Global Visa Alternatives to the H-1B
As noted in our March 29, 2023 Client Alert, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 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 H-1B 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.
Another viable option may be one of the many Digital Nomad and Remote Worker visas that were introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, in countries including Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dubai (UAE), Estonia, Greece, Montserrat, Mexico, Portugal, and Spain. Digital Nomad and Remote Worker visas generally allow an employee to work remotely from within the foreign country for a temporary period of time, as long as they are working for a U.S. or other third-country employer.
Additionally, investment-based immigration options exist in countries such as Grenada for longer-term stays abroad. Investment-based options may also provide a faster route to citizenship in the foreign country, which may then eventually lead to temporary E-2 investor visa opportunities in the United States.
With all of the above options, we would strongly recommend that applicants consult with their company’s tax, employment law, and IT specialists prior to moving forward, to ensure that they are compliant from a tax, employment law, and information security perspective.
Additional Information on Digital Nomad Visa Options
Below, please find an overview of some of the specific Digital Nomad Visa opportunities that are currently available.
In June 2020, Barbados introduced its 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp for remote workers who will earn at least $50,000 USD a year and are working remotely for a non-Barbados entity. The application costs $2,000 for individuals and can be filed online at the following link: https://barbadoswelcomestamp.bb/apply/. The estimated processing time for the visa is approximately 7 business days and is renewable.
Bermuda introduced a 1 year Work From Bermuda Certificate in August 2020. It is available to individuals who will work remotely in Bermuda for non-Bermudan entities. There is no minimum salary requirement that is connected to this visa, but applicants must be prepared to provide proof of steady employment over the 1 year period. 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.
Brazil offers a 1 year Digital Nomad Visa called VITEM XIV. Applicants must provide proof that they earn more than $1,500 USD a month or have at least $18,000 USD in funds accessible in a bank account. As part of the application process, applicants must also provide proof of proof of employment, a clean criminal background, and health insurance that will cover their stay in Brazil, among other biographical details. Applications should be filed at Brazilian consular posts, take on average 1 week to adjudicate, and cost 120 Euros in government fees. For further information, please visit https://www.gov.br/mre/pt-br/embaixada-helsinque/consular-services/visas/digital-nomad-visa-vitem-xiv.
Colombia now offers a Digital Nomad visa, which would allow remote workers to work remotely for their foreign employers for up to two years. Eligible applicants need to show that they earn at least $604 USD (1,000,000 COP) a month and have health insurance coverage for their stay in Colombia. The estimated government processing time for the visa is 30 days on average. The application fee for the visa is $52 USD. For further information, please visit https://www.cancilleria.gov.co/v/nomadadigital.
Costa Rica offers a 1-year Digital Nomad Visa called “Visa V” to remote workers who earn a monthly salary of at least $3,000 USD (or $5,000 USD a month for those with families) and health insurance that will cover their stays in Costa Rica. The visa is extendable for another year under certain circumstances. Applications can be filed online at https://tramiteya.go.cr/dgme/ and cost $100 USD. The estimated government processing time for these visas is 2 weeks. For more information, please visit https://www.visitcostarica.com/en/costa-rica/digital-nomads.
Croatia is currently offering Digital Nomad visas that are valid for up to 1 year. It is not possible to extend the visa, but applicants can apply for a new Digital Nomad Visa 6 months after their prior Digital Nomad Visa has expired. This visa is available to individuals who will work remotely for non-Croatian entities, hold valid health insurance in Croatia, and will earn a salary that is at least 2.5 times the average monthly net salary for the prior year, according to the Croatian Bureau of Statistics, or have access to a minimum of 30471.72 EUR available in a bank account. 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. The Croatian Digital Nomad visa application is available at this link: https://digitalnomadscroatia.mup.hr/Pages/Zahtjev. Information regarding this visa is available at https://mup.gov.hr/aliens-281621/stay-and-work/temporary-stay-of-digital-nomads/286833.
