– The Covid-19 facilitated the widespread adoption of telework
– Despite travel restrictions, countries seek to attract digital nomads
– Dubai and Mexico have become key destinations for remote foreign workers
– As travel picks up, many anticipate a new wave of roaming digital nomads
With Covid-19 facilitating the widespread adoption of remote working practices, some emerging markets are looking to attract digital nomads through a series of special incentives and visas.
Despite border closures and travel restrictions resulting from the virus, various countries are stepping up efforts to spur the movement of so-called digital nomads – people who work remotely and move relatively freely.
For example, in October, the government of Dubai launched its Virtual Work Program, an initiative that gives foreign professionals the opportunity to settle in the emirate and continue to work remotely in their current job.
The one-year program, launched after Dubai reopened its borders to international tourists in July last year, is designed to attract professionals, entrepreneurs and those working in start-ups.
Given its strong ICT infrastructure and healthy start-up scene, Dubai has been seen as an increasingly attractive option for digital nomads in recent years, with officials presenting the emirate as a place where people can live and work by the beach.
As an added incentive, in January, authorities began offering free vaccines to program participants.
Mexico strengthens its attractiveness
Mexico is another emerging market that has become an increasingly attractive proposition for digital nomads during the pandemic.
A number of remote workers – particularly from the United States and Canada – moved to the country during 2020.
While Mexico, the United States and Canada agreed in January to restrict non-essential travel between countries due to a spike in infections – a measure that will remain in place until the end of February – the Mexico’s more liberal approach to its border throughout 2020 contrasts with many other countries in the region.
For example, Colombia and Peru have kept their borders closed for much of the past year, and Trinidad and Tobago is unlikely to reopen its borders in the foreseeable future.
Additionally, the ability for US citizens to obtain a six-month visa on arrival is a significant incentive for digital nomads, alongside the flexibility of the country’s temporary resident visa, which allows foreigners to stay between 180 days and four years.
This means that some places in Mexico, like Tulum on the Caribbean coast, have been particularly busy due to the increase in the number of foreign workers.
Sign that many expect this boost to be more than temporary, last February, hotel operator Selina – specializing in accommodation for digital nomads – announced that it was seeking to expand its offer in Mexico . The company said it would invest $ 150 million over two years, increasing its number of hotel and hostel beds from around 2,300 to 10,000.
Competition from developed and high-income countries
Emerging markets are not the only ones seeking to attract digital nomads.
In the wake of the collapse of global tourism in the wake of Covid-19, a number of high-income Caribbean countries have turned to inciting such immigration as a way to offset the economic fallout from the virus.
In July, Barbados launched its Welcome Stamp program. Within 48 hours of submitting an accepted application and paying the $ 2,000 application fee, eligible remote workers will be able to live in the country for one year.
This was followed in August by the launch of the Work From Anguilla program, which also offers visas to remote workers for up to a year; and the two-year Antigua and Barbuda digital residency visa, unveiled in November.
The Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Montserrat have similar initiatives.
This approach has also been replicated in Europe, with Croatia, Greece and the Portuguese island’s regional government of Madeira unveiling incentives to attract foreign workers remotely.
Meanwhile, the Estonian government – which since 2014 has hosted a pioneering online residency program, designed to attract start-ups and entrepreneurs – updated its offer in August last year with the launch of a Special digital nomadic visa, allowing remote workers to live and work in the country for one year.
Digital nomads: the new normal?
With Covid-19 facilitating a massive transition to remote working, the digital nomad phenomenon is expected to continue to grow in the years to come, as businesses offload expensive office space and employers and employees alike. ” are more accustomed to remote work.
In fact, the trend was on the rise even before the pandemic, facilitated by the growth of coworking spaces and the establishment of companies geared towards digital nomads.
One of them is Outside, headquartered in California, which offers co-living and co-working spaces, online platforms and services for remote workers. The company has eight sites in the United States and nine elsewhere in the world, including Tulum and San José del Cabo in Mexico; Ericeira and Lisbon in Portugal; and Bali.
As borders gradually open and travel picks up, more and more emerging markets will seek to capitalize on the growing trend of digital nomads seeking affordable, reliable and attractive workplaces.