Having to move from place to place because your visa has expired is a hassle. So read this guide to the best long term tourist visas for digital nomads in 2020. Whether you’re planning to become location independent or already on the road, it will help you out.
When you’re location independent and travelling while working, your life revolves around visas. Most digital nomads move around on tourist visas, working from their laptops on businesses which are legally based in their country of origin.
In many countries, tourist visas only last between one and three months. But there are some which have slightly longer tourist visas, as well as visa free countries. These are viewed favourably by the digital nomad community, particularly if the country also has great weather and fast internet.
This article includes researched countries which offer tourist visas or visa free entry for a large number of other nationalities, for at least 6 months. I will check the research in this article every 3 months by emailing embassies. Nevertheless, visa policies change all the time ‘on the ground’ so you should use the post as a guide, and do your own research before booking those flight tickets.
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Is it ok to ‘work’ on a tourist visa?
No, you’re not supposed to work on a tourist visa. However, the digital nomad lifestyle is a fairly new phenomenon. It only really took off from about 2014. Governments have yet to get their heads around how to cater for this new tribe of travellers.
On the one hand, they don’t want to turn them away. Nomads spend a lot of money in local economies. They integrate with communities and are generally trouble-free, responsible citizens who care about the countries they’re visiting.
On the other, they don’t want to support people who could be viewed as ‘freeloading’ off the countries they are staying in. For example, by avoiding income tax which residents pay, while recouping the benefits of geoarbitrage. Plus, if nomads are working with local companies, even in a freelance capacity, then governments could be criticised for enabling a movement which is taking employment and wages from local people.
In many countries, it’s a bit of a legal grey area, so authorities turn a blind eye. All of this means that your average location independent freelancer, entrepreneur or remote worker has to be careful about how they are working and what they are doing.
Working remotely for an overseas company
In most countries, working from your laptop for clients or a business based in your home country – or elsewhere – is deemed acceptable. After all, tourists work on holiday all the time. However, undertaking work for local companies is deemed by many governments to be crossing a line.
Co-works have sprung up across the world and they operate on this basis. The nomads working within them are doing business with clients elsewhere. The local authorities tolerate the co-works on this basis.
Lobbying work is happening in different parts of the world to encourage governments to issue ‘Digital Nomad’ visas. Work is currently taking place here in Chiang Mai to persuade the Thai government to develop one. It’s too early to tell whether this work will be successful. Malaysia is also piloting a work visa programme for tech freelancers to work in Malaysia short term.
Bear in mind – laws change all the time. So it’s up to you to do your own research around the legalities of working for an overseas business on your laptop, ahead of visiting a country on a tourist visa. If you have any doubts, do some research. Check the immigration website for the country you are planning to visit. Correlate this with facebook groups which support digital nomads in that country, for the latest information ‘on the ground’.
Long tourist visas = greater productivity
There are many reasons why longer tourist visas work better for nomads. The first point to consider is that it’s difficult to be productive if you’re moving about all the time. It takes me on average two weeks to really settle into a place. In that time I orient myself, find accommodation with fast internet, and find out where and how I can exercise.
Long tourist visas = more chance of finding your community
It takes time to get to know people, both locals and other nomads. It takes me on average 2 to 3 weeks to find a network of people to socialise with in each new place. I would describe myself as an extrovert who enjoys spending time on my own. I feel very comfortable networking and messaging people to see if they want to hang out. For other people, it might take even longer.
Long tourist visas = more chance of savouring the moment
For many ‘older’ nomads, the idea of galloping around dozens of countries – as backpackers do in their 20s – is very unappealing. Being location independent is not a race.
Slow travel floats my boat. I want to get to know the sweet places I call home for a short while. I can’t do that if I’m racing through it in two weeks.
Long tourist visas = less chance of blowing your budget
Each time I move, it costs vastly more money than if I stay put. Visas cost a lot of money, flights cost a lot of money and airport food costs a lot of money. Taxis to and from airports cost more money than your average taxi elsewhere.
I track my budget using an app called Wander Wallet. On the days I travel, I usually spend twice what I normally spend – sometimes more. On top of this, I can’t negotiate long term accommodation and scooter deals if I’m constantly moving. So, I’d rather not visit a country if I can’t stay there for a minimum of 2 to 3 months.
Long tourist visas = better for the environment
Spend any amount of time with nomads and you will constantly hear tales of people making a quick dash to a neighbouring country, before returning on a ‘refreshed’ tourist visa. Quite often, this involves a short term flight.
The long term impact of this is that the nomad community is contributing more than it wants to to climate change. There isn’t a single nomad I know who isn’t concerned about this. Some ‘neutralise’ their flights through carbon offsetting schemes. But everyone agrees – staying put in one country for longer can only be a good thing for our planet.
