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EP Advisory

Working remotely from Europe: all about the Digital Nomad Visa

Job abroad

Due to the pandemic, many European countries have introduced visas for “digital nomads” - professionals who are not tied to a physical office and can work from different parts of the world.

Consultants from the EP Advisory team explain how to obtain a visa for remote work for a citizen of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus or other CIS countries, and what income is needed for this.

Who are “digital nomads”?

Digital nomads are a relatively recent concept. All the specialists who can take their work with them anywhere can be called this, because for they only need a laptop and high-speed Internet.

Before the pandemic, such specialists existed in a “legal vacuum.” They did not have the right to stay in a European country for a long time and work there on a tourist visa, but they also could not get a work visa, since it required a contract with a local company.

Because of this, many difficulties arose: where are you allowed to live and for how long are you allowed to live there? How do you use local medical services? How do you contact the police? How, after all, do you pay taxes?

The Digital Nomad visa removes this problem.

What does the Digital Nomad Visa provide?

The “digital nomad” visa allows people who work remotely and earn a stable income in another country to legally live in the country.

Typically, such visas are issued to citizens of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other CIS countries, since they need permission to enter and stay in the European Union. Citizens from 60 other countries who want to work remotely within Europe can do so with an ETIAS visa.

The nomad visa is convenient because:

  • It gives a person the right to stay somewhere longer than 3 months, unlike the tourist visa of many European countries. Most Digital Nomad visas allow you to legally live in the country for a full year and extend your stay;
  • It allows you to enjoy the benefits of being an EU resident and protects your rights. For example, crossing state borders, even when the tourist flow is limited (as was the case during the pandemic);
  • It entitles you to a temporary residence permit. With this you can open bank accounts and if you pay taxes in the host country, use social services available to the local population.

In addition it is beneficial for the governments of European countries: nomads support the local economy, but do not take jobs, leaving them to citizens. Therefore, the list of programs for digital nomads will most likely only grow.

Limitations on Digital Nomad Visa

The nomad visa also has its disadvantages.

  • For example, in most countries it does not allow you to work for a local company. To find a job in the country, you will have to obtain a work permit or an EU Blue card.

The digital nomad visa requires you to live in the country for at least six months. This means that you cannot obtain such a visa in one country and immediately move to another. If this fact is revealed, it will be considered a violation of the visa conditions with all the ensuing consequences.

  • It is not always possible to bring your family and/or partner with a Digital Nomad visa.
  • For those who work as an employee in the Russian Federation or CIS countries or under full-fledged individual entrepreneur status, the nomad status is unprofitable from a tax point of view. In this case you would have to pay both local (European) taxes after 180 days in the country and higher taxes in your home country. For example, according to Russian legislation, your personal income tax on earnings in Russia would increase from 13% to 30%, and the right to tax deductions would disappear. But if you are an individual entrepreneur or have self-employed status, then you are already exempt from personal income tax and there would be no increases.

The solution is to choose the most favourable tax format in your home country. For example, in Russia there is a regime for the self-employed (from 4 to 6%. Suitable for those whose income does not exceed 2.4 million per year) and entrepreneurs (for example, the simplified tax system is 6% or 15%). Or, if you have not lived in your home country for more than six months, obtain non-resident tax status. This status exempts citizens of the Russian Federation and Belarus from paying taxes, but citizens of Ukraine will still have to pay a certain percentage.

You can also choose a country to live in that provides benefits for nomads. For example, Italy and Spain allow remote workers to pay less tax, and Croatia completely exempts them from paying income tax.

The ideal situation is to work from a country with which your state has a double tax treaty. This way you will only pay tax to one state. Almost all European countries except the Netherlands have such an agreement with Russia. But even without an agreement, most of them operate on the principle of “pay taxes to the country you consider your home.” In France, thanks to this, I can deduct taxes that I have already paid in Russia.

Pavel Kononov, digital nomad

In what cases is a “digital nomad visa” not issued?

For most professionals, the Digital Nomad visa seems more convenient and affordable. But in addition to not very transparent factors for refusal, such as nationality, visa history and the risk that the applicant is a “security threat to the destination country,” there is one clearly regulated one - income level.

Most countries require that a nomad's income be several times higher than the average salary in the host country. On average, the limit is not lower than 2000 euros per month, and in most cases - from 3500 euros.

