Latin America, the next Mecca for digital nomads

LIMA – Niels Olson, Ecuadorian Minister of Tourism, is working hard to bring “digital nomads” to his country. He believes that attracting this new generation of freelancers who can work from anywhere for extended visits is a unique opportunity for everyone.

Olson recently tweeted that the average New York-based freelancer could cut their standard monthly costs from $ 4,000 to $ 1,000 by moving to Ecuador.

Living in a city like Puerto López, he writes, the independent expatriate could “work by the sea, live with a predominantly vaccinated population, in the same time zone, (enjoy) an excellent climate and eat fruit. fresh sea “. For Ecuador, the new influx of visitors with money to spend would help boost the country’s economy.

To this end, he says, the government of President Guillermo Lasso is preparing a temporary residence visa for these workers. It “allows foreigners to work remotely for foreign companies in Ecuador. How does this benefit our country? By bringing currencies into our economy and creating jobs, ”Olson said.

Ecuador wants to be the first Latin American country to issue such visas, and the timing could not be better. While online freelancers already moved from country to country before COVID-19, the pandemic has brought their current number to around 100 million worldwide. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates that there could be one billion mobile digital workers by 2050.

Latin America wants to compete with Europe

Some European countries are already issuing visas for digital nomads. They include Germany, Portugal, Iceland, Croatia, Estonia, and the Czech Republic, but in the Americas only four countries are on the list, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Panama and Costa Rica.

In August 2021, Costa Rica approved a law for remote workers and international service providers, aimed at attracting digital nomads and making its travel industry more competitive. The law provides legal guarantees and specific tax exemptions for teleworkers choosing to make the country their place of work.

It allows foreign nationals earning more than $ 3,000 per month to stay in the country for up to one year, with the option to renew their visa for an additional year. If the applicants are a family, the required income is $ 5,000.

Carlos Ricardo Benavides, the legislator promoting this law, affirms that it will be a stimulus for the “economic reactivation of Costa Rica. With this legislation, which is pioneer in its field, Costa Rica has an excellent tool to make the country a destination of choice “.

Neighboring Panama is also creating short-term residences for remote workers and is considering extending tourist visas. The nation hopes to use foreign funds spent on hotels, retail and local services to jumpstart an economy that shrank 17.9% in 2020.

Mexico offers temporary residences to attract digital nomads

Mexico, meanwhile, does not offer a specific visa for digital nomads but remains one of their favorite destinations, with 20 Mexican cities currently hosting remote workers. $ 1,650 in monthly income or a bank balance of at least $ 27,000).

In Colombia, the government has approved a business law that includes special migration rules. It states that the “Government, through the Ministry of External Relations, will accelerate a special regime for the entry, stay and work of digital nomads. […] with the aim of promoting the country as a center for remote work. “

When it comes to choosing a destination, taxes are often a determining factor for digital nomads. Foreigners should take into account the facilities and infrastructure provided by the host country, says Valeria Galindo, partner in personal advisory services at accounting firm EY Perú. But no less important in the choice of destination are “the tax consequences that moving to a foreign country may have for themselves and their business.” terms of the company’s settlement agreements.

AirBnB partners with the city of Buenos Aires

Why are various Latin American countries wooing digital nomads as residents? A study by the Adventure Travel Trade Association, titled “Work and Wander: Meet Today’s Digital Nomads,” found that 87% of them earn about $ 4,500 per month and spend about 36% of that income wherever they go. resident. Their work profiles were a mix of writing, sales and computer programming.

The Nomadlist website also finds that these workers are generally young and more willing to try different experiences and visit new places.

Their disposable income – and willingness to spend it – makes digital nomads a boon to the continent’s battered travel sector. The Mexican government has found that a single person’s stay for three months or more translates into thousands of dollars pouring into the local economy.

Victoria Bramati, Airbnb’s communications manager for South America, said “the pandemic is changing the way we work, live and travel. People want to live anywhere,” and technology makes that possible . This, she adds, “happens in real time”. In June 2021, the company offered Live Anywhere on Airbnb, a pilot program where 12 people shared various Airbnb homes for 10 months. She said it was an opportunity for people to “make the world their home” for almost a year, with most of the costs being borne by Airbnb. The company recently signed an agreement with the city government of Buenos Aires to jointly promote the Argentine capital as an international destination, especially for remote workers.

Between its low costs, exotic destinations and colorful cultures, Latin America has major potential to become the next hotspot for digital nomads. And now is the time to attract travelers who don’t need – or want – to return home.

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