Global Visa Alternatives to H-1B Visa
As noted in our March 31, 2021 Client Alert, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2002 H-1B cap random lottery has concluded and clients have been informed of the selection results. Companies that would like to hire the many talented individuals who were not selected in the lottery may wish to consider global visa options, in addition to alternative visa options in the United States.
One attractive option for companies with existing branch offices abroad is to consider employing qualifying talent at its overseas locations. Many countries offer work visas to in-demand local hires and intracompany transferees. Temporary work visa options also exist through Working Holiday Visa regimes. U.S. companies with no overseas offices could consider employment options through PEOs abroad, or temporary work authorization options offered by Digital Nomad Visa regimes. Attractive one-year temporary remote worker visa options currently exist in countries such as Barbados, Bermuda, Bahamas, Montserrat, Dubai (UAE), Croatia, the Republic of Georgia, and Estonia (in limited capacity) for foreign nationals that U.S. companies would like to employ to work from a remote location abroad. Countries such as Indonesia and Greece are also considering offering Digital Nomad Visa opportunities. Investment-based immigration options exist in countries such as Granada for longer term stays abroad and a quick route to citizenship, and these investment-based citizenship avenues could eventually lead to temporary E-2 investor visa opportunities in the United States.
McCown & Evans LLP can support you with your global visa filings in partnership with our vast network of co-counsel around the world. This article provides an overview of some of the Digital Nomad Visa opportunities that are currently available.
Digital Nomad Visa Options
The Bahamas is currently allowing foreigners to work remotely in that country for up to 1 year through its Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay (BEATS) program. The application can be completed online at https://portal.immigration.gov.bs/ and takes 5 days to process. The application fees will total $1,035 BSD for the Work Remotely Application and the Working Remotely Permit. FAQs on this remote worker program are available at https://www.bahamasbeats.com/faq.
Barbados is offering a 1 year Barbados Welcome Stamp, for remote workers who will earn at least $50,000 a year. The application costs $2,000 for individuals and can be filed online at the following link: https://barbadoswelcomestamp.bb/apply/. FAQs for the visa are available at https://barbadoswelcomestamp.bb/faqs/. The estimated processing time for the visa is 5 business days.
Bermuda is currently offering 1 year Work From Bermuda Certificates to individuals who will work remotely in Bermuda. Beneficiaries of this permit must promise not to work for any employer in Bermuda. The application process is straightforward and available online at the following link: https://forms.gov.bm/work-from-bermuda/apply. The estimated government processing time for the Work From Bermuda Certificate is 5 business days. The government filing fee is $263. The government of Bermuda provides FAQs on this program here: https://forms.gov.bm/work-from-bermuda/faq#17138-can-i-complete-the-process-entirely-online.
The Caribbean country of Montserrat offers a 1 year Montserrat Remote Work Stamp to qualifying individuals who wish to work in that country remotely for a non-Montserrat based entity. In order to qualify, individuals must earn at least $70,000 a year and hold valid health insurance for Montserrat that includes coverage for COVID-19. The application for these visas is available at this link: https://apply.montserratremoteworker.com/. The estimated processing time is 7 to 14 business days. The government filing fees start at $500 for single applicants. FAQs for the permit are available at https://montserratremoteworker.com/faqs/.
Dubai is also offering a 1 year Virtual Working Programme visa. The government filing fee is $611. Qualifying individuals must have passports that are valid for at least 6 months, health insurance with coverage in the UAE, and proof of employment with their employer (such as an employment contract) that confirms remote employment for a period of at least 1 year at a salary of at least $5,000 a month. The application is available at https://www.visitdubai.com/en/business-in-dubai/dubai-for-business/work-remotely-from-dubai-b
Croatia is currently offering Digital Nomad visas that are valid for up to 1 year. This visa is available to individuals who will work remotely for non-Croatian entities, hold valid health insurance in Croatia, and will earn a minimum salary of at least HRK 16,907.50 (approximately $2,630) or have access to a minimum of HRK 202,890 per year (approximately $31,562). Qualifying individuals also must not be convicted of any crimes and must have a Croatian address (such as a hotel reservation). Work for a Croatian entity is not permitted. Government filing fees total start at HRK 660 (approximately $105), with additional filing fees for non-visa-exempt individuals who must file their visa applications before entering Croatia. The Croatian Digital Nomad visa application is available at this link: https://digitalnomadscroatia.mup.hr/Pages/Zahtjev.
Republic of Georgia
The Republic of Georgia now offers a Remotely from Georgia remote worker visa to citizens of 95 countries that may enter Georgia without a visa. The Remotely from Georgia visa is valid for 1 year. Qualifying individuals must earn a minimum of $2,000 a month or have at least $24,000 in savings, and have health insurance that is valid for at least 6 months. Work for a Georgian employer is not permitted. The application process is completed digitally at https://registration.gov.ge/pub/form/20/ydrv71/.
Estonia established one of the first Digital Nomad Visas in the world. The Estonian Digital Nomad Visa is valid for 1 year and is available to remote workers who will carry out work remotely for a non-Estonian company online and earn a minimum of 3,504 Euros a month for the six-month period proceeding application filing. These applications are filed with Estonian consular posts and take up to 30 days to adjudicate. The application fee for the visa is 100 Euros and the application form is available online at Visa Application Forms | Ministry of Foreign Affairs (vm.ee). Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the government is only issuing this visa to citizens of the following countries at this time:
• New Zealand
• South Korea
This list may change and is based on a country’s success in keeping COVID-19 infection rates below a particular threshold. The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains a list of “approved” countries at its website.
Mexico allows people to work remotely for non-Mexican entities as tourists for up to 180 days. Visa-exempt nationals may enter Mexico and immediately start working remotely, so long as they do not work for a Mexican entity and limit their stays to 180 days.
Germany – Currently On Hold During Pandemic
Germany currently does not offer a Digital Nomad Visa, but it does offer a Freelance Visa that is valid for 3 months initially and can be converted into a Residence Permit that is valid for up to 3 months. It is available to individuals who satisfy such requirements as registration with the German tax office, Finanzamt; open a German bank account; register with the local town hall; hold health insurance that is valid for Germany; can provide proof of professional credentials and education; and have a set plan for freelance work in Germany.
Clients are strongly advised to also consult with their international tax advisor before proceeding with any Digital Nomad Visa or work opportunity outside of the United States.
Please contact your McCown & Evans attorney for further information on these global visa options.