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Digital nomad visas: How does Austria compare with other countries?

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 16 Jan, 2023 Updated Mon 16 Jan 2023 14:24 CEST
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Working with this view of the Austrian alps might not be so easy for digital nomads (Photo by Samuel Schroth on Unsplash)

There is now a new type of professional: the digital nomad. But what are the rules for those who want to live this lifestyle in Austria, and how do they compare with other countries?

Although it's a current buzzword, "digital nomadism" is not exactly a new phenomenon. Business owners who have in recent years been able to run their companies online have travelled and enjoyed the perks of the "work from anywhere" culture. However, as technology has become more accessible and more companies adopt work-from-home schemes (especially after the coronavirus pandemic forced people out of their offices), the lifestyle became more common. 

In theory, it may sound perfect to many people: living in different countries while doing your job completely online, going from working by a Spanish beach in summer to spending the winter in the Austrian mountains. But things can get pretty complicated regarding visas, taxes and health insurance.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about finding work in Austrian towns and villages

Austria still needs to catch up to other countries when it comes to this type of life. For example, in Austria, there is still no such thing as a digital visa nomad. This means that, legally, third-country nationals (non-EU citizens) are not allowed to simply work in Austria, even at a remote job, unless they have a proper visa to do so.

The rules in Austria

Citizens of EU and European Economic Area (EEA) countries can stay in Austria for up to three months (90 days) without having to register as a resident.

For stays of more than three months, you have to be employed, self-employed, a student at a recognised educational institution or have enough money to support yourself financially. In Austria, you will be considered a tax resident if you spend more than 180 days per year in the country.

In theory, this means someone from France or Italy can relocate to Austria for several months (or years) to live and work – as long as they follow the rules related to proof of residence, health insurance and tax. You can read more about this HERE.

READ ALSO: Reader question: How can foreign doctors practise medicine in Austria?

For third-country nationals, which include the US and the UK, there are limits to how long they can stay in Austria. However, as there is not a dedicated digital nomad visa in Austria (as already mentioned above), working in Austria remotely as a third-country national with a tourist visa or Visa D is not legal. 

Instead, a long-term visa option is to apply for a self-employed key worker visa, which can be financially (and bureaucratically) out of reach to most digital nomads.

READ ALSO: Digital nomads: Who can work remotely in Austria?

How does it work in other countries?

Among the countries covered by The Local, Spain is the one that most recently created an exclusive visa for digital nomads - it is officially known as the international remote worker visa (visado para teletrabajadores de carácter internacional). It is part of the new startup law, which is expected to come into force in early 2023. 

In a nutshell, it will grant non-EU freelancers and remote workers entry and residency rights in Spain, with fewer bureaucratic obstacles than there currently are, and enticing tax benefits.

The Spanish government wants to remove the existing bureaucratic hurdles these international workers face to make “Spain a paradise for talent”, The Local Spain reported.

READ ALSO: Spain’s new digital nomad visa: Everything we know so far

Germany, like Austria, does not have a dedicated digital nomad visa. Therefore, EU and EEA citizens can stay and work in Germany. However, for self-employed third nationals who want to spend a prolonged period in Germany, the most obvious choice is a freelance visa, according to The Local Germany.

This type of visa is aimed at people who work remotely for several clients but don’t necessarily own their own companies. The typical image is of freelance graphic designers, coders and writers sitting in slick cafes with glossy laptops, but you can freelance in almost any profession. 

Digital nomads enjoy the possibility of working from beautiful destinations such as a beach in Spain. (Photo by Samuel Schroth on Unsplash)

France is another country that does not have a specific digital nomad visa, and digital nomads can face several grey areas for living and working, Fiona Mougenot, a lawyer and partner in the immigration specialists Expat Partners, told The Local France.

Switzerland offers no incentives for digital nomads, and work visas or permits are notoriously difficult to obtain, as The Local Switzerland showed. Likewise, Denmark does not have a digital nomad visa, and digital nomads travelling to Italy will also have to comply with local rules without the benefit of a proper visa.

European countries with well-established visas

Other European countries have been quicker in implementing a visa to attract digital nomads. For example, the Croatian Digital Nomad Visa, which works as a temporary residency permit, allows you to work online while living in the beautiful coastal country for one year. 

Estonia has a famous "e-residency program", and in 2020 created a one-year digital nomad and freelancer visa for those who can work remotely.  Iceland is another country with a specific permit that allows people to stay for up to six months working online for companies abroad.

READ ALSO: Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in Austria

Several other countries, including Portugal, Malta, Romania and Greece, also have specific visas for those in the digital nomad lifestyle. However, they are usually limited in time and people need to prove a steady income to obtain them.

Outside of Europe, several dream destinations, especially in the Caribbean, but also countries like Mexico, Brazil, Malaysia, Namibia, and Cape Verde, have specific visas that would suit most digital nomads.

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