful country. It is also probably the most digital advanced society in the world.
Estonia has been dubbed the ´Silcon valley of Europe´.
Once a member of the USSR, Estonia gained its independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Only a few years later, e-governance, e-tax and i-voting came into play.
Estonia is most likely the only country in the world where 99% of the public services are available online, 24/7. The only services you can´t do online are marriages, divorces and real estate transactions.
DID YOU KNOW??
Estonia is the bithplace of unicorn startups : Skype, Transferwise, Playtech and Taxify?
All of this has led to Estonia becoming a hassle-free environment for business and entrepreneurship.
I bet you didn´t know that Estonia ranks in third place in Europe for the number of start-ups per capita, thus making it not such an unusual choice as a digital nomad location after all.
Digital Nomads Vs. The Law
If you are already a digital nomad, you no doubt know about the complications of legally moving to and working in another country.
Taxes, banking and not actually have a set address are just a few of the problem’s digital nomads face.
Have you ever landed in a new country, and the airport official asks you want your job is? What do they say when you tell them you work online? You´ll no doubt be given a strange look, and
Are digital nomads really breaking the law?
This is still very much a grey area. It was a completely different story in the past when the laws regarding working in a foreign country were created. Smart phones didn´t exist, neither did online job platforms which set digital nomads up with hundreds if not thousand job possibilities.
Being a digital nomad is still a relatively new concept and right now, there aren´t many options when it comes to visas options for digital nomads. If a visa is needed, the most common procedure is to live in the chosen country on a tourist visa.
Nowadays, starting a new job or creating a business can be done anywhere using the internet. Therefore, people can move easily from A to B and manage their work from anywhere but this results in governments missing the chance to tax what they may see as ´illegal´ workers.
Sooner or later, governments around the world will need to adapt and recognise the digital nomad lifestyle, just as Estonia is doing. It seems that Estonia is one of the few countries which is recognising the changes in the way we work.
What is the digital nomad visa?
The new digital nomad visa will allow digital nomads to live legally in Estonia for one year.
The visa should be available sometime in 2019. Although the details are still being finalised. Proposed benefits for the visa include:
- Residency in Estonia for 365 days
- Travel access to all other European Union countries for periods of up to 90 days
It has also been mentioned that in the future Estonia could offer helpful packages for digital nomads which would include healthcare and education.
It is hoped that the program will bring in many more workers to Estonia, resulting in a huge boost to the economy.
It gives digital nomads the opportunity to live and work legally in a country.
A country without borders
While some countries are building walls, some are welcoming in foreigners with open arms.
Estonia was the first country in the world to offer e-residency visas and has been doing so since 2014.
The government issued digital ID cards allow entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world to establish and manage a location-independent business completely online.
In 2017, the e-residency scheme had over 11,000 applications.
The benefits are quite incredible.
The aim of the e-Residency program is to make life and business easier for freelancers, digital nomads, business owners, international partners, and any other non-resident who has a relation to Estonia.
The e-residency scheme allows people to:
- Establish and run a company online
- Conduct banking online e.g. make electronic bank transfers
- Have access to international payment service providers
- Digitally sign documents (annual reports, contracts) within the company as well as with external partners
- Verify the authenticity of signed documents
- Encrypt and transmit documents securely
- Declare taxes online
Is this not opening a gate for tax dodgers and money launderers?
No! Absolutely not. Estonia is not a tax haven. Estonia has had no problems in the EU with regards to business taxation. The e-residency scheme is definitely not a short-cut to criminality.
Estonia has become a great base for starting businesses mainly because the tax system allows them to have a strong capital foundation, and improves the ability to invest.
Let’s look at how Estonia maintains control.
- A police background check is required before e-residency can be granted.
- Anyone who is given e-residency and sets up their own business will be subjected to the same high-level transparency as all citizens and residents who have
- To open a bank account, it is up to the bank to thoroughly vet the e-resident and decide if they are eligible or not.
- Lastly, anyone who breaks Estonian´s business laws will have their e-residency revoked.
E-Residency vs. Digital Nomad Visa
The introduction of a digital nomad visa can only see more tech-savvy entrepreneurs making their way to this country as this means digital nomads will now have a place where they can live and work long-term.
As discussed before, one of the biggest struggles for digital nomads to make is official. The fact is that no policy exists to support digital nomads in most countries.
Most of the time, digital nomads have no other option but to live in a country on a tourist visa. But what happens at the end of the tourist visa?
Most digital nomads have to pack up and move on to another country or they leave and re-enter again on a tourist visa. Neither are ideal situations, but right now, there is no legal way to do it any differently.
If you´re an aspiring digital nomad with entrepreneurship skills – make sure you keep your eye on Estonia – the small but digitally advanced country.
Do you want to become an e-resident? Appy HERE
“Even though there are only a little over a million of us, thanks to Estonia’s capabilities, we can make ten million payments, perform ten million requests and sign ten million contracts in just ten minutes. Even ten times larger states cannot beat us. But the good news is that it is possible to join our exclusive club of digitally empowered citizens.”
President of Estonia
Would you be interested in the world´s first digital nomad visa? Share your experience, thoughts or comments below!
READ INTERVIEWS WITH REAL DIGITAL NOMADS AND HOW THEY DID IT HERE