The exception is Portugal; at the end of 2022, Portugal introduced a visa for nomads and according to it the requirement is earnings of 3040 euros per month. With the advent of this visa, people with an active income receive a Digital Nomad visa, and not a D7 with an income of 760 euros as before. Now D7 is only for people with passive income.

With this level of salary in your company, you are already likely to be a very valuable specialist. If you want to settle in another country for a long time, then it makes sense to immediately find a local employer, with their help, get the right to work and a work visa, and start saving up the years to obtain citizenship.

Pavel Kononov, digital nomad

The advice becomes especially relevant when, due to sanctions, stable remittance from Russia abroad is under threat.

Alternative options

Here are other visa options that allow you to legally live in another country while working remotely.

Work Visa

Each country has different requirements, but the general rule is that you must be employed by a local company or have a contract with them if you have your own business. In addition, the criteria are drawn up so that only highly qualified employees and representatives of the most valuable professions can work in the country. Some states even compile lists of such specialties and in Denmark there are even two of them: one for specialists with higher education and the second for experienced specialists.

Study visa

Study visas are issued not only for higher education, but also for long-term courses, including language courses. “With such a visa, you not only get the right to stay in the country, but also the chances of obtaining citizenship in the future, inclusion in the community and partial right to work 20 hours a week,” suggests Pavel Kononov.

In mid-March 2022, it was possible to travel to Europe on a study visa to the UK and Ireland, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany.

Long stay visa

We are talking about visas with the right to a residence permit or a temporary residence permit. They are issued for a long period of time, but in order to obtain such a visa, you need to prove your complete financial independence and not apply for work in the country where you are located.

I received my Visiteur visa in France in August 2023. The French consulate in Russia still issues all types of visas, although the requirements for the Visiteur visa have now increased.

The official requirement is to show earnings equal to the minimum wage (SMIC for 2023 - €1,383 net per month) and savings equal to 12 times the minimum wage. But in fact, it is better to show income double the official figure.

The most difficult thing now is explaining your motive for obtaining this visa. You need to explain to the consul your interest and connections with France; desire alone is not enough. I think this is what makes this visa different from visas for remote workers in other countries.

Marina Kozlyaeva, designer and SMM manager at EP Advisory, digital nomad

Investor visa

Such visas - and along with them a residence permit and in the future, citizenship - are issued by about 60 countries around the world. Basically we are talking about the purchase of real estate, and investment amounts start from 200,000 euros. The full list of countries can be found here.

In the spring of 2022, a number of European countries closed investor visa programs for Russian citizens. Now “golden passports” cannot be purchased in Greece, the Czech Republic, Malta, Portugal, Germany, the USA, Canada, the UK and other countries.

But for citizens outside the Russian Federation, this opportunity is still relevant.

Instant tourist visa

This scheme is suitable for owners of long-term Schengen visas, under which you can enter the EU zone multiple times. As a rule, with such multiple visas you can stay in the Schengen zone for up to 90 days per six months, for a total of up to 180 days per year. Some digital nomads use this scheme: they leave their favourite European country for Cyprus, Turkey, or countries in Asia or Latin America (Russians have a simplified visa regime with them). They spend three months there and return to the Schengen zone again.

Employer of Record service

The main concerns of digital nomads are to understand the rules of organisational forms of different countries and tax payments. How to avoid breaking any rules and keep your books? Constantly moving, a nomad may find himself in a situation where it is completely unclear to which country to pay taxes.

We have to take into account many nuances - all countries have different rules, different ways of doing business.

There is a conventional understanding: when you come to a country as a tourist, you do not have the right to work. But it's impossible to track and no one will do this if you haven’t stayed for more than 3 months.

However, if you decide to stay in the country, then you need to clearly understand at what point you become a tax resident and at what point you need to change the legal form in your country and become an individual entrepreneur resident in a new one.

With the move, I thought for the first time that when working for hire, everything is much simpler. It’s great that now businesses like Deel are emerging that cover such needs and act as intermediary companies between the employer and the digital nomad.

Marina Kozlyaeva, designer and SMM manager at EP Advisory, digital nomad

Where tax laws and regulations do not keep up with trends, third-party services come to the rescue. “Employer of Record” is a service that helps companies hire employees and contractors abroad without becoming an official employer.

How does it work? Let's assume that Company A is a real company based in the UK. Company A wants to expand into new markets to attract more clients and gain access to a global talent pool. The company can do this through an intermediary - the Employer of Record service.

The Employer of Record service is a company registered in the same country as the employee. Employer of Record hires an employee and administers the employment relationship.

