Contractors, a remote worker visa to a non-red list country may be just the ticket out of quarantine hotel land

Quarantine Hotels. Red-List countries. Digital Nomads.

Only one of these three terms is not entirely new. But the two which are new show you just how rapidly coronavirus travel restrictions have changed since Monday’s requirement of people having to pay for their own covid tests if they enter the UK or return to it.

In short, you now have to pay to stay in ‘Quarantine Hotel’ if you are incoming to the UK from a ‘Red-List’ destination, banned because of high covid-19 risk or infection.

These countries (there are more than 30 at the time of writing), include some traditional contracting hotspots such as Brazil, Argentina, Portugal, South Africa and the UAE, writes Nik Papageorgiou, EU country manager at Access Financial.

Even if ‘negative’ after their PCR tests, UK entrants from any red-list country are now required to pay the not insignificant sum of £1,750, to self-isolate in their own UK government-provided hotel room for 10 days. There is a narrow financial hardship facility available.  

Bogna, or Barbados?

But ‘Digital Nomads,’ the third, not-so-new term above, will already be ‘au fait’ to UK contractors partial to contracting overseas. Interestingly, its meaning is evolving in the pandemic to define a ‘work from anywhere’ individual who wants to swap their bedsit in Bogna for a bijou apartment in Barbados. You too can now look into doing this thanks to new-ish remote working visas.

In fact, while most of us during the numerous and changing lockdowns and quarantines over the past 12 months have been required to be stuck in one place - usually our own home or latterly an airport Travel Lodge, some Britons have found happiness thanks to these new visas. They are not alone. Some EU and US nationals have likewise gone for this niche solution to ride out lockdown in an idyllic yet broadband-enabled setting, by opting for these visas since their first availability emerged in the summer.

Where Bits are being lured with visa offers

Broadly, I’m talking about the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and Southern Europe, because to attract digital nomads, their cash, their capital and their tax revenue at a time when covid has largely killed their tourist trades, Barbados, Greece, and Croatia offer such remote worker arrangements.

To move for remote work from the UK to Barbados, the applicant needs to prove that they earn a minimum of $50,000 USD a year. They can then be granted a 12-month ‘Welcome Stamp,’ so they can live and work in the tiny country for the next 12 months. Modestly inviting you to ‘Work from Paradise,’ the Barbados government has provided all the necessary details for the visa application here.

In Greece, Britons could soon be offered a 50% discount on income tax for the first seven years, as long as they have the right to work in the EU/ EEA. Although this is not officially ready for applications yet, initial details of the visa are further reported here.

Checking that small print

Yet remote workers with only British or American passports need to be mindful that usually, without the proper permit or visa to stay in a Schengen area country, such as Greece, beyond the allotted 90 days in any 180-day period, they would face penalties. It is possible that such abuse of a tourist visa may become grounds to exclude the individual from the incoming digital nomad visas. That said, the Greek government intends to attract Britons especially, so the application procedures and criteria for Greece's offering to remote workers from the UK will be worth a read once officially released.

In Croatia, provided you don't require a tourist visa to enter Croatia, a British remote worker can apply for a one-year residence permit after arrival. But be aware that under the terms of the Croatian government’s ‘Digital Nomad Visa,’ open for applications here, the holder is not allowed to provide services to Croatian businesses and all the holder’s income must be generated from abroad. Similarly, go north, to Estonia, and as a remote worker who’s a Briton you’d need to prove that your clients are non-Estonian businesses, and you earn a minimum of €3,504 a month (gross).

Run your own checks

These are just a few examples of countries that are trying to lure international workers who would like to live and work in a different country, as long as they fulfill financial criteria. But we recommend pausing once you’ve jumped through their hoops. In particular, candidates should really see for themselves before making a decision to move abroad under any new remote worker scheme, as a country may look much more inviting during a two-week sunny holiday, than during a 12-month mainly waterlogged, work-filled period to come.

Key factors to consider are the climate, the culture; the amenities (including health and services), friends and family, and logistics. And of course there is both the cost of living and the tax and visa compliance considerations. Generally, if you stay for more than 183 days or know you will stay for more than 183 days abroad, you become a tax resident in the host-country, which means that under the relevant DTA (Double Taxation Avoidance) treaty, you may need to pay taxes on your worldwide income in your new country (i.e. also income from renting out property, dividends and the like).

Digital Nomads, the New Normal

In summary, a generous dose of caution, personal planning and a tax or accounting companion for the journey, even amid international travel barriers like Covid, appear to be standing digital nomads in good stead. All of them would say the pandemic’s effects can be managed and would urge against being a victim of circumstance. For that sort of mindset, and because of how the world of work seems to be evolving, digital nomads will invariably play an even more important role in the global economy, especially once it emerges more unshackled.

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Written by Nikolas Papageorgiou

Nikolas Papageorgiou has worked at Access Financial since 2015. He is Country Manager for Europe, which involves predominantly working with recruitment agencies and corporate clients who wish to place contractors in Luxembourg, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland. 
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