A Future Is Freelance podcast with Lily Szabo
Simply staying on top of all of them is an epic task, never mind maintaining a strategic overview. So I was glad to have the chance to sit down with Lily Szabo, who I believe has done a better job than anyone else.
Lily Szabo is a startup storyteller and community builder, currently focusing on the fast-moving world of global mobility, and ways we can take our work to different countries through new visa programmes.
With more countries every month offering special visas to attract remote workers and digital nomad visas, this is a moving target to keep track of. Lily’s exploration of the present scene also informs her work with Plumia – the SafetyWing non-profit working to create a country on the internet, for truly location-independent professionals.
Along with the challenges of life with a 7-month-old, we discuss the ways that our new life-work choices include:
🌎 the unlocking of rural and small-town communities for remote workers: important for ‘España vacia’ and the future
🌎 the income and geoarbitrage issues around digital nomad workers: earn in a stronger currency than where you typically spend it
🌏 the dimensions of travel choice, from tourism through to immigration
What do remote work visas mean for you?
Maybe it will spark new ideas for your own location-independent future… at a time when the possibilities have never been more exciting. Meanwhile, all of these ideas have important implications for Spain, as we anticipate the rollout of the final digital nomad visa legislation early in 2023.
Indeed, one of the points we discuss is that a lot of the documents being advertised as digital nomad visas are simply unsuitable for anyone actually nomadic, because they’re really aimed at prolonged stays, as routes to long-term residence or even change of citizenship. Which is great, but the incentives are misaligned, with those who are exploring FREEDOM.
Too many of these remote work visa schemes are forcing people to choose in advance where they want to be living in one year or even 5 years’ time, and that makes it more likely that those who don’t want to be pinned down will continue to be ‘just here on holiday’ for the time being.
“Digital nomadism is both a cultural identity and a state-change that people slip in and out of. This misunderstanding is also why most digital nomad visas miss the point and get so much grief. They’re demanding that digital nomads stop being digital nomads in order to get them. They’re not built around enabling the work and travel lifestyle, they’re built around encouraging you to move and settle down in so-and-so country.”Lily Szabo | Welcome to my Social Blog
Provided you work within the rules of each scheme, however, you can still use the emerging raft of remote and nomad visas to facilitate a good degree of flexibility, depending on your personal passport freedoms (for example in relation to Schengen travel eligibility… speaking as someone who has had that freedom recently curtailed against their will 🤬)
They all have slightly different criteria, but in most cases require that you have a clean police record (nowhere wants to import criminality), health insurance cover, and also that you have a source of income you are bringing with you – this is the whole point, that countries want to welcome new people who will be net contributors to the economy. They won’t take a job away from a local person, or claim benefits. This is particularly important because in most cases there are greatly reduced local tax liabilities under these remote work visas, so they have been designed to ensure no one becomes a burden on local public services.
The minimum income, and costs of application, vary considerably, as do the tax terms. For example, with the Estonian digital nomad visa you will need to prove a monthly gross income of €3504, and then it costs the state fee of $85 for a Type C (short-stay) visa or $107 for a Type D (long-stay) visa up to one year – but, after 183 days you will become tax resident by default.
If you find the Cayman Islands climate is more enticing than the Baltics, however, no problem – but you’ll need to prove $100,000 annual income (for an individual, up to $180k for a family), and pay a non-refundable visa application fee of $1469 per year, plus an additional $500 per dependent. You won’t pay any income tax when you get there though.
The tax situation is one we will be watching closely from Spain, because as freelancers we pay pretty high tax and autonomo fees already as residents, and the idea of brand new temporary residents being let off with a much lower rate is not attractive.
And we’re not the only ones to feel this way! In Malta, which was quick to roll out its visa earlier this year, the tax breaks on offer have been legally challenged and repealed already.
So enjoy this conversation with Lily – and if you are not a Spotify listener, you can listen on your favourite podcast app, or in the browser, as you prefer.
Don’t forget to subscribe, rate, and review as well, because we will be striving to keep up with this fast moving space as it continues to unfold, and look forward to talking to Lily again soon.