Advantages of a “virtual employer” for companies:

  • It facilitates the hiring of employees in foreign territories.
  • It completely takes over the management of personnel processes. In particular, it calculates wages and pays taxes, removing responsibility from the employer.

Employer of Record charges Company A a fee for its services. This is usually a fixed monthly fee or a percentage of the revenue processed.

Benefits for employees:

  • Increased chance of getting hired by a foreign company. If you are a nomad, you may be offered a job in a company located in another country.
  • The ability to outsource all the work on filing and paying taxes to the service. The Employer of Record withholds the income tax portion of the employee's wages and pays it on the employee's behalf.
  • Working through Employer of Record is a great opportunity to gain experience in the international market, even without being tied to an office.

For you, as an employee, it will be no different from working in a “real” company - you will still receive instructions from the enterprise and be part of a team. The only difference is that your salary is processed by a different organisation.

How to get a visa for remote work in different countries

Visas called Digital Nomad or their analogues have already been introduced or will soon be introduced by 15 European countries. For example, at the end of 2022, such visas appeared in Spain and Portugal.

Each country has its own requirements for documents, but everywhere by default you need a foreign passport valid for the entire period of stay, payment of a visa fee, photographs and other documents that are required for a regular visa.

You will also have to confirm a stable remote income that will provide you and your partner (if you are moving as a couple) for the entire duration of your stay. This could be bank statements with account balances and movements, a translation of a tax return for the previous year, a translation of an employment contract, a real estate lease agreement, and for people over 45 years old - an insurance pension plan. In some cases, all translations must be notarized, but this varies by country.

I received my Spanish visitor visa in June 2023. In total it took me a little over a month. The most important criterion for obtaining a Spanish residence permit is an income level of 2520 € per person. The salary must be specified in the contract and confirmed by bank statements.

You can apply for a visa as an employee, an individual entrepreneur, or even as an individual with a service agreement. I applied as an individual entrepreneur.

Alena Medvedeva, YouTube producer, digital nomad

Here are some important recommendations from Alena Medvedeva on obtaining a Spanish visitor visa:

  • Be attentive to detail. For example, signing documents in Latin is understandable for officials. They pay attention to this, and it speeds up work on your case. Thousands of applications are submitted, but only a few people process them, so you need to try to make their work as easy as possible.
  • Translate all documents through a translator, even if this is not required. Machine translation can greatly distort the meaning of texts and this will not be beneficial to the decision on the case.
  • Act strategically. Don’t upload all the documents in sequence, but think, “Why am I attaching this document? What will this tell the official?” For example, before the Georgian IP I had a Russian one, from which I worked with the current company. I also attached the cancelled contract, deciding that it would give weight to my dossier.
  • Display the entry stamp clearly. One of the requirements if you apply through the electronic portal is that you must enter Spain in order to apply for a visa. I read about cases where they didn’t notice the stamp and were denied a residence permit. I have a lot of stamps in my passport, so along with a scan of it, I attached a photo of the page where the entry stamp is located to reduce the risk of refusal.
  • Issue a power of attorney for electronic signature. I submitted documents through the electronic portal, which requires an electronic signature to work with it. It is bureaucratically difficult to obtain, so you can issue a power of attorney to the people who have it, and they will upload the documents for you. I did just that and was pleased.

A full list of countries and Digital Nomad visa details can be found on the EP Advisory website

How to find remote work in Europe

Communities on social networks. Professional communities on LinkedIn, Facebook and Xing will be very helpful.

Personal pages. In addition to proactively finding interesting people on LinkedIn, it can be helpful to follow their posts.

In many British companies, for example, a vacancy will first be published on the pages of recruiters and hiring managers and only then on job sites like Indeed or Reed.

Job search sites. After the first waves of the pandemic, the demand for IT specialists, marketers, and financiers in certain industries increased sharply. Including that they are actively hiring remote workers. Also pay attention to vacancies that require knowledge of the Russian language. If the company is expanding to Russian-speaking countries or, for example, founded by an expat from the post-Soviet space, then knowledge of the language is your unique trump card. It may be easier for you to agree to work remotely.

Freelance exchanges. For example, the popular website Upwork (currently closed to users from Russia), peopleperhour, You will have to spend some time studying the profiles of other specialists and sample assignments to understand how best to present yourself. But after a few short overseas projects, you will have a much higher chance of finding a permanent job in Europe.

Source: EP Advisory