An Incomplete Guide for Remote Workers Looking to Migrate to Technologically Progressive Nations
I recently read The Location Stack by Balajis Srinivasan. In his post, he describes how "the combination of COVID, crypto, remote, and the rise of the rest have scrambled the map and made it possible to disaggregate your personal location, your corporate location, the location of your coworkers, the location of your servers, the location of your funds, the location of your company's incorporation, and so on."
This idea of breaking down the borders that have historically distinguished the various aspects of our lives, including our work, families, travel and passions, is the inspiration for this post.
Adapting to a New Normal
The wide-scale adoption of remote work due to COVID-19 could arguably be considered as the genesis event in the establishment of founder-led, sovereign nations. Few things could be considered inherently good about 2020, however the transition from the existing 9-5, location dependent working framework to a more progressive, location independent one was a welcomed shift.
Prior to 2020, although many people agreed that, in theory, remote work would be far more productive, cost effective and rewarding, there was no way to test this hypothesis without taking on significant risk; if someone decided to test a remote work model and discovered that it failed, they would risk compromising their company's productivity.
However, with the onset of COVID-19 in early 2020, the question as to whether remote work models could work was no longer relevant; what mattered was how they would work. The margins for testing vanished and companies were forced to establish a fully-functional, remote work framework for their employees, or suffer the consequences. As we look in hindsight, it's clear that the pandemic acted as the catalyst in what would become a chain reaction in the adoption of remote work models.
As humanity has proven throughout our history, our control of what happens is negligible, however, control of what we do in response to what happens makes all the difference.
Companies adapted. Families adapted. Individuals adapted. We rolled with the punches and managed to prove, as gracefully as one could hope for, that remote work was destined to become the new normal. Shortly after the initial adoption period, many large tech companies realized just how productive and convenient remote work was for the majority of their employees. Instead of holding on to what was, they embraced what was to come and decided later that year to make remote work the new standard.
With remote work now considered the rule, rather than the exception, many countries are becoming aware of the benefits that attracting remote workers could bring to their communities. Several governing bodies at the federal, state and local levels have begun passing legislation that will support remote workers as they begin to transition from their historically localized lifestyles to the emerging digital age.
What Does Remote Work Enable?
With remote work now a proven concept, the world is quickly discovering the benefits of a location-independent class of individuals. For example, innovation has historically been geographically concentrated to a few areas, where most of the world's innovators migrated to in an attempt to be surrounded by others like them. With remote work capabilities, innovators no longer have to be near one another physically; they are able to achieve the same levels of communication and collaboration in the cloud.
Additionally, the arrival of high earning entrepreneurs in less technologically established cities/countries will bring about significant opportunities and awareness for locals. For example, instead of creating a food delivery service in the U.S., an entrepreneur could start a delivery service for groceries and supplies for small Indian Villages. They could get funding from U.S. based venture capitalists or through cryptocurrency-based crowdfunding and/or grants, and then use that funding to hire local software developers who were educated in India to build the service, while paying them a San Fransisco-level wage (or, better yet, pay their wage in an appreciating asset class, such as sound cryptocurrencies) to support their families and communities, and then hire locals as delivery drivers, while establishing relationships with local businesses as the suppliers.
Remote work enables a wide range of capabilities, both for the providers and consumers of products. The benefits that could emerge as a result of a local innovative presence for those cities/countries, which have historically had a smaller innovative footprint, are clear.
With entrepreneurs and many remote workers now capable of choosing where they would like to live and work, the question of why should they live in a given location now falls on the local governing bodies. While many government officials seem to be complicit with their most influential entrepreneurs departing, many others are taking advantage of a rare opportunity; that is, attracting as many innovators to their locales as possible.
Attracting Prospects: How Governments Will Entice Remote Workers
I recently wrote about startup cities and how they were going to be built and led by sovereign individuals.
That post was inspired by the decisions of a handful of notable entrepreneurs who had grown impatient with their existing state and/or federal policies by which they were bounded by. Instead of continuing to comply, many individuals became attracted to several locations that were taking the opportunity to implement technologically-progressive policies and offer a helping hand to them.
Many entrepreneurs and remote workers are now looking to migrate to cities that, not only align with their ideals and way of life, but also to those places which present professional opportunities that were not previously possible. As a result, government officials are doing what they can to pass supportive legislation in an effort to attract these sovereign individuals.
