In today’s increasingly interconnected and digital world, the appeal of being a digital nomad is undeniable. The ability to work from anywhere in the world has led to a surge in people looking to leave the confines of a traditional office environment and explore the world while maintaining their careers. With a laptop and a stable internet connection, these digital nomads are redefining where work can be done.
In response to this trend, several countries in Europe have introduced what is known as a Digital Nomad Visa. This type of visa allows individuals to reside and work in a country legally, even if their employer is not based in that country. Two countries that have become popular destinations for digital nomads are Portugal and Spain. Both have a high quality of life, excellent digital infrastructure, and a vibrant culture that attracts remote workers from around the world.
Overview of the Digital Nomad Visa
A Digital Nomad Visa is a legal travel document that allows foreign nationals to live and work in the issuing country for a given period of time. Unlike a traditional work visa, a Digital Nomad Visa does not require the holder to have a job offer from a company in the host country. Instead, it allows people to live in a country while working remotely for an overseas employer or while running their online business.
The benefits of having a Digital Nomad Visa are manifold. First, it gives holders the legal right to reside and work in an attractive foreign country. Second, it provides an opportunity to experience a new culture and lifestyle while maintaining an income. Third, depending on the country, a Digital Nomad Visa can also grant access to local amenities such as healthcare and social services.
Comparing Portugal and Spain as Destinations for Digital Nomads
Portugal and Spain, with their rich history, warm climate, and high standard of living, are both appealing choices for digital nomads. Both countries have strong digital infrastructure, making them ideal for remote work.
Portugal, a country known for its maritime history and picturesque coastline, offers a relaxed lifestyle. With its capital city, Lisbon, often being hailed as one of the top cities for digital nomads due to its vibrant co-working culture and affordable living costs. On the other hand, Spain offers a mix of cultures across its regions, and cities like Barcelona and Madrid are known for their dynamic digital nomad communities.
When it comes to digital infrastructure, both countries have fast and reliable internet connectivity. According to Speedtest Global Index, as of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, Spain ranked 13th globally for broadband speeds, while Portugal ranked 34th. This shows both nations are more than capable of supporting remote work needs.
The cost of living in both Portugal and Spain is relatively low compared to other Western European countries. According to Numbeo, a website that compares the cost of living across countries, Portugal’s living costs are generally lower than Spain’s. However, the cost can vary depending on the city and your lifestyle choices.
The Digital Nomad Visa in Portugal
Portugal introduced its Digital Nomad Visa in early 2021. This visa, officially known as the D7 Passive Income Visa, allows foreign nationals to live and work in Portugal while continuing to serve clients or employers overseas.
To be eligible for the D7 Visa, applicants must meet the following criteria:
- Have a stable and sufficient income: The applicant must have sufficient means to support themselves and any family members during their stay in Portugal. This can come from various sources such as salaries, pensions, dividends, or rental income. As a guideline, you should have an income of at least €7,200 per year for a single applicant and an additional €3,600 for each dependent.
- Proof of accommodation: The applicant needs to provide proof of accommodation in Portugal. This could be a rental contract, proof of purchase of a house, or even a hotel reservation for a reasonable duration.
- Health insurance: The applicant must have valid health insurance that covers them during their stay in Portugal.
The Application Process
The application process for the D7 visa is relatively straightforward:
- Gather necessary documents: This includes proof of income, proof of accommodation, health insurance, a criminal record certificate, and a completed application form.
- Submit your application: Applications can be submitted to the nearest Portuguese embassy or consulate in your home country.
- Wait for approval: The approval process usually takes between 30 and 60 days. During this period, your application will be reviewed, and you may be called for an interview.
- Arrival in Portugal: Once your visa is approved, you can travel to Portugal. Within four months of your arrival, you must apply for a residence permit, which will then allow you to stay in Portugal for a year, renewable for subsequent two-year periods.
The Digital Nomad Visa in Spain
Spain also offers a type of Digital Nomad Visa, known as the Non-Lucrative Residence Visa. Before applying for a Digital Nomad Visa, you need to get a NIE number. Digital Nomad Visa allows you to reside in Spain without engaging in any lucrative activities within the country, which means you can work remotely for a foreign company.
To qualify for the Non-Lucrative Residence Visa, applicants need to fulfill the following criteria:
- Proof of sufficient financial resources: Applicants must demonstrate that they have enough funds to support themselves for the duration of their stay in Spain without needing to work locally. As a guideline, you should have at least €25,560 for the main applicant and an additional €6,390 for each dependent.
- No criminal record: Applicants must not have any criminal records for the past five years.
