With the rise of the digital nomad lifestyle, more and more people are looking to move abroad and pursue their dreams of working remotely. Some of the most popular destinations for expats are in Europe, thanks to its diverse cultures, historic cities, and a variety of visa options.
One of the biggest advantages of digital nomad visas in Europe is that you can travel visa-free throughout the Schengen Area – a region containing 26 European Union member countries where you can move freely without dealing with border control.
Digital nomad visas are offered by several European countries, and each offers different benefits and has unique requirements, so it’s important to understand the differences between them.
New in 2023, Spain’s long-awaited “remote work” visa is open to self-employed and freelancing digital nomads from outside the EEA who work remotely for non-Spanish companies.
The new remote work visa is part of the “Startup Act,” which was created to boost the country’s tech industry.
It allows non-EU nationals to live and work remotely in Spain for one year and can be renewed for up to 5 years.
The minimum monthly income requirement is €2,334 per month – 200% higher than Spain’s national minimum wage – and no more than 20% of your income is from Spanish-based businesses.
Known for its vast beaches and warm climate, Spain has already become a top destination for expats and wealth migrants in recent years so now, with its new digital visa, expats have another option for residing in Europe.
Also launched recently, Portugal’s Digital Nomad Visa became available in 2022 to those from outside the EU and European Economic Area (EEA) who are looking to work in the mild Mediterranean climate with plenty of sunshine and beaches.
To be eligible, applicants must demonstrate that they have made at least four times Portugal’s minimum wage (€2,800 per month) in the last three months prior to their application.
The Digital Nomad Visa allows holders to legally work remotely while living in Portugal for up to one year, with annual extensions possible for up to five years.
The permit also provides expats with full access to Portuguese public healthcare. This means that as a digital nomad, you will be able to receive comprehensive medical care at a reduced cost, as well as access to specialized medical services.
Additionally, this visa also allows you to open a bank account in Portugal – an important benefit for expats who want to manage their finances while living in Portugal.
In addition to the digital nomad program, expats can also apply for Portugal’s “Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) visa.
The main benefit of the NHR is that it exempts you from paying taxes on your income for up to 10 years and allows you to work remotely from Portugal without needing to establish a local business.
To qualify, you must currently live abroad, not have been a resident in Portugal within the last five years, and want to move to Portugal. To be considered a resident, you must remain in Portugal for 183 days a year or have your primary home there.
If you are a pensioner, you can also benefit from non-habitual resident status because pensions coming from outside Portugal, but received in Portugal, are exempt from Portuguese taxes due to agreements to prevent double taxation.
Similar to a digital nomad visa, Germany’s “Freiberufler” program, is another popular option for expat freelancers, independent contractors, and remote workers.
A caveat to this visa is that you can only qualify if your job “benefits the German economy.” However, that encompasses a broad spectrum of professionals, including accountants, artists, writers, self-employed doctors, engineers, language teachers, interpreters, journalists, auditors, and architects, among others.
The Freiberufler program allows you to live and work in Germany without needing to establish a local business but as a freelancer, you’ll be excused from the business registration procedure and from having to obtain a trade permit.
There is no specific minimum monthly income requirement; however, in order to qualify for the program, you must demonstrate financial self-sufficiency and submit a business plan to the German government as part of your application package.
The Czech Republic
The Czech Republic’s “Zivno” visa is a popular choice for digital nomads and freelancers seeking affordable living in the shadows of fairytale castles and vibrant culture.
For the initial one-year visa, you must demonstrate that you have at least €5,000 in your bank account as part of your application. It is renewable; however, to be approved, you must meet the minimum salary requirement of approximately €800 per month.
Colloquially known as a “trade license,” the Zivno visa is intended for non-EU citizens who freelance, are independent contractors, or run their own businesses.
Newly launched in 2021, Greece now offers a digital nomad visa (DNV) for remote workers looking for island-hopping and year-round sun.
To be eligible for a Greek DNV, you must work for a company or clients who are registered outside of Greece and you must be able to complete your work obligations remotely using information and communication technology (eg., WIFI, laptops, etc.).
If you are self-employed, you must submit confirmation of your business activity, corporate purpose, and business address (which cannot be registered in Greece).
The DNV income requirement is €3,500 per month and the visa is valid for one year with a possibility to extend with a residence permit.
If you’re looking for a colder option, head north and consider Estonia’s “e-Residency” visa. The e-Residency program allows you to live and work in Estonia without needing to establish a local business.
The government will provide visa holders with a digital identity and status that enables online business owners, digital entrepreneurs, and freelancers from around the world to set up and manage an EU-based company online.
It grants expats access to government services like company formation, banking, payment processing, and taxation.
Additionally, digital nomads holding this visa are exempt from paying Estonian taxes on their income for up to 5 years.
In order to qualify for the e-Residency program, you must meet the minimum salary requirement of €3,504 per month.
Probably best suited for IT and other high-income expats looking for outdoor adventures, Iceland’s digital nomad visa is aimed at both employees of foreign companies and freelancers.
The visa is shorter than most – six months – and its income requirements are much higher than most – at about €7,300 per month.
You cannot work for Icelandic employers under the digital nomad visa; however, you’re also not considered tax residents either.
Even though it’s far from the mainland, obtaining a visa in Iceland will still grant you borderless access to the Schengen area, not to mention, the breathtaking northern lights, natural black sand beaches, and some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.
Many Options to Consider
Several other countries in Europe offer permits similar to digital nomad and freelance visas, including Austria, Croatia, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Malta, The Netherlands, and Romania.
While the salary requirements and benefits can vary greatly from country to country, the best option for choosing a digital nomad residency program will ultimately depend on your individual circumstances, goals, and needs.
The views expressed in this article are not to be construed as personal advice. You should contact a qualified and ideally regulated adviser in order to obtain up to date personal advice with regard to your own personal circumstances. If you do not then you are acting under your own authority and deemed “execution only”. The author does not accept any liability for people acting without personalised advice, who base a decision on views expressed in this generic article. Where this article is dated then it is based on legislation as of the date. Legislation changes but articles are rarely updated, although sometimes a new article is written; so, please check for later articles or changes in legislation on official government websites, as this article should not be relied on in isolation.
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