Working remotely from a paradise location is a dream come true, but before you hop on a plane with your laptop, it’s crucial to understand that there are legal and financial implications that you need to be mindful of.
Please note: this guide is not legal or visa advice; it is written based on personal experiences over the last eight years.
One of the pressing questions many remote workers ask is: “Can I work remotely in another country without a visa?” The straightforward answer is generally ‘No,’ but it’s an incredibly grey area that millions of people, like myself, have traveled and worked online for decades with no issues (so far.)
Understanding the Visa Status
Visas permit individuals to enter and stay in a country for specific purposes: tourism, work, study, etc. Working remotely technically constitutes ‘work,’ and almost all countries will require a work permit or specialized visa for that.
Tourist visas do not allow you to work legally, and this doesn’t mean you can’t send an email or take a call. Still, ongoing, full-time work typically violates any visa you receive on arrival into the country.
Why It Matters
1. Legal Consequences: Working on a tourist visa can result in fines, deportation, or bans on re-entry.
2. Tax Implications: If tax authorities find out you’re working without paying local taxes, you could be penalized.
3. Insurance and Health Coverage: Employer-provided insurance might not cover you without a proper work visa.
Exceptions and Loopholes
1. Short Stays and ‘Grey Zones’: Many countries operate in a grey area where short-term remote work on a tourist visa is common and not heavily regulated. However, it’s risky and not recommended.
2. Digital Nomad Visas: Some countries are introducing specialized visas for remote workers. These are designed to let you work legally while contributing to the local economy. Malaysia, Costa Rica, Portugal, and Croatia are just a few destinations to offer such a visa for remote workers.
3. Freelance Visas: Countries like Germany offer freelance visas that suit digital nomads or remote workers.
My Personal Experiences
When arriving in a new country, my purpose of visit is always tourism. After all, the main focus of my visit is to experience the country and culture. No money arrives in my possession or bank from a company or individual in the visited country.
Yes, remote working occurs during my time in the country – all of this work is completed online and for 5-8 hours out of a 24-hour day. Most of my time is spent on leisure time enjoying the destination as a tourist.
My clients send money into my UK bank account, and my business is registered with the HMRC for Tax (and National Insurance).
Since the pandemic, governments have started to introduce digital nomad visas. Still, these are very cumbersome and time-consuming when you’re only planning to visit a country for a short period. (up to 3 months)
Hopefully, the process for longer-term visas for people who want to work remotely and travel will become easier to apply for.
The Practical Steps
You have a choice: either you arrive in a country as a tourist. Take the risk of being removed, fined, and then banned from visiting. Or, you can do it above board, apply for work visas (if applicable) or a longer-term digital nomad and remote working visas, which are becoming more common.
That is your decision to take, but officially, this applies:
1. Consult Embassy Websites: Consult the embassy website of the country you plan to visit for the most accurate and current visa information.
2. Talk to an Immigration Lawyer: This may seem like an extra expense, but getting expert advice can save you from future problems.
3. Company Policies: If employed, check your company’s policy on remote work from other countries. They might have protocols to adhere to within your contract.
4. Financial and Tax Consultation: Speak to a tax consultant about your obligations in your home country and the country you wish to work from.
5. Health Insurance: Ensure your health insurance is valid internationally or purchase a policy that covers you in the country you’re staying.
Know Your Exit Strategy
Always have an exit plan if things don’t work out. Keep funds aside for emergency travel, and know where your nearest embassy or consulate is.
Taking a Mindful Approach
Working remotely from a different country is appealing, but the reality involves red tape and legal obligations. While it’s not impossible, it requires meticulous planning, awareness of legal constraints, and an understanding of the risks involved, including being deported.
While the answer to working remotely in another country without a visa is generally a ‘No,’ there are responsible ways to explore this lifestyle.
The rule of thumb is always to be aware, prepared, and proactive in understanding the legal aspects. Don’t cut corners, and you’ll likely find a way to legally and ethically make your remote work dream a reality.