In a move that will hopefully usher in a new era for global immigration, Estonia has finally passed the law to create the rumored digital nomad visa. What does this entail and how is this different from current visa possibilities for digital nomads? Here is everything you need to know.
Why Estonia’s digital nomad visa is truly groundbreaking
A lot of countries are touted as being friendly to people whose work is location-independent, but until now, no country offers quite the same freedom of work as Estonia’s new digital nomad visa will offer. That’s because countries like Germany or the Czech Republic, where you can get a freelance visa, still require you to find clients or job contracts locally in order to have your visa approved. They work under the assumption that you will be offering your services and earning your income in the country you’re moving to.
But what if you work for one or several different international companies completely online and you simply want to live somewhere else? Until now, there is no such legal permission that allows you to do that. Digital nomads either have to abide by tourist visa limits and move relatively frequently, or they have to jump through all the immigration hoops of the country they want to live in, which includes proving local interest in the work that you do whether that’s teaching English or building websites.
How Estonia’s digital nomad visa will work
As part of a June 3 amendment to their current immigration laws, the digital nomad visa would allow foreigners to arrive in Estonia as a tourist and continue working on a freelance basis for a foreign employer. In a trailblazing statement, the interior ministry perfectly encapsulated the conundrum of working abroad, “Since digital nomads can’t be subjected to the rules of classical employment, this prevents them from coming to Estonia and being here purposefully.” Thus, the new law is meant to eliminate the requirement of “purpose” for immigrants. In other words, your purpose can simply be that you want to live in Estonia.
In order to apply, you simply have to prove that you are, in fact, a digital nomad under two conditions:
- You work online and most of your clients are located outside of Estonia.
- You have an employment contract with a company outside of Estonia. If your own company is registered abroad, you still meet this requirement.
Since the law has been freshly inked, other details are scarce. There will be a minimum income requirement, but it’s unclear what that is. As with other freelance visas around the world, you have to prove that whatever you do for a living is profitable enough for you to afford living there. Like other visas abroad, you’ll likely have to pay out of pocket for health insurance for the duration of your stay. When the application process is established, interested workers can apply for the visa online through an intermediary. The Estonian government expects to get upwards of 1,800 digital nomad visa applications per year.
Why this benefits everyone
The concept of a digital nomad visa, all but a dream until now, finally acknowledges digital nomads as their own working class. It’s a step many countries have shied away from taking in favor of traditional immigration requirements that necessitate you to have a reason for living abroad, be it school, work, or family reunification. This visa opens up a world of possibility that is beneficial to digital nomads, the Estonian economy, and Estonian citizens alike.
One of the biggest issues people have with immigrants and expats is that they take up jobs that a country’s citizens could be doing. This visa would allow digital nomads to contribute only positively to the local economy by bringing their income from another country to the local housing market, utility companies, shops, restaurants and bars. It’s all of the benefits of a foreign workforce with none of the drawbacks – the Estonians can keep all their jobs. It’s a wonder why this hasn’t caught on everywhere already, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed.
If you’re not convinced about what a great opportunity this could be, read more about how cool Tallinn is.