Now workers can decide to work when and how they want, thanks to digital technologies. You can work on a project from a cafe, your home, or even in foreign countries. You can choose your office and the hours, avoid the stress of office life and have more time to yourself. It's no wonder that you might want to ditch traditional office jobs for the opportunity to be your own boss.
The race for global leadership is a race for global talent
When countries are in the innovation race, many countries offer more attractive opportunities to highly talented employees. Within the European Union, Germany, Portugal, and Greece had some strategies of attracting high-skilled workers, self-employed professionals, and startup companies.
In July 2021, the British government declared its aim to provide a new version of the UK Work visa for "High Potential Individuals" as part of the government's "innovation strategy" to attract global talent to the UK.
Countries are looking to make it easier for you to come live and work there. They’re creating “digital nomad visas”, visas designed to allow self-employed and freelance workers to stay in a host country while working on something based somewhere else. Think sipping mojitos in Spain while working with a tech company in San Francisco.
Which countries offer digital nomad visas in the EU?
This list will give you a rundown on some of the best digital visas available for a would-be nomad. We’ll go over why you should look to move to the country and also take a quick look at how you can go about obtaining one of these visas. So, without further ado, here are the top 8 countries that offer freelance visas.
There’s plenty to love about Spain. Maybe you love the Mediterranean climate, the lovely beaches, and the Pyrenees. Maybe it’s cities like Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Seville, and many others. If beautiful cities don’t do it for you maybe tapas, tangos, and fiestas might be more your thing. And if that’s not enough, Spain offers quality health care and a relatively low cost of living compared to much of Europe.
Should Spain be your destination, then you will need to look to apply for Spain’s freelance visa as an “autonomo”, someone self-employed. You will need to prove that you are self-employed with the skills and the funds to support yourself and your business. You’ll also need to be 18 years or older with no criminal record, and a non-EU citizen.
If you fit these qualifications then you’ll need to have:
- A copy of your passport
- A completed EX-07 form
- Proof of medical insurance
- Proof of income
- A business plan approved by organizations accepted in Spain if you’re starting a business
- Any credentials or certifications that prove your skills and education,
- A clean bill of health that’s not dangerous to the public.
Once you do this, you should apply at the nearest Spanish embassy or consulate to get started. Note, you’ll need all these documents translated in Spanish and apostilled. Once you’ve got an appointment and turned these documents in, be sure to pay the application fee and wait for their decision. When your visa is issued, you’ll be good to stay in Spain for 12 months.
Portugal is home to wonderful vistas like the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, Bom Jesus do Monte, and the Geres Mountain range. You can enjoy the freshest seafood while listening to fado in Lisbon. Portugal offers wonderful experiences and cultures with an affordable price of living with all the amenities of a good public health system, quality education, and a warm seaside climate.
To qualify for a Portuguese freelancer visa you’ll need:
- Proof that you are self-employed and earn more than 800€ a month from your work or your business
- You need to be a non-EU citizen above 18 years old
- Have proof of means of income
- A clean criminal record
Once you have these documents in order you can begin by:
- Having the aforementioned documents ready with a completed application.
- You’ll also need to have proof of having a business or work contract/invoice issued to a Portuguese client, as well as proof of accommodations in Portugal.
- When you arrive in Portugal you’ll also need to get a tax number, NIF, by visiting the local tax office (*note it is also possible for a lawyer to complete this for you if you aren’t able to be in Portugal at the time)
- Using your NIF, you then must visit the Segurança Social to obtain your social security number
Once all these things are in order, you can apply for a residency term that will last for 2 years before needing to reapply.
France is high on everyone’s list of countries to visit and for good reason. Even going beyond the City of Lights and its monuments and museums, France offers so much. The cuisine, the culture, the varied geography, architecture, and style… France evokes so much to so many people that the country sells itself.
If France is your preferred destination, then you’ll need to apply for the long-stay visa under the “entrepreneur/profession liberale” category. The requirements are pretty straightforward:
- You’ll need to have proof of residence in France
- Proof of income or funds to last you during your stay in France (roughly 1,500 euros a month)
- A clean criminal record, a passport
- A cover letter explaining your self-employment activities
- An approved form of medical insurance
From there you’re ready to begin the process:
- First, gather all these documents and fill out the application
- Then, set an appointment at your nearest French consulate or embassy in your country of residence
- After setting an appointment, attend the interview
- Afterward, pay the application fee of 99 euros and your application will be processed.
Once processed, you are then to travel to France and activate your residency card. You’ll be free to stay in Metropole France (France excluding overseas territories) for a year.
Germany is a country that should always be on your destination list. With bustling cities, a vibrant culture, and quaint countryside, Germany offers a lot. Germany offers good jobs in a growing economy, leisure time, public amenities like healthcare and education, low crime rates, and being in the center of Europe, it’s easy to travel to and from Germany.
If you are considering Germany then you’ll need to be a non-EU resident of 18 years or older with no criminal record. You’ll also need:
- Proof of residence in Germany
- Proof of income via a bank statement or from financial records from your work
- A CV and examples of your work
- A passport
- Proof of medical insurance
- A cover letter describing your work
- Letters of recommendation
Besides a filled-out application and the documents mentioned above, there are more specific documents for specific plans. For example, if you are looking to start a business, you’ll need invoices from German clients, an approved business plan, and a business forecast. If you are above the age of 45, then you’ll need a pension plan. Once you have your specific documents sorted out, you are ready to apply.
Once you’re sure you have the necessary documents, you’ll need to make sure that you qualify as a freelancer in Germany. If you work for only one client, you won’t be considered, so you need to have more than one. Then you need to decide if you are a freelancer or self-employed (as in running your own business). This is important because as mentioned above you will need to fill out more documents if you are the latter.
