Looking for an adventure? Now you can say ‘adios’ to America and ‘hola’ to Spain thanks to a new digital nomad visa program.
If you dream of giving up your settled life for a more adventurous life of travel, you’re far from alone. Polls show more and more Americans, freed from the office by remote work and better tech tools, are considering becoming digital nomads. As of this month they now have another option for where to settle — Spain has just launched a digital nomad visa.
A growing army of “armchair digital nomads”
The idea of living a nomadic life, drifting from one Instagram worthy spot to another while combining travel and work, has always held a romantic allure. But with remote work seemingly here to stay for a significant slice of office workers, the call of the open road seems to have grown a whole lot stronger.
Each year consultancy MBO partners asks American adults if they plan on becoming so-called “digital nomads” within the next three years. In 2022 the results suggested 25 million would say yes and 48 million would say maybe. “This is a 12 percent increase compared to 2021… and a 33 percent increase compared to 2019,” MBO reports.
Of course, the vast majority of those who dream of #vanlife or an extended sabbatical abroad will never actually act on that dream. Which is why MBO insists most of those expressing intentions of location independence are just “armchair digital nomads.”
“Our studies indicate only about 8 percent to 11 percent of those saying yes or maybe will follow through and become nomadic,” MBO concedes.
But clearly a huge number of independent and remote workers out there are staring out their windows and dreaming of a more footloose life. No wonder an increasing number of countries are trying to tempt them to take the plunge and live their dreams, offering some version of a digital nomad visa to make it easy and legal to come and work there for an extended time. Spain is the latest on the list.
Adios America! Hola Spain!
According to TimeOut, the new scheme launching this month allows digital workers to legally live in work in Spain for up to a year as long as they meet a minimum monthly income requirement (which hasn’t been announced yet but is likely to be around 2,000 — or around $2,120 — a month) and make at least 80 percent of their income from companies outside Spain. If all goes well and you like your new life in Barcelona, Madrid, or Bilbao, you can renew the visa up to five times. After that you would be eligible for permanent residency.
This is clearly a good deal for Spain which would gain skilled, tax-paying workers who contribute to the local economy. Which is why a recent article in HBR highlighted no fewer than 46 countries, from Anguilla to Vietnam, offering some version of a digital nomad visa.
But it’s not a bad deal for location independent freelancers, entrepreneurs and remote workers either. “Valencia, Spain was voted as the No. 1 city for expats to live and work abroad in 2022, according to an InterNations survey,” Apartment Therapy points out. “Another plus? Spain is generally cheaper than other western European countries, so you won’t have to break the bank to live abroad.”
As an added bonus, researchers insist experience living abroad is tied to a host of in-demand skills and abilities like creativity, empathy, and agility. Other experts have argued that international experience is also one the best ways to develop self-knowledge. Time abroad has been linked with higher levels of entrepreneurship.
The only one who may not like the plan so much is your boss if you happen to be a remote employee. The Wall Street Journal recently covered all the tax and legal headaches having remote workers spread around the country and the world creates for companies. So if you’re thinking about saying adios to America and hola to Spain (or if one of your employees is considering becoming a digital nomad), be sure to do your research regarding all the boring logistics (as someone who lives abroad, I can personally attest that expat taxes are a nightmare).
How many Americans opt to pack up and take Spain up on this new offer remains to be seen. But this latest digital nomad visa program already confirms that the rise of remote work is changing the calculus of where and how professionals build their careers.