In a bid to attract new talent to the region, in March 2021, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) unveiled a one-year residency permit for remote workers.
The visa lets foreign professionals like Julien Tremblay, a 31-year-old software engineer from Montréal, live in Dubai while continuing to work for employers abroad. It also grants newcomers access to a resident ID card and most public services. Tremblay, for example, can legally rent accommodation or even open a bank account – all while being exempt from paying any local income tax.
“When I started being a digital nomad [five-and-a-half years ago], there were very few visa options,” explains Tremblay, who says possibilities like the one in the UAE are a game-changer. “It moves you out of the grey zone, and allows you to be fully compliant in the place you’re staying. If you have the intention of becoming a non-resident of your home country, it’s also much easier to prove that you’ve left and become an expat.”
Previously, digital nomads often lived in a legal limbo. They weren’t technically allowed to work in a foreign country, but they weren’t employed locally either. New digital nomad visas create a sturdier foundation, spelling out a legal framework that gives both remote workers and the businesses that employ them more peace of mind. Yet, the visas are not viewed as some loophole to evade taxes; most nomads still pay them in their home countries to maintain citizenship or receive public health benefits.
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