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COVID-19 Pandemic Introduces New Options for Digital Nomads

As we previously reported, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected employers and employees across the globe.  Since the outbreak of COVID-19, governments have implemented measures to address the economic impact of the pandemic, including job retention schemes and promoting remote work.  Many employers have reconsidered the need for employees to return to the office at all.  In response, Barbados and Estonia have taken a dynamic approach to these changes and have introduced digital nomad visas that allow individuals to live in the country while they work for foreign employers.

Digital Nomads Generally

Digital nomads are remote, location-independent individuals who either are employed by a foreign company or own their own foreign company.  Digital nomads are not based in any one office or worksite and instead rely on information and communications technology to complete their work remotely.  They may work out of cafes, on beaches or in hotel rooms – indeed, almost anywhere – because they have no set physical workplace.

Digital Nomad Visas in Barbados and Estonia

The Barbados Welcome Stamp digital nomad visa, promoted by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, costs US$2,000 for an individual and US$3,000 for a family (i.e., applicant, spouse/partner and dependents), regardless of size.  The visa allows remote workers to live in Barbados for one year and to travel in and out of the country freely.  Applicants must earn over US$50,000 annually and test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of arrival.

The Government of Barbados hopes that the initiative will revitalize its tourism-dependent economy.  Barbados derives 40 percent of its GDP from tourism, with approximately 30 percent of the Bajan workforce engaged in tourism-related work.  Various travel restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have all but halted international travel and tourism, impacting tourism-reliant economies, including Barbados.  The Government of Barbados hopes that digital nomad visas can draw visitors that otherwise would remain in their home countries.

In addition, Estonia offers its own digital nomad visa program.  Much like the Barbados Welcome Stamp, the Estonian digital nomad visa permits foreign workers to live in the country while legally working for their employer.  The application fee is between €80 and €100, depending on the length of remote workers’ stay.  The visa lasts up to one year and grants 90 days of travel across Europe’s 26-country Schengen zone, depending upon travel restrictions.  Applicants must earn at least €3,504  per month (approximately US$4,100), pass a background check, and be location-independent.  By easing travel restrictions, the country hopes to increase international collaboration and to encourage entrepreneurship.

The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted travel for many individuals and has significantly expanded remote work.  With a digital nomad visa, workers can explore international destinations during the pandemic without competing with locals for jobs.  Digital nomad visas also may initiate crucial economic recovery activity and, by heightening a country’s international presence in the business and technology sectors and, in particular, moving smaller countries forward in those sectors.  Estonian Prime Minister Mart Helme noted this potential benefit when he stated that “[a] digital nomad visa strengthens Estonia’s image as an e-state and thus enables Estonia to have a more effective say on an international scale.  It also contributes to the export of Estonian e-solutions, which is especially important in recovering from the current economic crisis.”

©2020 Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 210


About this Author

Erika C. Collins Employment, Labor & Workforce Management Epstein Becker & Green New York, NY
Member of the Firm

ERIKA C. COLLINS is a Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the New York office of Epstein Becker Green. She works with multinational public and private companies on complex international employment and human resources matters, with a particular focus on navigating cross-border legal and cultural differences.

Known for her knowledge and work around the globe, Ms. Collins’s experience includes:

  • Advising companies when they are expanding or downsizing throughout the world, including...

Ryan H. Hutzler Employment, Labor & Workforce Management Epstein Becker & Green Washington, DC

RYAN H. HUTZLER is an Associate in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the Washington, DC, office of Epstein Becker Green. He works with multinational public and private companies from a wide range of industries—such as energy, financial services, health care, media, pharmaceuticals, and technology, among others—on international employment and human resources matters, including those focusing on cross-border legal and cultural differences.

Mr. Hutzler’s experience includes:

  • Providing strategic advice and counseling to domestic and multinational employers across industries on a wide range of employment law and related matters, such as hiring and termination, reductions in force, disciplinary actions, disability issues, wage and hour compliance,  restrictive covenants, diversity and inclusion, internal training programs, and global mobility
  • Drafting global employment policies, executive contracts, separation agreements, restrictive covenants, and employee handbooks
  • Performing employment-related due diligence on mergers and acquisitions and other corporate transactions
  • Conducting internal investigations into harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment claims
  • Defending clients against employment and labor-related litigation with respect to wage and hour, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, breach of contract, defamation, and tortious interference disputes

Before joining Epstein Becker Green, Mr. Hutzler was an attorney in the Employment & Labor practice of an international law firm. Earlier in his professional career, he served as a Program Manager at an international internship provider in Beijing, China, and then as a Law Clerk in the Law Department of a passenger railroad service, advising clients on employment and other matters.

As a law student, Mr. Hutzler was a Member of both The George Washington Law Review and The George Washington University Law School Moot Court Board.

Mr. Hutzler is a published author and a past guest lecturer for the Society for American Baseball Research.

Anastasia A. Regne, labor and employment law clerk, Epstein Becker
Law Clerk

ANASTASIA A. REGNE* is a Law Clerk – Admission Pending – in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the New York office of Epstein Becker Green. She will be focusing her practice on employment litigation, labor-management relations, and employment training, practices, and procedures.

Ms. Regne received her Juris Doctor, cum laude, from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where she was the President of the Cardozo Labor & Employment Law Society, an editor of the Moot Court Honor Society, and an Alexander Fellow for the Honorable...