Digital Nomad Visa Misconceptions
Every country sets its own rules, but in general, they have a lot in common.
First of all digital nomad visa is often just an attractive fancy naming for some kind of residence visa. It can be a business or self-employed visa or a visa for financially independent migrants.
Secondly, a visa is always a thing that allows one to enter the country.
Tourist visas rarely allow staying for more than three months. Residence visas are also usually short-term things. But then it gets exchanged on a residence permit. It happens onsite and allows one to stay in the country for an extended timespan, like 2-3 years. Then it might be prolonged.
Visas are applied for from outside of the destination country in 99% of cases. Typically, the visa can only be applied from the country of your current residency.
That's why if we talk about digital nomad visa onsite application, in most cases it's not a visa but an onsite residence permit application. So be aware of what you need to google: "digital nomad visa in a country x" or "residence permit for a digital nomad in a country x".
The untold truth about the digital nomad visa application process is that it's rather cumbersome.
Usually, it's hard to arrange all things remotely. That's why the applicant has to go to the country of destination first (probably with a tourist visa), arrange accommodation, prepare some additional papers, go out of the country and only after that apply for the residence visa from the country of current residency.
The majority of digital nomad visa applications usually take a significant amount of time for preparation and approval. Typically it's not even weeks but months. Half a year is a legit timeline for relocation as a digital nomad.
As you might have already guessed. All of the above doesn't match well with an emergency relocation.
Why Digital Nomad Visas Didn't Work For Me
In my case, Russia was the only country I was a resident in and where I could apply for a visa.
Since I was not going back to Russia, most digital nomad visas didn't work for me. So I only had to choose from the countries that were available for an onsite residence permit application.
There was another viable option to relocate anywhere but in two steps.
- Move to a buffer country where a residence permit is comparably easy to get onsite
- Apply for any digital nomad visa I want from there
However, I wanted to avoid this additional step in my relocation for several reasons:
- I wanted to save time and money. Every relocation move is costly, time-consuming, and cumbersome in general.
- Rental prices were skyrocketing in every easy-to-relocate-to country because of a huge migration crisis.
- I needed to set up a new legal entity infrastructure for my work as fast as possible because sanctions were complicating my life every other day. It's reasonable to do this in the final destination country.
My Destination Country Criteria
I worked out the criteria for the country choice.
I wanted something that was digital nomad online business friendly because I needed to set up a new legal entity for doing my work. Modern online banking and so on.
Onsite residence permit application availability is a must. The family reunification option is a HUGE plus.
Distance from my former home matters. I didn't want to move too far to simplify meetings with the rest of the family, shipping docs, or other things like winter clothes.
Timezone to work comfortably with the rest of the world, especially with Europe and the USA.
Low Costs and Taxes
Comparably low costs and low taxes to be able to cover the expenses with my current level of earnings and even continue doing some kind of geo arbitrage.
Awesome if English is common for a large number of people there. I would also prefer the native language not to be so extremely difficult to learn like German, Dutch or Finnish.
Relocation takes a lot of time, money, paperwork, and stress. That's why I wanted to consider it as an investment and expected some additional benefit as a payoff. Visa-free or simplified travel or maybe citizenship opportunities for me or kids in the future.
No More Dictatorship
I would also prefer something with a more or less civilized, stable, and mature democratic political system because honestly, I got already fed up with a dictatorship, crisis every 5 years, and so on.
If I got a chance to pick a new place to live, why not simply choose a nice one?
I would like it to be a nice place with a mild climate, tasty food, beautiful nature and architecture, High life expectancy, safety, level of medicine, education, and friendly people. Why not?
I would like it to be an enabling environment that would make my lifestyle slightly healthier and maybe more interesting.
Is there a country in the world that can match all of the conditions above?