Countries around the world, in the wake of the coronavirus, have experienced a drastic decline in tourism. In a report released by the The United Nations World Tourism Organisation in August, it was predicted that 120 million jobs are at risk, with economic damage likely to exceed over $1 trillion for the sector in 2020. This could set the global tourism industry back 20 years.
In the midst of these grim circumstances, countries who rely heavily on tourism, have found a way to bring people back. During the pandemic, many employees are not bound to physical offices and in response, a growing number of nations are introducing remote work visa programmes. The aim is to entice professionals deemed Covid negative, to live in their country while working for a company abroad. These visitors would contribute to the local economy without taking the jobs of locals. Low covid rates, robust tech infrastructure, a lower cost of living and the chance to live a more balanced life are cited as draw cards.
At the same time, a growing number of professionals around the world, after months of working from home and being unable to travel internationally, are feeling cooped up and longing for a change of scenery and the opportunity to visit a beautiful destination.
Prior to the pandemic, some countries hosted digital nomads who have always had the flexibility to work anywhere in the world. These recent developments however, differ in that they target full time employees and entrepreneurs who can demonstrate a high and stable monthly income. The families of these professionals are also welcome.
Dubai is the latest country to adopt this trend. In October it launched a one-year virtual working programme, inviting overseas professionals and entrepreneurs to live and work in Dubai, a world-leading business hub. Applicants need to pay a R4,676 (US$287) processing fee and demonstrate a monthly earning of R81,462 (US$5,000). If approved, applicants would gain access to all required services, including telecoms, utilities, and schooling as well as paying zero income tax.
Above: More about Dubai’s one year working programme
Georgia, a country at the intersection of Europe and Asia, had received around 2,700 applications for their “Remotely from Georgia” programme by 5 August. The programme allows foreigners to live in Georgia for at least 360 days provided they have a minimum monthly salary of R32,585 (US$2,000).
In July, the Caribbean tropical paradise launched its Barbados Welcome Stamp visa. “We recognise more people are working remotely, sometimes in very stressful conditions, with little option for vacation. Our new 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp [is] a visa that allows you to relocate and work from one of the world’s most beloved tourism destinations,” says the Prime Minister, Mia Amor Mottley. Upon approval, a fee of R48,877 (US $3,000) is payable for a family. There does not appear to be an explicit minimum income requirement as many other countries have. As of 25 September, the programme had raised $1 million in collections. 1,079 applications were processed between 18 July and 22 August, 764 of which were for individuals and 315 for family bundles.
Closer to home, Mauritius has just announced a Premium Travel Visa programme, which is open to both tourists and remote workers and is valid for one year. In order to qualify, visitors should provide proof of accommodation, and travel and health insurance. No further details have been announced thus far.
With multinational corporations such as Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft committing to remote working for their employees for the foreseeable future, the conditions required for these remote work visa programmes to flourish are ideal and we are likely to see more countries joining in. With more professionals having the ability to choose where they work, wellbeing and work-life balance are likely to become further prioritised in society.
By Faeeza Khan
Image credit: Nathan Dumlao