Tomasz Zajda - Fotolia

Estonia wants to introduce special visa for digital nomads

Baltic state’s next digital development could be a visa targeted at people who work online and are location independent

The Estonian government is working with a recruitment platform on the possibility of introducing a special visa for people who work mainly online.

The plan, which is being put together by the country’s ministry of the interior and recruitment platform Jobbatical, is to produce a so-called “digital nomad visa”, which would enable people to work and travel in Estonia for a year and give them access to 25 other countries in the Schengen Area for up to 90 days.

Estonia, which is seen as a leader in digital services, already offers an e-residency scheme to give non-Estonian citizens easy access to online government services and low-cost administration to set up an EU-registered company. Between January and November 2017, the scheme received more applications than there were births in Estonia – 11,096 e-residency applications, compared with 10,269 births.

The digital nomad visa will build on this. “Estonia is at the forefront of e-solutions and our e-residency programme has already become very popular among digital nomads, allowing them location-independent access to Estonian e-services,” said Killu Vantsi, legal migration adviser at the country’s ministry of the interior. “It is therefore not surprising that the digital nomad community has suggested creating a special visa to facilitate the entry of digital nomads to Estonia.”

The government and Jobbatical are gathering input from the digital nomad community to assess the possibility of creating the new class of visa.

Estonia might be small, but it was already seen as a digital trailblazer before its e-residency programme was launched. For example, in 2013 the UK government signed an agreement with Estonia to work together on developing digital public services and to learn from the Baltic state’s advanced approach to public sector IT.

Read more about Estonian IT developments

An exact definition of a digital nomad – a location-independent worker who performs most of their work online – will have to be determined before being incorporated into law.

Jobbatical, which has about 100,000 users in more than 150 countries, conducted a survey of 1,000 digital workers to coincide with the Estonian government’s announcement.

Just over 80% said they would like to work in a new country on an annual basis, but visa complications were seen as the biggest complication, and 99% said simplified visa processes would benefit location-independent workers.

Read more on IT for government and public sector

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