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Spain to widen 'digital nomad' visa initiative

By JULIAN SHEA in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-09-27 09:43

Spain is on the verge of becoming the latest country to issue a so-called digital nomad visa which allows residents of non-European Union countries, including the United Kingdom, the opportunity to live and work in the country.

The deal will be part of a new Start Up Act, aimed at streamlining Spain's famously convoluted laws around setting up new companies, a process that can take up to a month, compared to just one day in a country like the Netherlands.

Its finer points have yet to be revealed, but it is expected that what is effectively a residency permit will initially be valid for one year, then can be renewed for up to five years.

Applicants will be offered favorable tax terms and must be able to prove that they have been working remotely for enterprises based outside Spain for a certain length of time, and there is a limit on how much of their income can be generated from dealings with Spanish companies.

Other EU countries that already have similar arrangements including Croatia, Estonia, Greece and Portugal.

The deal will allow people from countries that are not part of the European Economic Area the opportunity to live and work in Spain, bringing their expertise and earning capacity.

Cities such as Valencia, Madrid and Barcelona are already hugely attractive to digital nomads from within the EU, and the opening up aims to make it easier for people from other countries to join in as well.

"Compared to other European countries I've visited, you can definitely make your money go a lot further in Spain," digital nomad Han Talbot, host of business podcast The Remote Life, told the Lonely Planet travel website.

Barcelona in particular is keen to promote itself as a technology hub, which means an influx of experienced remote workers would be welcome.

The revolution in remote working brought about the pandemic has thrown a potential lifeline to many small towns across Europe that were previously losing their populations, as they can now attract incomers with a low cost of living, but the ability to carry on working as normal.

The Portuguese island of Madeira, which relies heavily on seasonal tourism, has set up a digital nomad community in the town of Ponta do Sol, and the Italian island of Sardinia is offering significant cash incentives for people to move there and revitalize the local community, but on the proviso that they renovate an empty property as part of the deal.

There have been complaints in some other cities that the digital nomad culture leads to property rental prices being pushed up beyond the reach of locals by outsiders, but writing in the Harvard Business Review, associate professor Raj Choudhury said: "Digital nomads invest their time and money in the local economy, without taking local jobs, and build bridges with local knowledge workers — a win-win for both remote workers and local communities."

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