Dubai introduced 1-year Virtual Work Residence Visa The Remote Worker Visa Scheme in October 2020. It is available to individuals who can prove remote employment for a 1 year period, and is extendable. The government filing fee is AED 350. 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 non-UAE employer (such as an employment contract) that confirms remote employment for a period of at least 1 year at a salary of at least $3,500 USD a month. The application is available at https://smartservices.icp.gov.ae/echannels/web/client/guest/index.html#/residency/765/request/step1?administrativeRegionId=1&withException=false.
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 150 Euros a day. The application form is available online at https://eelviisataotlus.vm.ee/ and should be filed at an Estonian consular post, at an police and Board Guard office in Estonia, or at a VFS office. The fee for the visa ranges from 80 to 100 Euros. FAQS are available at https://www.e-resident.gov.ee/blog/posts/faqs-about-estonias-digital-nomad-visa. The average processing time for these visas is 30 days.
Greece’s Digital Nomad Visa program is available to remote workers who earn at least 3,500 Euros a month after taxes. Additional income requirements apply if the Digital Nomad will be accompanied by family members. Non-EU citizens must provide proof of health insurance that will cover their stays in Greece. The visa is available initially for up to 2 years and renewable for 2 additional years. Applications should be lodged at Greek consular posts. The estimated government processing time for these visas is 10 days. For further information, please visit https://workfromgreece.gr/faq/.
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 USD 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 seven business days. The government filing fees start at $500 for single applicants. FAQs for the permit are available at https://montserratremoteworker.com/faqs/.
Mexico has a Digital Nomad Visa (Visa de Residente Temporal por Solvencia Economica) that is available to remote workers for a duration of one year initially, and then extendable for up to three years. Applicants can apply for this visa at a Mexican consular post with details regarding economic solvency, including either proof of a monthly income that is equal to the general minimum wage in Mexico City (approx. net income of 2,500 USD a month ) for the past 6 months or proof of approximately 43,000 USD minimum average bank balance over the past 12 months). The estimated processing time varies according to the consular post but takes about10 business days on average. For further information, please visit https://consulmex.sre.gob.mx/houston/index.php/visas/visas/18-visas/95-visa-de-residente-temporal-por-solvencia-economica.
Portugal offers Digital Nomads from non-EU countries a Temporary Stay Visa that is valid for one year initially, and extendable up to five years. Temporary Stay Visa for individuals with a monthly income of at least 2,800 Euros a month, clear criminal/police records, and adequate health insurance to cover their stay in Portugal. Applications for this visa can be filed at Portuguese consular posts abroad. There is also a visa called D7, which is a 2 year passive income visa for non-EU citizens who have a passive income of at least 8,460 a year and could be an option for remote workers. Passive income includes proceeds from pensions and real estate. For further information, see https://vistos.mne.gov.pt/en/national-visas/necessary-documentation/temporary-stay#for-the-exercise-of-a-professional-activity-done-remotely-%E2%80%9Cdigital-nomads%E2%80%9D.
Spain has now implemented its much anticipated international teleworking program. It allows non-EEA citizen professionals to work in Spain remotely for up to five years for their non-Spanish employers. Qualifying individuals earn at least 2,334 Euros a month, have appropriate professional and/or university credentials for their job, have no criminal history for the past five years, and have health insurance that will cover their stays in Spain. There are additional salary requirements if the Digital Nomad wishes to be accompanied by their family members. These visas are initially issued for a validity period of 1 year and require applicants to stay in Spain for at least six months each year. Applications are currently filed through an in-country application process. For additional details regarding the international teleworking visa, please visit https://www.boe.es/eli/es/l/2022/12/21/28/con.
Many other countries, including Ecuador, Iceland, Mauritius, Malaysia, and Malta among other countries, also offer Digital Nomad visa options. Please contact your McCown & Evans attorney for further information on these global visa options.