This means that governing bodies will have the opportunity to present their case for why remote workers should live in their cities. However, since remote workers are not all looking to meet the same set of conditions, it will be important for different governments to implement different legislation, based on who they are looking to attract. While some places may be interested in attracting entrepreneurs who will start companies in their cities and hire locals, other places may be more interested in attracting a large number of remote employees for the sake of growing their existing industries.
As different places are more suited for different people, it's important for remote workers to be clear on what their options are.
In addition to professional opportunities, remote workers will also want to ensure that, wherever they are thinking of moving to, they are supported in their personal lives as well. For example, someone with a family will want to ensure a sound education system is in place, whereas someone who is single may be interested in a more lively nightlife.
This post is meant to be a guide for those who are looking for a change in scenery. For the purposes of conciseness, I've limited the locations in this post to those that have emerged as the major players so far in the age of startup cities.
These are locations that have implemented technologically-progressive policies intended to support remote workers. This list will surely grow well after the time of writing, but for those interested in making the move in the near-future, my aim is that the majority of current options will be included here.
Where & Why?
Best Places for Entrepreneurs Looking to Start a Company
The following is an incomplete list of countries that currently offer entrepreneur-focused visas. Although there are many countries that have not been listed here, I've attempted to provide an overview of some of the most progressive programs currently available. For a complete list of countries and what they are offering entrepreneurs, please see here or here.
Canada offers their Canada Startup Visa for prospective entrepreneurs who are looking to start a company and base it out of Canada. If granted, this can be an excellent way for gaining permanent residency. Cities like Vancouver and Toronto have already established themselves as startup hubs and are rapidly growing.
1. "Each applicant holds 10% or more of the voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at the time of application submission (up to 5 people can apply as owners)"
2. "Applicants and the designated organization jointly hold more than 50% of the total voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at that time"
3. "A letter of support from a designated organization (a business group that has been approved to invest in or support possible start-ups)"
4. "The ability to communicate and work in English, French or both languages will help your business succeed in Canada"
5. "Proof that you have the money to support yourself and your dependants after you arrive in Canada. You can’t borrow this money from another person"
New Zealand's technology presence is growing fast. This is largely due to the New Zealand Entrepreneur Visa program. This visa is aimed at providing prospective entrepreneurs with 12 months to grow their qualified businesses in NZ. After the initial 12 months, another 24 months of residency can be granted if proof of business growth can be provided. After that, entrepreneurs will be able to apply for a permanent residency.
1. The New Zealand government evaluates potential businesses using a point system that is based on your age, your capital investment, your business experience, the benefits of your business to New Zealand and the location of your business. Applicants must score 120 or higher to be accepted.
2. "The applicant must provide a detailed business plan upon submission. The business plan should be no more than 3 months old when application is submitted."
3. "The applicant must have a minimum capital investment of NZ$100,000 (this does not include working capital)."
4. "The applicant must have a record clear of bankruptcy, business failure, or fraud."
5. "The applicant must meet good character, health, and English proficiency levels."
6. "Applicant's must start up their business within the first 12 months of obtaining their visa."
Singapore is a well-established technology titan. For those who are interested in starting a company, have a proven track record of starting and growing successful businesses elsewhere, or have significant experience in investing, the EntrePass visa will be the best option for setting up shop in Singapore. This program is designed to retain the benefits of growing companies and ensuring there are local benefits. It offers qualified entrepreneurs that either 1) want to operate a business in Singapore that is venture-backed or 2) own innovative technologies in Singapore, an initial 1-year visa and subsequent renewal options that last 2 years.
1. "The applicant's company has raised funding of at least $100,000 from a government investment vehicle, venture capitalist (VC) or business angel that is recognized by a Singapore Government agency."
2. "The applicant must provide a 10-page business plan consisting of what their product and services are, an analysis of the market they are entering, an operation plan, a profile of their management team, and supporting documents, such as licensing agreements, product certificates and endorsement patents."
3. "If registered, the company must be less than 6 months old on the date you apply. If not registered, applicants can do so after they know the outcome of their application."
Chile is the tech capital of South America. It's eagerness to attract entrepreneurs and individuals involved in technology can be easily seen with their short turnaround times for processing applications (typically 2 weeks after the application is submitted) for their Startup chile program - a government funded incubator program, designed to help founders, employees and personnel establish their technology presence in Chile.
1. "The applicant must be at least 18 years of age"
2. "The applicant must be 100% dedicated to the startup (i.e. they cannot be working for another company, nor engaging in any studies)"
3. "The company must be tech-based with a scalable solution."
