Sure, this whole WFH thing might be working out okay for a lot of us. But with the ever-present risk of another full lockdown, would you really want to spend another few months trapped inside that cramped apartment?
Well, thanks to things like email and video chat apps, there may be very little need in these bizarre times for many restless former office workers to stay rooted in one place. That makes moving somewhere funner, sunnier or cheaper sound incredibly tempting right now.
As nations around the world begin to reopen their borders to travellers, many popular destinations are emphasising longer-term stays over short-term breaks. And at the very extreme end, some are even trying to sell themselves as idyllic WFH spots with new visa schemes that would allow you to live and work there for up to a year, in so-called ‘welcome stamp’ schemes.
Could you see yourself dialling into Zoom calls from a sun lounger? Then you should know that the Bahamas is now running ‘Extended Access Travel Stay’ programme allowing workers and students to work or study remotely from any of the country’s 16 islands for up to a year. All you have to do is fill out the application form here, then pay a fee of $1,000 (£750 or A$1,354) for the head of household (and $500 for each dependent) for a work visa, or $500 (£375 or A$677) as a student.
Iceland also recently introduced its first long-term visa from those outside the European Economic Area. (EEA residents were already free to relocate to the volcanic country.) This means that anyone can apply to spend six months living in the country under a programme called, imaginatively, ‘Work in Iceland’. Okay, not quite anyone: there’s a minimum income of 1 million ISK per month, which works out at just over £66,000, $88,000 or A$120,000. And you’ll need to sort out your health insurance too.
If the Icelandic climate doesn’t suit you, then perhaps you might be interested in Mauritius’s ‘premium travel visa’, which will be valid for one year (and renewable for even longer after that). All prospective takers have to do is produce ‘proof’ of their long-stay plans and adequate travel and health insurance for their initial period of stay. Interested? The country says it will soon set up a new ‘e-visa’ application platform.
Dubai has also just announced a long-term visa scheme for remote workers and their families. The biggest city in the United Arab Emirates will allow you to stay for up to a year while still working for oversea firms. The visa costs $287 (£221, A$404) plus medical insurance. There is one snag, though: you must earn at least $5,000 (£3,800, A$7,000) a month to qualify.
Similarly, the Cayman Islands are soon to set up a new ‘Global Citizen Concierge Programme’ that will allow non-residents to work there for up to two years. However, this will only be available to those who earn an annual salary of at least $100,000 (£77,000, A$140,000), or $150,000 (£115,000, A$210,000) for couples.
Not quite eligible for either of those? Another almost-always-sunny beach destination, Barbados, also has plans for a ‘12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp’ that would allow anyone earning $50,000 (£39,000 or A$70,000) or more to work remotely from the island.
Of the scheme, the country’s prime minister, Mia Mottley, recently told The Washington Post: ‘The sunshine is powerful. The seawater is powerful. They’re both therapeutic in ways that are hard to explain. And we felt that, why not share it?’ Quite right!
In Europe, meanwhile, the beautiful Baltic country of Estonia has just launched its long-awaited ‘digital nomad’ scheme. There is a similar salary threshold, and you must either have a job contract with an employer outside the country, have your own company registered abroad or work as a freelancer for mainly non-Estonian clients.
At the intersection of Europe and Asia, Georgia has announced it will set up a new visa programme that will allow international visitors to work there remotely for an indefinite period. The programme will be available to ‘citizens of all countries’ and is aimed at freelancers and the self-employed.
To take advantage of it, all you have to do is fill out an application form (requiring personal information, a certificate of employment and a letter affirming you’re fine to undergo a 14-day quarantine) and obtain a ‘preliminary confirmation’. The scheme will apply to anyone who wants to stay in the country for longer than six months.
Bermuda, a British overseas territory in the North Atlantic, has also launched a new residency programme that’s open to employees who work for ‘legitimate’ overseas firms or their own company, and have health insurance. Applications opened on August 1.
The latest Caribbean nation to announce it will welcome remote workers on year-long visas is Anguilla. As it reopens to travellers post-lockdown, the country said it would prioritise ‘longer-stay visitors’ who can apply to live there for up to 12 months via an online form. Anyone who plans to stay for between three months and a year must pay a fee of $2,000 (£1,500 or A$2,800), or $3,000 (£2,300, A$4,200) for a family of four.
So whether you’re more into the idea of crystal-clear Caribbean waters, cutting-edge Baltic architecture, trekking the breathtaking Caucasus Mountains, riding camels across the Dubai sand, or Bermuda’s insanely Instagrammable pink beaches, you may have just found your ideal new home office set-up. Zoom background? That’s no Zoom background!