The Rise of Digital Nomad Visas

When the pandemic hit and remote work went mainstream, digital nomad visas were an easy win for governments trying to pick up the pieces.

Lauren Razavi

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In December 2016, Karoli Hindriks met with Estonia’s Ministry of the Interior — the officials tasked with regulating the country’s borders.

Hindriks, the Tallinn-based founder of an immigration and relocation company called Jobbatical, believed every country on earth should be working on new mobility tools to attract global talent. At the meeting, that’s exactly what she told the government, then suggested their first step should be to launch a specialized visa for digital nomads. The ministers agreed.

The tiny nation of Estonia — sandwiched between Latvia, Sweden, Finland, and Russia — has one of the world’s most advanced digital governments, meaning the country was already in a strong position to pursue a nomad visa. Its e-Residency program, launched in 2014, allows foreigners to register their identity with the Estonian government, establish an online business in the EU, and open a local bank account without ever visiting. Many nomads and remote businesses were already among the country’s population of e-Residents, so policymakers had direct access to the right target market.

The only question was what the visa should look like.

Luckily for them, Hindriks had a few ideas.

Jobbatical conducted a survey and found that nearly 90% of nomads would be more inclined to visit a country if it offered a visa specifically for them. Encouraged by the community’s appetite, Hindriks came up with a nomad visa concept. Her proposal gave reassurances to the government. Nomads would be required to earn at least €3,000 per month and must work primarily for a company registered outside of Estonia. They could interact and transact in-country, within limits, like 5 days per month working for an Estonian business, to ensure existing regulations — and local workers — weren’t negatively impacted.

The idea was to facilitate two types of relationship between nomad and host country. The short-stay visa option (up to 90 days) provided nomads with both mobility and flexibility; a simple invitation to see how they liked…

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