4. "The applicant must include a clear roadmap with an overview of how their company plans to affect the Chilean and Latin America markets as part of its economic goals."
5. "The company must have been created at most 12 months prior to application submission.'
6. "The applicant must have a minimum of 10% ownership of the company and must work in a managing position."
7. "The applicant must reside in Chile for the duration of the program."
8. "The applicant needs a letter of invitation or certificate of sponsorship from InvestChile, Start-Up Chile, or the Undersecretariat of Economy."
Estonia is not the first country that comes to mind when technology hubs are being discussed, however that likely won't be the case for long. Estonia has quietly been establishing themselves as one of the leaders in technology for the past few years. Their small, highly technical population has allowed their government to operate like a technology company in and of itself. For entrepreneurs who are interesting in starting a company among a technologically savvy society, Estonia offers their Startup visa. This is a 1-year renewable visa that can be extended to spouses.
1. "The applicant should have at least €160 for every month planned to be spent in Estonia."
2. "Confirmation letter from the Startup Committee regarding qualification as a startup, or confirmation regarding participation in a qualified accelerator program."
3. "A Technology based, innovative and scalable business. Your business model is expected to pack global growth potential."
4. "Evidence of sufficient means of subsistence and planned accommodation in Estonia."
5. "An insurance policy valid for Estonia or for the Schengen area with a coverage of at least €30,000 for the entire duration of your stay."
Portugal is slowly becoming a technology hub within the EU. Aside from it's warm weather and coastal cities (and not to mention startup friendly taxes), it's also home to many talented technical professionals. The number of startups emerging in Portugal is growing, as are the number of local VC firms. Portugal offers their Startup Portugal visa, which is aimed at entrepreneurs who have not yet started their business (or who have but would like to move it to Portugal).
1. "You are an entrepreneur who intends to develop your startup in Portugal, even though you might not have started your business yet"
2. "You are an entrepreneur who has already launched a startup in your country and you want to set it up in Portugal"
3. "You did not have regular residence in the Schengen area in a recent past"
4. "You do not have criminal records"
5. "You are not under 18 years old"
6. "You have enough funds in your bank account in a total amount of 5146.08€ for 12 months (per person)"
7. "Your project/startup is focused on tech"
8. "Your startup shows potential to the creation of jobs, besides the entrepreneurs you include initially, along with yourself, in your application"
9. "Your startup shows the potential to generate a turnover of 325,000€/ year and/or assets value over 325,000€/ year, within 5 years after the start of the contract with your chosen incubator"
10. "You have the capacity to establish a company, when applicable, during the undergoing of the program"
Best Places for Remote Employees to Live and Work
What if you're someone who doesn't want to start a company, but you're interested in living and working in your current remote position abroad? Well, here's another incomplete list for all you remote employees who are looking to scratch that travel bug. The following countries are looking to attract remote workers in an attempt to grow their existing industries. Although I've only highlighted a handful of them, a complete list can be found here or here.
Iceland is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world. For those who love the outdoors, this is certainly a place that is sure to be high on their bucket lists. With remote work being adopted at such scales, the Icelandic government is now offering high earning remote workers the chance to live in Iceland for up to 6 months through their long-term visa for remote workers.
1. "The applicant is from a country outside the EU/EEA/EFTA."
2. "The applicant does not need a visa to travel to Iceland."
3. "The applicant has not been issued a long-term visa in the last 12 months by Icelandic authorities."
4. "The purpose of the stay is to work remotely from Iceland for a foreign company."
5. "The applicant does not intend to reside in Iceland for the long term."
6. "The applicant can show their monthly income is equivalent to 1,000,000 ISK, or 1,300,000 ISK if applying for an accompanying spouse, cohabiting partner, and children under the age of 18. See the Central Bank of Iceland website for currency exchange rates."
Dubai is a becoming globally recognized as one of the most advanced societies in the world. It's desert setting, warm weather and close proximity to the beach make it a remote worker's paradise. In light of the shift to remote work, Dubai is offering one of the most accessible and best-in-class remote work visas with their virtual working programme. It offers qualified remote workers up to one year (with possibility of renewal after the first year) to work and live in Dubai on their own, or with their families. The visa extends to the applicant's spouse and children, and allows for children to attend school.