The best long term tourist visas for digital nomads
So all that explained, I introduce to you the list of countries which have the possibility of a 180 day or 6 month tourist visa OR visa-free access of the same duration. This article was researched and written in early 2020. If you see any information which is missing or which is incorrect, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and I will check the information and if required, add a correction to the article.
Georgia: visa free for 1 year
Georgia has a mediterranean climate with cold winters, a low cost of living (which compares to SE Asia), great food and wine, and very friendly locals. It also has the easiest visa policy in the world – one year access, visa free, for citizens of 98 countries. All these citizens need to do is arrive with a passport. No visa is required, you get a stamp in your passport and that’s it. After one year, you can simply pop out of the country and pop back in again. I’ve never been to Georgia but it’s very much on my list of destinations to visit in the future.
Mexico: visa free for 6 months
Citizens of 69 countries do not need a visa to gain entry to Mexico for either tourist or business purposes. They are entitled to stay in the country, visa-free, for up to 6 months (180 days). If you are a citizen of a country in this list, all you need to do is to arrive with a passport that is valid for 6 months and have proof of onward flights. You get a stamp in your passport upon arrival.
India: multiple entry e-visa for 5 years
Since September 2019, citizens of 169 countries are eligible to obtain a multiple entry e-visa for India which lasts a whopping 5 years. The longest single duration they can stay in India is 90 days, except for citizens of the UK, US, Canada and Japan, who can stay for a duration of 180 days (6 months). Once the 90 or 180 days are up, everyone can simply exit the country and re-enter, and enjoy staying for another 6 months. But the actual visa lasts for 5 years.
In addition to this, residents of Canada, Japan and the United States are eligible to obtain a 10 year multiple entry visa. However these must be applied for in your home country through the Indian Embassy. India is one of the few countries worldwide which gives 5 and 10 year visas.
I recently applied online for the 5 year e-visa to India on my British passport (I have dual heritage and am also a Canadian). I found it to be the easiest visa application I have ever made. I was required to fill out an online form, upload a passport photo and a scan of my passport, and pay $80 through an online portal. Some people have reported problems with the online payment mechanism. A nomad friend who is based in Goa told me that the trick is to coordinate the online payment when the banks are open in India – e.g. during Indian business hours. My application was accepted within 24 hours, although it can take up to 3 days.
Many digital nomads have expressed concerns about the quality of India’s wifi and cellphone coverage. Co-works are beginning to spring up – there are quite a few in Goa, for example. However it is worth researching the internet in the areas you plan to be ahead of travel.
Indonesia / Bali: tourist visa for 6 months
Ok, so this isn’t the ‘easiest’ tourist visa on this list, but if you love Bali it’s worth knowing.
Foreigners who want to enter Bali and stay up to 6 months need to apply in advance from their country of origin (or any other country where there is an embassy) for a Social Visa B-211. This visa allows an initial stay of 30 or 60 days, which can then be extended inside the country up to 4 times, up to a maximum stay of 180 days.
This visa requires a letter of sponsorship from someone inside Indonesia. It also requires you to submit the forms, payment, proof of onward flights and a bank statement showing you have enough money to cover yourself on your trip to the local embassy where you are applying. By far the easiest way to secure all of this, including the letter of sponsorship, is to use a visa agency. I used Visa4Bali when I was there and I found them to be reputable and a font of information.
An agent within Indonesia will provide the letter of sponsorship and extend your visa for you when you are in the country. They can also advise on which visa agent to use if you are in another country and would like support with the application, in that country. Apparently, some Indonesian embassies are easier to work with than others. The embassies in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are easier for example. And by working with an agency in one of these cities, you have a greater chance of securing this long term tourist visa for Indonesia.
Be mindful however that the costs involved in this approach can stack up. I obtained a quote for a Social Visa B-2111, as I’m planning to return to in April and May 2020. Here’s the quote:
Letter of sponsorship from Visa4Bali: 250,000 IDR
KL partner agent support: 1,250,000
IDRExtensions whilst in Bali by Visa4Bali: 800,000 IDR x 4 = 3,250,000
**Total cost = 4,700,000 IDR or $342 USD **
If I opted for this visa, I’d also need to travel to Bali via Kuala Lumpur to obtain it, which adds to the costs in terms of flights and accommodation. Given that I was planning to stay in Indonesia for just over 2 months, I did not feel this cost was justified. I’ve therefore decided to opt for the normal tourist Visa on Arrival (which lasts 30 days and can be extended a further 30 days in the country).
NB: no matter what Indonesian visa you apply for, you must have proof of onward travel and enough money in your bank to cover your stay.
Philippines: visa-free for 30 days, then extendable Temporary Visitor’s Visa (9a) for up to 1 year
Citizens of 151 countries can visit the Philippines for 30 days, visa free, with just a stamp in their passport upon arrival. These citizens can also get a Temporary Visitor’s Visa (9a) from an Embassy in their home country before they travel (or another external embassy), which will allow an initial 59 day stay. After this period, the Temporary Visitor’s Visa stay may be extended for up to 1 year through the offices of the Bureau of Immigration inside the Philippines.
