Many remote workers have indulged in their wanderlust during the pandemic, taking their laptops and passports to distant destinations. Today, many parts of Europe encourage them to come and stay a little longer.
Nearly a dozen European countries, from Latvia to Croatia to Iceland, have introduced longer visas to attract affluent distant workers from abroad. Others, including Italy and Spain, have similar projects in the works. Many, like Greece and Estonia, are also courting these so-called digital nomads with tax breaks and other perks.
Some European cities and towns have also launched their own campaigns for remote workers to boost their economy and maintain local service jobs. In Spain, for example, a group called the National Network of Host Villages for Remote Workers helps such workers settle in villages of 5,000 people or less. Its website allows users to search for participating villages for information on accommodations, Wi-Fi speeds and local attractions.
Some workers took ‘work from anywhere’ to heart over the past two years. The number of Americans who identify as digital nomads — that is, those who combine remote work and travel — more than doubled to 15 million in 2021 from seven million in 2019, according to MBO Partners, which sells support services to independent contractors. Many say they want to remain unattached. In a June Gallup survey, 22% of workers who said their work could be done from anywhere said they plan to continue working remotely full-time in 2022 and beyond.
Many digital nomads are skilled knowledge workers earning well in excess of the €2,000-3,500 monthly income required by most European digital visa programs – a big reason why so many countries and cities are trying to attract them.
“Countries are now competing for talent, just as companies were competing for talent,” said Prithwiraj Choudhury, associate professor at Harvard Business School, who estimates that nearly three dozen countries around the world now provide digital nomad visas. .
In Pontremoli, a town of 7,300 people nestled in Italy’s Tuscan hills, two locals founded Start Working Pontremoli in 2020 after watching villagers leave to work in bigger towns for years. The group offers reception services and free visits to teleworkers planning to relocate there. Once there, he helps them arrange meetings with school staff, real estate agents and local administrators. A village priest, meanwhile, donated a co-working space in a former seminary.
Start Working Pontremoli was launched in October 2020 by two locals who wanted to attract remote workers and their families to their hometown. Almost two years later, 14 workers and two children have moved to the Tuscan hamlet.
Mr. Novetti, left, and Andrea Angella, right, are the co-founders of Start Working Pontremoli.
Left to right: Ms Salaro, Mr Novetti and Ms Gomes Carvalho walk to after-work drinks with friends and colleagues.
The Start Working Pontremoli team enjoy an after-work drink at Bar Luciano in the historic center of Pontremoli.
To date, 14 teleworkers moved to Pontremoli as part of the Start Working project, both from elsewhere in Italy and from as far away as Brazil. In July, much of the city came together to celebrate the wedding of two remote workers. One is from Pontremoli; the other moved there from northern Italy in 2021.
“For raising children, Pontremoli is heaven,” said Adolfo Sotelo, a 37-year-old Microsoft Corp..
Mexican manager who moved to Pontremoli in June. The CFO and his family moved to Milan from Mexico in 2019 but wanted a change once the pandemic hit.
“With so many young people here, it gives us the opportunity to balance our children, our dogs and our social lives in a way that we couldn’t in a big city,” said Mr Sotelo, who says he plans to stay and work remotely from Pontremoli.
Some companies also encourage short-term remote work assignments to satisfy in-demand talent.
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This year, Cisco Systems Inc., which sells video conferencing and other networking technologies, brought 16 of its European salespeople to Venice for three months of remote work as part of the company’s “Venywhere” initiative. city, which aims to attract remote workers to the Italian city. . Alongside their regular jobs, the group participates in surveys and interviews about their remote work experience and helps design new practices and technologies for hybrid and remote workers, Cisco said.
The organizers behind such grassroots initiatives say they are trying, in part, to avoid the pitfalls some digital nomads have encountered and the hotspots they have moved to. In Mexico City, a popular destination for remote American workers, some residents have complained that the influx has driven up rents and other living costs. Likewise, many remote workers have moved overseas, only to run into issues with Wi-Fi, tax issues, visas and other administrative hurdles.
The United States requires its citizens, wherever they live, to produce and pay income taxes. Many, however, are eligible for a credit or deduction on the foreign income taxes they pay if they live in a country that has a tax treaty with the United States.
Some countries are trying to iron out the red tape for digital nomads. Italy aims to start administering visas in the coming months, which would allow remote foreign workers to stay well beyond the 90 days allowed for many tourists. The Spanish scheme, due to launch around the same time, includes tax breaks for remote workers and non-EU entrepreneurs moving there and a visa allowing stays of up to five years.
Malta introduced a “nomadic residence permit” late last year that allows non-EU remote workers earning at least €2,700 ($2,755) a month to live on the Mediterranean island nation for up to a year. (Digital workers from elsewhere in the EU are not included in the scheme, as they do not need a permit to work in Malta.) The Maltese government has since processed over 400 applicants, the majority of United States and United Kingdom. .
Savana Rose Woods, 64, worked from her home in San Luis Obispo, California. when she heard about the Malta visa program. “I was just sitting in front of my computer and thinking, are you just going to sit here in front of your computer for the rest of your life?” recalled Ms. Woods, who runs a marketing company. Within five months, she had thrown a party to get rid of her belongings, said goodbye to her beloved cherry-red Honda, and set up her business there.
With her working hours tailored to US customers, Ms Woods said she often starts her mornings enjoying a cappuccino and a pastry from the local bakery. She could run an errand, swim or chat with people in town.
In the afternoon, she “does what the Maltese do: take a siesta,” she says. After that, she goes to work.
The California native plans to stay in Malta for the rest of the year, although she is unsure whether to renew her visa for 2023.
“There are so many other choices available,” she said. “Maybe Portugal will be next?”
Write to Elissa Miolene at [email protected]
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