The COVID-19 pandemic upended the idea of the “traditional office setting” and caused many industries to reevaluate in-person requirements for their employees. As “work from home” became the new norm, many professionals left their offices for good and now value the freedom and flexibility remote work provides.
Before you pack up your laptop and make plans to work from a new place, it’s important to understand the work visa requirements in your destination country. In this guide, we’ll cover some common remote work questions as they pertain to work authorization and immigration.
Can I work remotely in the U.S. without a work visa?
For a variety of reasons, it is generally not possible to work remotely in the U.S. without a work visa.
As more companies adopt “work from anywhere” policies with no geographic requirements, it can be tempting to jump on the opportunity to earn an income from your location of choice — the United States included. Let’s say you’re planning a trip to the U.S. Can you work remotely during your temporary stay without obtaining a work visa? As per U.S. immigration law, typically anyone who works or earns an income in the U.S. must have proper work authorization from the U.S. government. Working while physically present in the U.S., even for an employer located abroad and even if paid to a foreign bank account, is still considered work by the U.S. government.
In addition to obtaining proper work authorization, it’s important to understand the tourist visa requirements during your temporary stay in the U.S. The B-1/B-2 visa is a short-term, non-immigrant visa that allows the holder to travel to the U.S. for tourism or specific business purposes. Although the visa type may allow the holder to enter the U.S. for business-related events, such as meetings or conferences, the B-1/B-2 does not grant U.S. work authorization. Violating the conditions of one’s B-1/B-2 visa could have serious immigration implications, including revocation of your visa status, potential removal from the U.S., and denials of future visa requests.
Can I work for a U.S. employer from a different country?
The answer to this question depends on the specific employer and their overseas work policies, as every company is different. Generally speaking, if your company permits it and you obey your destination country’s local laws regarding work visas and taxes, you can work remotely for your U.S. company from anywhere in the world.
Before moving to a new country for remote work, it’s important to explore the country’s visa requirements and tax implications. Depending on the specific country’s tax laws, some remote workers may have to simultaneously pay local taxes and U.S. taxes while working for a U.S.-based employer. If you’re feeling secure with your destination country’s tax requirements, navigating any visa requirements before you relocate may be next on your list.
Understanding Digital Nomad Visas
The “digital nomad” lifestyle has increased in popularity over the last few years — in one study by Harvard Business Review, the number of Americans who described themselves as digital nomads increased by 49% between 2019 and 2020. Many countries have since realized the economic benefit of welcoming digital nomads and shifted their immigration policies to better serve remote workers. As of 2022, more than 20 countries across the globe offer specialized “digital nomad” visas that allow foreigners to live and work remotely in their destination of choice.
Visas tailored to digital nomads tend to differ from traditional tourist or work visas. Although digital nomad visa offerings may vary by country in terms of duration or eligibility requirements, many share the following characteristics:
Proof of Employment: Most digital nomad visas require proof of current employment (with an employer based outside of the destination country).
Income Requirements: Many countries have a minimum monthly income requirement that digital nomads must be able to demonstrate in order to obtain visa approval.
Tax Requirements: Tax specifics differ by country, but some countries do require that digital nomads pay taxes on any income earned during the duration of their stay.
Insurance Coverage: Some countries require that applicants have their own health and/or travel insurance with proper coverage for the duration of their visa.
If you’re interested in the digital nomad lifestyle or looking for a new place to temporarily call home, Boundless put together a list of some of the best and easiest countries to move to for immigrants and expats here.