Why remote work may create more expats

  • remote worker
Published on 2021-06-16 at 08:00 by Momentsing
While remote work isn't a new phenomenon, living abroad in the past usually meant resigning from an existing job and starting over in a new country. The recent increase in remote work, however, is letting more people work on the same jobs or businesses from anywhere. As countries continue to introduce remote work visas, more opportunities are opening for future remote working expats.

Digital nomads and location independent entrepreneurs, for example, are two segments of the population known to work and run businesses from anywhere in the world. However, many others simply work away from their corporate offices, a number that has increased after the COVID-19 pandemic. Statista reported in April 2021 that the percentage of United States employees working from home for five or more days per week increased from 17% pre-COVID-19 pandemic to 44% through the pandemic, based on a survey from April 2020.  

The ability to work remotely opens opportunities for employees and entrepreneurs to relocate countries, depending on their jobs and businesses. Essentially, a job that can be performed without needing to be in a specific location can be remote unless there are other location-related restrictions due to legal and tax reasons, for example. 

The benefits of remote work include the ability to live in low-cost locations or different countries, travel, have a work-life balance, and create a flexible lifestyle. The remote work culture has led to an increase in coworking and co-living spaces worldwide, and countries are introducing remote work visas to attract such workers to their territories. Remote work also yields benefits to employers, such as cost savings, improved productivity, and staff retention, among others.

Digital nomad and entrepreneur Wesley Jacobs says, “Remote work has been a real gamechanger. In March 2020, I started my own business from Medellin, Colombia, and I have since worked across Mexico in places like Los Algodones, Tijuana, Cancún, and Playa del Carmen. As a small business owner, the flexibility and affordability of a work from anywhere lifestyle has allowed me to survive the pandemic and work aggressively on my business.”

Where can you work remotely from?

Many countries offer visas that allow expats to work on foreign jobs or businesses. Here are a few examples: 

  • Barbados has a 12-month visa called the Welcome Stamp Visa. You need to prove you will earn over US$50,000 per year and/or be able to support yourself and any dependents. 
  • Estonia has a Digital Nomad Visa allowing location-independent workers to stay in the country for up to 12 months. The minimum monthly income requirement for six months before the application, at the time of writing, is over EUR3,500. 
  • Mauritius has a renewable 12-month Premium Travel Visa. You need proof of your long-stay plans and adequate travel and health insurance for the initial stay.

Further examples of countries with such visa programs include Portugal, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, and Bermuda, among many others. Remember to check all the eligibility criteria and rules for your circumstances.

How to overcome challenges of remote work

Remote work with all its benefits also has inherent challenges that expats need to prepare for. 

Karen Fabre, a Medical Interpreter and an American expat in Mexico, stated, “Remote work is better for mental health since you don't have to commute, you can set your schedule, choose your office amenities, without the office background noise or pointless meetings, with the ability to travel worldwide, still getting paid in your American bank account. You can get to know your co-workers via zoom meetings, but these are not mandatory.” However, Karen also noted some cons such as “finding quiet rentals that suit remote work, and unreliable internet connections.”  

So, here are some tips to help you prepare for remote work from overseas:

Understand the rules of your current or future work 

Check if there are any location restrictions, whether you need to return to an office intermittently, or if you must take a pay cut by moving to a cheaper location, and any other factors. For example, Bloomberg reported on 9 June 2021 that Facebook will let its employees continue remote working after the pandemic if the jobs can be done remotely, but may reduce their salaries if they relocate to low-cost areas, in addition to other related details. 

Ensure your destination supports remote work

Consider how you like to remote work, whether it's from a quiet apartment, cafés, or coworking spaces, and if such facilities are available in your destination country. As per the testimonial above, having strong internet connectivity, for example, can be challenging in certain places. Hence, make sure you can work comfortably from the location you choose. Remember to also check any insurances you may need.

Get immigration, legal, and tax advice

Get professional advice if required to avoid unnecessary penalties in the future.

Make a budget

Research the cost of living in your new destination and make a budget to avoid surprises, especially if you plan to take a pay cut. Depending on the location, however, you could be financially better off. 

As remote work continues to increase worldwide, it paves the way for more expats with location independent jobs or businesses to work and live anywhere. With some planning and preparation, expats can have a fulfilling remote working journey overseas.