- The next step will be to make an appointment at the office called Ausländerbehörde, or foreigners office. It may be easier for you to do so in Germany in the region where you plan on living.
- Next, you’ll need to open a bank account in Germany since this is required to pay some of the fees for the application process.
- Next, you should consider registering your address (and business if this is needed). Although it is not needed for the visa it is necessary for a tax id.
- Once you’ve done these things, wait for your appointment to come and make sure you bring the associated documents.
- Once your application has been processed you will eventually be awarded your visa.
- Depending on the specifics of your situation it may be valid for a different amount of time, so be sure to know when you’ll need to reapply.
Croatia may be a surprise to some but it shouldn’t be. Croatia is one of the jewels of the Adriatic featuring spectacular seaside views complete with great beaches and plenty of sun. With great destinations like Zagreb, Split, and Dubrovnik, you’ll be spoiled for choices to stay and visit. Croatia offers all the amenities you would associate with Europe such as good quality health care and education but on a budget-friendly value.
As with all these countries, to apply for a Croatian nomad/freelance visa, you’ll need to be a non-EU citizen that’s 18 years or older with a clean criminal history. You’ll need to provide proof of purpose, i.e. proof that you are a freelancer or self-employed. You can do this by showing you own a business incorporated somewhere outside of Croatia or employment contracts.
Other requirements that you’ll need are:
- A background check from your country of residence
- A passport,
- Proof of income that totals around 2,500 USD per month with additional funds for any family that you may bring
- A valid form of health insurance
- Proof of accommodations in Croatia
With these in hand, you can apply for a visa.
- Once you’ve gathered the needed documents, you can stop by the nearest embassy, consulate. (or Croatian police station if in Croatia) to begin the process.
- When you’re approved you’ll be notified and you can then travel to Croatia (if necessary) and register your address there.
- After that, you can go to the district police station of your residence with 2 passport photos to get a temporary residency card.
- After some time you’ll be notified again once your application has been processed so that you can pick up the true residency card and celebrate.
Malta was once famously home to the Knights Hospitaller, but now it can be your home. Valletta is a living museum home to beautiful baroque architecture and still standing castles. It also has a great climate and vistas like the Blue Lagoon. It offers all the benefits of the EU and also has the added plus of having English as one of its official languages.
Malta offers a Nomad Residence Permit for freelancers/self-employed people. To be eligible you need to:
- Show proof that you are contracted to work for non-Maltese companies or have business activities with a primarily non-Maltese company or non-Maltese clients
- Have a valid travel document like your passport
- Show proof of income of at least 2,700 Euros
- Have proof of accommodations in Malta
- Have an approved form of medical insurance
- Be able to pass a background check
With these documents ready, you can then apply for a Nomad Residency Permit (and apply for Nomad Family Member Residency Permits if necessary). To apply, fill out an application and a letter of intent explaining your business activities. You then give these to a Maltese diplomatic office for processing.
Once you’ve been processed you’ll be invited to travel to Malta to complete the process. Depending on how long you plan to stay, you can receive a residency card that covers 6 months or up to a year before needing to reapply. Processing the request usually takes around a month before you receive your residency card.
Greece may be associated with history, but it’s certainly forward-thinking when it comes to recognizing the growth of freelance work. Going to Greece means being surrounded by history and culture that goes back thousands of years. But it also means some of the most breathtaking coastlines in Europe, a great climate, beautiful islands like Santorini or Crete at your fingertips, and all the amenities of living in the EU.
Greece now offers a digital nomad visa for non-EU residents who are 18 years and older. It has a fairly simple process to apply. Simply prove that you earn at least 3,500 Euros a month, while not working for a company based in Greece or not incorporating your company in Greece for the duration of your stay there. The applicant also needs to prove that they can work remotely via methods of telecommunication. You can apply for your family members as well, but you will need to prove you can support them with more income.
Since this visa is quite new, the process for acquiring it is still being worked out. To apply for it, you’ll need to show proof of income, a valid travel document proof that you are indeed a freelancer. You can apply at any Greek consulate or the embassy or in Greece itself. Once rewarded you can reside in Greece for a year before reapplying and will have significant tax cuts during your stay there too.
The Czech Republic, also known as Czechia, is one of the gems of Central Europe. Prague is a city that everyone should get the chance to experience with beautiful monuments like Prague Castle or eat chimney cakes while walking on the Charles Bridge. Beyond that, the Czech Republic offers a cosmopolitan atmosphere and festivals like the Colors of Ostrava Festival with beer that’s literally cheaper than water.
To apply for a Czech freelance visa or Zivno Visa, you’ll first need:
- To be a resident of one of the countries approved by the Czech Republic
- Then you’ll need to have at least around 5,500 Euros in an account per person for the number of people you wish to bring to the Republic
- You’ll also need to have proof of accommodation there for at least one year
- Valid health insurance
- You’ll also need a background check
- A valid travel document such as a passport
- A completed application with the associated fees
- Furthermore, you’ll need to have something called a trade license to apply. This is one of 80 listed possible jobs that you can perform that is eligible to receive a license. Think of this as your proof of intent, saying this is the job that I’m coming to do.
Once you have the appropriate documents ready (and translated in Czech), you are good to apply. You can apply at the embassy or consulate nearest you and attend the appointment and interview when ready. Once you are approved you’ll be invited to the Republic where you can register with the Foreign Police. Once there you can register your license and with this, you’ll get your tax number so you can start paying taxes and receive your social security too.
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