Panama: visa free for up to 6 months
Citizens of 90 countries can enter Panama visa free and stay up to 180 days (6 months). Tourists receive a stamp in their passport upon arrival. The exception is if you arrive by boat, when you must obtain a visa which costs $100 USD. After 180 days, you must leave the country, but after doing a quick border hop, you can return straight away. You must have onward travel organised and enough money to show you can cover your stay.
Argentina: visa free for up to 6 months
Citizens of up to 90 countries can enter Argentina visa-free for 90 days. Tourists receive a stamp in their passport upon arrival. After this point, they can apply for an extension of a further 90 days through the Argentine Migration Office, for a cost of around $10 USD.
Chile: visa free for up to 6 months
Citizens of 120 countries can enter Chile visa-free and stay 90 days. A tourist stamp is added to the passport upon arrival. After this point, they can apply for an extension of a further 90 days by visiting a local Foreigners’ Office ( Extranjeria) within a period of the 30 days before the visa expires. The cost is around $100 USD.
Colombia: visa free for up to 6 months
Citizens of 100 countries can enter Colombia visa-free and stay 90 days on a tourist stamp. After this point, they can apply for an extension of a further 90 days online. The cost is around $29 USD.
Peru: visa free for up to 6 months
Citizens of 95 countries can enter Peru visa-free and stay for 90 days. All they need to do is turn up at a border with a valid passport which gets stamped. A further 68, including the UK, Canada, Australia and the States, basically including every country bar those in the Schengen zone, can be granted access for another 90 days, making a 6 month stay possible.
Fiji : visa free for up to 6 months
Citizens of 111 countries can enter Fiji visa-free and stay for 4 months. They gain an entry stamp upon arrival which can also be extended for a further 2 months, making a 6 month stay possible.
Barbados: visa free for up 6 months
Citizens of 55 countries can enter Barbados visa-free and stay for 180 days (6 months) on a tourist passport stamp.
Jamaica: visa free for up to 6 months
Citizens of 54 countries can enter Jamaica visa-free and stay up to 180 days (6 months) on a tourist passport stamp.
Antigua and Barbuda: visa free for up to 6 months
Citizens of 97 countries can enter Antigua and Barbuda visa-free and stay up to 180 days (6 months) on a tourist passport stamp.
Armenia: visa free for up to 6 months
Citizens of 64 countries can enter Armenia visa-free and stay up to 180 days (6 months) on a tourist passport stamp.
For UK citizens only: visa free access for up 6 months in these countries
Being a British passport holder gives you visa-free access to Canada, Grenada, Hong Kong, Macau and New Zealand for up to 180 days (6 months). For Hong Kong, Macau and Grenada, this takes the form of a tourist stamp in your passport upon arrival.
For US citizens only: visa free access for up to 1 year in Albania and 6 months in these countries
Citizens of the United States can gain 1 year tourist visa access in Albania, 6 months in Belize, 6 months in the Central African Republic, 6 months in Dominica and 6 months in Canada. Canada requires an Electronica Travel Authorisation to be filled in in advance, the other countries can be accessed with a tourist stamp in the passport upon arrival.
Free movement agreements
It’s commonly known that citizens of EU countries can freely move to other EU countries for indefinite periods of time. Although Britain has now officially left the EU, British citizens are still able to travel and work throughout the EU until December 31st 2020.
Australia and New Zealand also have a free movement agreement. This allows citizens from either country to travel, settle and work in both countries for an indefinite period of time.
Other long term visas for digital nomads: freelancer visas
Both the Czech Republic and Germany have freelancer visas. These are more like temporary residency programmes, with quite an onerous application process and requirements. For this reason, I’ve not included them in this list.
Digital nomad e-residency and visa Estonia
You may have heard that Estonia offers e-Residency. This term is slightly misleading, as the e-Residency only allows location independent entrepreneurs to legally base their businesses in Estonia. It does not grant actual residency or visiting rights to the country. There is an Estonian long-stay (D) visa which lasts for up to 1 year for citizens of countries outside of the EU. However this is more of a long term residents’ visa than a tourist visa. You have to have significant ties to the country and the process takes a month to complete, so I’ve not included it in this article on that basis.
Plans are afoot for an actual digital nomad visa in Estonia, but this is still in its infancy at present.
Remember to double check your visa requirements
Whilst the list above applies to the majority of citizens across the world, they do not apply to all. In addition, visa policies change all the time. I will endeavour to check this article every few months, but it’s worth making your own checks.
All of this means you should simply use this post as a guide, and do your own detailed research, before booking those flight tickets!
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