For the countries implementing them, citizenship by investment (CBI) programmes bring several opportunities. Foremost among these is the ability to provide a valuable framework in which immigration rights are exchanged for non-tax revenue. For many years, this framework has been unique to the citizenship and residence by investment industries. The Covid-19 pandemic and the ascent of remote working, however, have led to the unveiling of a new, yet comparable immigration system: the digital nomad visa (DNV).
Sometimes referred to as a remote worker visa, this allows a person to live in a foreign country for an extended period and work remotely for companies and individuals based elsewhere. The visa usually specifies that the holder does not become subject to additional income tax outside of that person’s normal country of tax residence. DNVs allow for an extended stay compared to standard tourist visas, but also prevent the holder from undertaking local employment.
Even countries with high immigration generated income relative to gross domestic product, such as some of the CBI nations featured in this Index, have therefore begun to implement DNV rules to find further ways of tapping into the global mobility market.
Among European CBI jurisdictions, Malta has introduced a one-year ‘Nomad Residence Permit’ that costs €300 and allows workers to stay in, and work remotely from, Malta for a year or less, depending on the length of their intended stay. To ensure that applicants do not become a burden, the government requires persons to have a gross income threshold of €2700 per month, pass a background check, and possess health and travel insurance.
Evaluating the permit’s potential for profitability, Malta’s parliamentary secretary for citizenship, Alex Muscat, stated that Malta estimates that “a digital nomad spends roughly €30,000 a year in [the] country” — a sum “close to what tourists spent […] in 2019” and equated the yearly expenditure of one digital nomad to “roughly what 260 tourists would spend in a day.”
Meanwhile, as part of its Covid-19 recovery plan, it is speculated that the Pacific island state of Vanuatu will introduce a Remote Worker Visa for entrepreneurs, freelancers and teleworkers. As a secluded destination with few Covid-19 cases, Vanuatu may widely benefit from such a programme, particularly if it were to primarily target regional workers from Australia, New Zealand, and other countries in Oceania.
Perhaps the region that saw the highest uptake in the implementation of DNVs, starting with Barbados in June 2020, was the Caribbean, including some of its CBI jurisdictions.
The island nation of Antigua and Barbuda was the first such CBI jurisdiction to announce a DNV programme. Named the ‘Nomad Digital Residence (NDR)’ and launched in October 2020, the programme is for remote workers able to show both sufficient means to support themselves (along with any family members joining them), and an expected minimum income of US$50,000. The NDR visa is valid for two years from the date of arrival in Antigua and Barbuda, and visitors are required to maintain their own health insurance plan while staying in the country.
Dominica inaugurated its version of a DNV, dubbed ‘Work in Nature’ (WIN), earlier this year. The visa provides applicants with the opportunity to work remotely for up to 18 months on the island. Fees for the WIN visa are US$800 for individual applicants, and US$1200 for families, with an additional US$100 application cost. Businesses may also apply for their employees, at a cost of US$800 for up to four employees, plus US$500 for each additional employee after the fourth.