Tech Savvy – Will Travel: The rise of the digital nomad

Digital Nomad pic credit: Wikipedia

Last year was the year when Brexit limited the right of millions of people to travel and work across 27 EU countries – ending not only the freedom of movement for people to come to the UK but also go abroad.

The situation has also been made much worse by the global Covid 19 pandemic which saw a huge shutdown across the globe where people could not go on holiday or visit countries for work.

While all this was happening there was an almost unnoticed countervailing trend which is seeing massive new opportunities for the young and tech savvy to leave the UK and the US and work elsewhere.

Countries across Europe and much of the rest of the world are falling over each other to attract bright young entrepreneurial and tech savvy people to come, live and work there with special visas and tax incentives and ignoring normal restrictions – including the new ones imposed by the EU after the UK left – to stop people staying there.

Post Covid 2022 could be the year of the rise of the digital nomad – that young, free wheeling person who with a laptop can run a business anywhere from any country.

This phenomenon was highlighted this weekend on the website Dispatches Europe which has just launched an updated guide to cope with growing number of countries now offering opportunities.

The link to the guide is here. Basically much of Europe is covered plus the range of places goes from the Arctic Circle to the Caribbean.

For the most adventurous the most extraordinary place is Svalbard – a Norwegian island nearer the North Pole than Oslo ! You do not even require a visa to live there -only an address and a job – and you can stay as long as you like. It is cold -in the summer the sun shines for 24 hours a day and it is totally dark all winter. Intriguingly for a place with only 2000 residents it is nearly as diverse as London with 70 different nationalities finding their their way there. Watch the video below and seriously watch out for polar bears.

At the other end of the spectrum is the former Portuguese Cape Verde Islands nearer to the Equator than Lisbon. This year the authorities have released visas to attract Europeans and Americans to go and set up businesses there. just created Remote Working Cabo Verde, a tax exempt digital nomad visa designed to attract 4,000 foreigners, The visa is just 54 Euros valid initially for six months but extendable for up to a year. A video is below.

In the Caribbean visas have been set up for Aruba and Curacao, both self governing parts of the Netherlands and in the EU, the new Republic of Barbados, ( expensive visa costing nearly £1500) Bahamas and further north in Bermuda ( though the latter is aimed at high rollers – they can include staff and chauffeurs- and is expensive). So far 400 have come.

I wrote up a piece on Aruba when I visited it two years ago on a cruise – it is almost in South America as it is only 22 miles from Venezuela. It is a fascinating desert island. The link is here. The only thing you have to beware of is you can occasionally find a boa constrictor in the bath – but Aruba’s pest control are used to dealing with them. ( some foolish person brought them to Aruba and they have escaped and bred)

Curacao promotion aimed at the US market

An even more ambitious digital nomad project is planned for Italy where they have over 2000 ghost villages in the country and want to attract remote workers there- the fund could top 1 million Euros. So far one Tuscan village has jumped the gun- Santa Flora is offering 200 Euros a month rent subsidies for apartments there – and wants people to decide to settle a buy a home. So you can swap our drab winters for vineyards and olive groves.

Other countries planning to attract digital nomads include Spain and Croatia has just started a scheme – allowing you to be based on the Dalmatian coast and able to rent a place for 350 or so Euros a month. The visa is for one year in this EU country and digital nomads are exempt from income tax. They have to earn over $31,514 a year (just under £23,200), to qualify.

Compare all this to London and the UK. The UK does not seem to have any special digital nomad visas relying on a normal visa application to work here. It is regarded as an expensive country, housing costs are through the roof, public transport and fuel is expensive, though its cities are well known for cultural and night life. The best city for a digital nomad is said to be Newcastle-upon-Tune which has a good night life and is cheaper to live than elsewhere.

What seems to be clear from all this is that for many young people – the attraction of all round beach life ( unless you go to Svalbard), cheaper accommodation, combined with high speed internet and for young as opposed to old people, not too expensive health insurance make it a one way bet.

Boris Johnson has made much of claims of ” Global Britain” and the wonderful future he promises all of us. But looking at all these offers abroad I think clever young tech savvy people will see the wonders of a global life and opt to leave the country as soon as possible.

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