1. "Passport with a minimum of 6 months validity"
2. "Health insurance with UAE coverage validity"
3. "For employees: proof of employment from a current employer with a one-year contract validity, a minimum of US$5,000 per month salary, last month's payslip and 3 preceding months’ bank statements."
4. "For business owners: proof of ownership of the company for one year or more, with an average monthly income of US$5,000 per month and 3 preceding months’ bank statements."
Mauritius is a small island nation off of the east coast of Africa, that is quickly growing their foreign national presence. They are offering remote workers the chance to stay and work remotely for up to one-year. This beautiful island has it all: Beaches, mountains and the jungle for the adventurous types. The cost of their Premium Travel visa application is free and, once granted, the visa is extendable to the applicant's family.
1. "The applicants should not enter the Mauritius Labour market"
2. "The main place of business and source of income and profits should be outside Mauritius"
3. "Documentary evidence to support application such as purpose of visit, accommodation etc."
4. "Other basic immigration requirements."
Spain's laidback and fun lifestyle, with close proximity to the rest of Europe is highly enticing to remote workers. The Spanish government offers their Non-lucrative visa for those who are interested in living in the country but not working for up to 1 year. This visa is aimed at individuals who are either retiring or are planning to work for a company outside of Spain, where they are either the primary business owner or an employee. A sustainable income is required, since employment is not permitted.
1. "A medical certificate issued by your family doctor worded as follows:
'This medical certificate states that Mr./Mrs.….. does not suffer from any diseases that may have serious consequences on public health in accordance with the provisions contained in the 2005 International Health Regulations'."
2. "A Police Check issued by the authorities of all the countries where an applicant has resided for the last 5 years"
3. "Sufficient economic means at the time of the visa application, or proof of a source of regular income without having to engage in any business or professional activity in Spain, for you and your family." The minimum monthly income is 2,151.00 Euros with an additional 538.00 Euros for each dependent that is included as part of the application.
4. "A public or private medical insurance with an insurance company authorized to operate in Spain."
5. Additional supporting documentation (outlined in link above).
Application requirements to live in the Cayman Islands are slightly more stringent than other locations, however the benefits are hard to argue with. These beautiful islands are home to the culinary centre of the Caribbean, white sandy beaches, lush forest and turquoise waters. The proximity to the equator means it is usually great conditions all year round. The Cayman Island government is offering up to 2 years of residency for qualified individuals through their Global Citizen Concierge Program.
1. A minimum annual income of US$100,000, if the applicant is applying as an individual; US$150,000 if the applicant is applying on behalf of themselves and their spouse; or US$180,000 if the applicant is applying on behalf of their entire family, including dependents.
2. Applicant must provide legal proof of existence of employer/company
3. Applicant must provide a bank reference in the form of "a bank manager's written opinion of your credit standing which includes the length of time in which you have been with the bank and the average balance of your accounts." This will include 6 months of bank statements.
4. Proof of identity in the form of a "clear colour copy of photo and information page of a valid passport."
5. "Federal criminal record or similar documentation, issued within the past 6 months old, from last place of residence for more than 6 months."
6. Proof of personal health insurance, with "coverage for all applicants in party, for a minimum of 30 days upon arrival in the Cayman Islands". Additionally, "all applicants must obtain local health insurance coverage within 30 days of arriving in the Cayman Islands."
Some Closing Thoughts
Before 2020, living and working remotely from anywhere in the world or starting a business in a foreign country was considered a dream for most. The standard way of living was to remain close to your workplace or school for 50 weeks a year and then vacation for 2.
But, in light of the shift to remote work, and the progressive policies and visa programs that countries, such as those outlined in this article, have established, living and working abroad is now a reality that many remote workers can live into. The distinction between work and travel has begun to disappear and more people than ever before can now live the best of both worlds.
The days of 9-5 at the office may still be kicking around, but the transition from the existing model has begun, and will continue to accelerate.
The ability to work and live abroad, either on one's own or with their family is going to help both those travelling and the countries where people are traveling to. The arrival of high earning, innovative entrepreneurs will help grow the economies of host countries and provide employment opportunities to locals; the presence of remote workers in these countries will surely help to grow existing industries and generate a relatively large source of revenue from remote workers who are looking to establish their new lives.
The future is revealing itself faster than we know it, but one thing that we can be sure of is the future of work and travel. These two significant aspects of our lives have historically been separated, but that won't be the case for long.
The shift from a duality between these two into a singularity is upon us. Now let's get out there and explore the world!