If you thought the world of work changed in 2020, maybe we haven’t seen anything yet, says Christopher Nye, senior content editor at overseas homes and relocation website Property Guides. In 2021 the world could be your oyster as a ‘digital nomad’.
Working from home, currently recommended until at least spring 2021 by the government, will be the last nail in the coffin for some of our city centre businesses but opens a world of possibilities for staff now freed from the commute.
When Property Guides asked readers if the pandemic had made it more or less likely they would go abroad, 31% said more likely and only 6% said less likely. Many of us are thinking that when we look up from our laptop we would like to see something more interesting than the spare bedroom wall.
The joys of remote working
When it all began, waking up on a Wednesday without needing to get on the 7.47 to Birmingham New Street might have felt like a second weekend. But like anything pleasurable, we soon need a bigger hit! So, how about skipping down with your laptop to work from a Parisian café table, or a deckchair under a Caribbean palm tree? It’s all possible in 2021.
Secondly, there are big savings to living abroad right now. The bottom has fallen out of the Airbnb short-stay market and you can find a month’s let in the city of your choosing for the usual price of a long weekend. Looking at Rome as an example, there are decent flats to rent in the city centre from just £500 per month. You won’t get this chance again (we hope).
You might even be able to rent out your suburban home in the UK for more, and live on the difference between the two.
Remote working need to knows
You will, of course, be reliant on a good internet signal. But there is also a clue in the name to the downsides of remote working. Separation by distance is something we’ve all got used to, but remoteness by timezone can be more problematic. So unless you enjoy your morning Teams update at 4am, don’t go too far west of Europe. On the other hand, work from eastern Europe and you can roll into “the office” at lunchtime and still be on time for the 9am meeting.
The biggest issue, however, is over the legalities of working in another country. As of 1st January 2021 we no longer have the automatic right to reside and work in the 27 countries of the European Union. But if you’re just sitting at your laptop in a Barcelona bar, who is to know who you’re working for?
While that will be the attitude of some, working illegally is not an option you should consider. Your passport will be stamped at the airport in Europe now, and you could be deported and banned for life from countries like the USA.
In any case, you shouldn’t need to work illegally if you plan it right. ‘Third country nationals’, as the British will soon be in the rest of Europe, can usually stay for up to three months without getting a visa. Spring in Stockholm and autumn on the Algarve perhaps?
Where to move
Some countries have seen the benefits that digital nomads bring and are issuing special visas. Skype was invented in Estonia, so hardly a surprise that this beautiful country on the Baltic has a special e-Residency visa, It allows you to work for an overseas employer (or yourself) for up to a year if you’re earning over €3,500 per month.
Washed by a rather warmer sea, Barbados’s Welcome Stamp allows a year’s stay too. The application fee is just $2,000 and you should soon save that on the tax that you won’t have to pay there. Also in that part of the world, Antigua and Bermuda have similar programmes, while Mexico offers a temporary resident visa for up to four years if you have a minimum wage of US$1,500 per month.
Keeping it legal
Another issue will be your own employer. Although many remote working arrangements have been put in place quickly, HR departments are beginning to catch up with their responsibilities and that applies to legal and tax matters. If you’re more than 183 days abroad per year you will be paying tax elsewhere, which they may well not be geared up for.
If you’re thinking of making it long term and working legally within Europe, there are other avenues. One is the “golden visa”, whereby you purchase a property worth over around €500,000 and get residency in return. Such schemes are highly popular in Portugal, Cyprus and Greece.
Another, open to around 10% of Brits, is to get an Irish passport. For that you will need to have an Irish grandparent (not necessarily alive anymore) who’s birth certificate you can track down.
There really is a world of opportunity out there when you’re WFH.