Jobs and the Future of Work

Spain could be the latest to offer digital nomad visas: What you need to know about this growing trend

Spain is the latest country to consider offering a digital nomad visa.

Spain is the latest country to consider offering a digital nomad visa. Image: Unsplash/Annie Spratt

Douglas Broom
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • Spain could become the latest country to offer work visas to digital nomads.
  • Working remotely from another country has, post-pandemic, become increasingly popular.
  • But there are concerns about the impact on local communities.

Spain is poised to become the latest country to open its doors to digital nomads – people who want to move to a new country to work remotely. Here's what's important to know about the new visa - and about the digital nomad trend.

Why is Spain considering offering digital nomad visas?

The plan to grant special visas to digital nomads is part of efforts to make Spain a more entrepreneurial nation and is open to anyone living outside the European Economic Area, which includes the 27 European Union nations. EU citizens don’t need a visa to work there.

As well as attracting foreign talent and money, the new law is also aimed at attracting back Spanish citizens who have chosen to live abroad, the government says.

Who is eligible for Spain's potential digital nomad visa - and how will the visa work?

Under the Startup Act, which is currently passing through the Spanish parliament, any non-EU citizen can apply for a special visa to work in the country as a digital nomad for up to five years. They will need to have lived outside Spain for at least five years to qualify.

Provided no more than a fifth of their income comes from organizations based in Spain, the normal 25% rate of income tax will be reduced to 15% for the first four years they are based in Spain. Digital nomads will be allowed to bring close relatives to live with them.

Although details have yet to be finalized, the Spanish ‘digital nomad visa’ will also be open to executives, start-up employees and investors in a bid to attract talented people and investment while boosting the country’s attractiveness as a global business hub.

Barcelona in Spain is already popular with EU digital nomads.
Barcelona in Spain is already popular with EU digital nomads. Image: Pixabay.

Who are digital nomads and where do they mostly visit?

Remote working exploded as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a global survey, almost half of respondents said the ability to work remotely would influence their future employment decisions.

It’s been estimated that there are currently 35 million digital nomads working around the world with the United States the most popular destination - a study found there were already 10.9 million in 2020, an increase of 49% on the year before.

Almost half of all digital nomads are in their thirties, according to data site Statista. The same research said that most female digital nomads worked in creative industries while the majority of men were software developers.

How has the digital nomad trend grown?

Currently 47 nations worldwide offer visas allowing remote workers to base themselves in their countries, according to the Nomad Girl website which provides information for people who want to travel to and work from other countries.

Not all digital nomads will likely stay in Spain for the full five years. A survey conducted by Lonely Planet and freelance site Fiverr found that a third of digital nomads prefer to move on to another country every one to three months. However, 55%, the so-called “slomads”, said they liked to stay somewhere for at least three months at a time.

One digital nomad blogger recorded that he and his wife had lived at 97 different addresses, slept in 21 countries and flown 270,946 miles during just one year.

It’s been estimated that there are currently 35 million digital nomads working around the world with the United States the most popular destination
It’s been estimated that there are currently 35 million digital nomads working around the world with the United States the most popular destination Image: Statista.

Are digital nomads always welcomed into new countries?

Though the pandemic has popularized remote work, an investigation by the BBC found digital nomads are not always welcome. The BBC reported that digital nomads, earning North European wages and living in the cheaper south, were driving out locals who could no longer afford to live in areas favoured by anywhere workers.

With the right broadband connection, digital nomads can work from anywhere.
With the right broadband connection, digital nomads can work from anywhere. Image: Unsplash/PeggyAnke
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What does the digital nomad trend tell us about changing work habits?

It’s all part of a post-pandemic pattern of changing work habits. A 2022 study by Growmotely found 74% of professionals and 76% of entrepreneurs expect remote work to become the new normal.

After Spotify introduced its Work From Anywhere policy, 2% of its employees – 150 people – moved to live and work from a new country. The company also reported that remote working had boosted the diversity of its workforce.

Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, had a similar experience after embracing remote working. Its 2022 Diversity Report said it doubled the number of women in its global workforce and the number of Black and Hispanic employees in the US.

The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos this year was told the switch to digital, which was accelerated by the pandemic, had increased demand for employees with digital skills which in turn boosts the options of people with those skills to work remotely.

The Forum’s 2020 report on the Future of Jobs also forecast a rapid expansion of remote working driven by digital technologies based on a survey which found that 44% of businesses planned to move all or part of their workforce to remote working.

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Jobs and the Future of WorkGeographies in Depth
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