- Medical insurance: Applicants must have private health insurance with full coverage in Spain.
The Application Process
The application process for Spain’s Non-Lucrative Residence Visa involves the following steps:
- Prepare the necessary documents: This includes proof of financial resources, a police clearance certificate, proof of medical insurance, and a completed application form.
- Submit your application: The application should be submitted to the nearest Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country.
- Wait for approval: The approval process takes about three months.
- Arrival in Spain: Once your visa is approved, you can move to Spain. Within one month of your arrival, you will need to apply for a Foreigner Identity Card, which will serve as your residence permit.
Benefits and Challenges of Digital Nomad Visas: Portugal vs. Spain
Having explored the eligibility criteria and application processes, we now delve into the advantages and potential drawbacks of both countries’ Digital Nomad Visas.
- Tax Benefits: Portugal offers a Non-Habitual Residence (NHR) tax regime for new residents, which can lead to significant tax savings. Under NHR, certain types of income, including occupational pensions and self-employment income from high value-added activities, may be tax-exempt for a ten-year period.
- Cost of Living: Portugal boasts a relatively low cost of living compared to other Western European countries. Particularly outside of major cities, rent, dining, and general expenses can be quite affordable.
- Quality of Life: Portugal is renowned for its pleasant climate, beautiful beaches, and rich history. Its healthcare system is also highly regarded. Additionally, Portugal consistently ranks high in safety and peace indexes.
- Language Barrier: Although English is widely spoken in urban and tourist areas, there could be some communication difficulties in smaller towns and rural areas.
- Bureaucracy: Some applicants have reported encountering bureaucratic hurdles during the application process and later when dealing with various aspects of living in Portugal, such as securing housing or setting up utilities.
- Lifestyle and Culture: Spain is known for its vibrant culture, delicious cuisine, and diverse landscapes. It offers a relaxed lifestyle, with its famous siestas and late-night dinners.
- Healthcare: Spain has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, providing excellent medical care at a relatively low cost.
- Location: Spain’s central location in Europe makes it an excellent base for traveling to other European countries.
- Higher Cost of Living: Although Spain is still more affordable than many other Western European countries, its cost of living can be higher than that of Portugal, particularly in larger cities like Barcelona and Madrid.
- Documentation Requirements: The Spanish visa application process is known for its rigorous documentation requirements, which can be a daunting task for some applicants.
Application Tips and Resources: Portugal vs. Spain
Successful navigation through the application process for a Digital Nomad Visa requires meticulous preparation and attention to detail. Here are some pointers that might make the process smoother.
- Plan Ahead: Given the time it may take to gather all the necessary documents and await approval, it’s best to start your application well in advance of your planned travel date.
- Use Certified Translations: All non-Portuguese documents should be translated by a certified translator. This not only ensures accuracy but also boosts the credibility of your application.
- Explore Local Resources: Platforms like Portugal’s “e-Residency” or “Living in Portugal” website provide extensive resources, including step-by-step guides and tips on how to make the most of your stay.
- Seek Professional Assistance: If the process seems daunting, consider engaging a visa service or immigration consultant. They can help navigate the complex application process and provide useful advice.
- Be Thorough with Documentation: Spain is known for its strict requirements when it comes to paperwork. Ensure every document is accurate, up-to-date, and properly certified or notarized.
- Use Online Platforms: Spain’s official immigration website, along with various expat forums and websites, offer a wealth of information. Resources like Spain’s “Digital Nomad Guide” provide a deep dive into Spain’s visa application process.
- Consider the Timeline: Visa processing times in Spain can be longer than in other countries. Make sure to factor this into your planning to avoid any last-minute stress.
- Reach Out to Local Co-working Spaces: Often, co-working spaces have resources or contacts that can assist with the process or provide advice based on previous experiences.
While embarking on the journey to becoming a digital nomad in Europe may seem overwhelming, remember that countless individuals have successfully navigated this path. Armed with the right resources, thorough preparation, and a sense of adventure, you too can make the most of the remote work opportunities afforded by Portugal’s and Spain’s Digital Nomad Visas. Here’s to your new adventure as a European digital nomad!
In conclusion, Portugal and Spain each offer unique benefits to digital nomads looking to work remotely in Europe. The choice between the two depends largely on individual preferences and circumstances. While Portugal’s Digital Nomad Visa offers notable tax advantages and a lower cost of living, Spain’s visa provides access to a vibrant culture and an excellent healthcare system. Regardless of the destination, it’s crucial to meticulously prepare for the application process and take advantage of available resources.