As a freelancer or self-employed online business owner, you are often location independent. Being location independent makes the perfect excuse to see the world and move abroad. Some people move abroad to explore different parts of the world, while others simply are looking for a lower cost of living. The latter makes a lot of countries in Asia attractive destinations for digital nomads.
However, Europe should not be overlooked. The dense continent is full of culture, travel in and between each country is cheap and don’t forget about the food!
Many freelancers work abroad without the proper documentation and try to stay under the radar while working abroad. Most decide to move on to other countries after their visa runs out, but some will try to overstay their visa. If you are considering this path, be aware that overstaying while on a tourist visa or during a 90-day visa-free period, could get you banned from Europe. To stay in a country long-term legally, many options are available. If you’re under 31, you could try a working holiday visa. To stay abroad on a student visa, you should enroll at a university there (try one of these countries where you can actually study for free). On top of that, as a digital nomad, you’ll have access to several residence permits and long-stay visas and you definitely should look into getting one. Getting a visa or residence permit is the best way to ensure you’re staying and working in Europe legally.
If you’re wondering how to get a long-term visa, keep reading. As a self-employed business owner or freelancer, you will get a visa for these countries without too much hassle. If you fall in love with one of these countries while on your digital nomad journey, you won’t have to worry about staying longer!
Berlin, Germany’s capital, has been a consistent startup and digital nomad hub in Europe. Living in Berlin has become more expensive over the past few years, but the city is still a great place to stay as a freelancer. The city has plenty of startups and a thriving community where you’ll be able to meet other digital nomads. Other popular cities in Germany for digital nomads are Munich, Stuttgart and Cologne.
How to get a freelancing or self-employment permit in Germany
Getting a freelancing or self-employment permit in Germany is pretty quick and straightforward. This makes Germany the most popular country in Europe for people who wish to stay abroad on a freelancing permit. An artist permit is also available, so be sure to check if you qualify as either a freelancer, a self-employed person or an artist. Most residence permits are valid much longer than long-stay visas. If you are interested in getting a residence permit in Germany, you’ll find a detailed explanation of where and how you should apply to a freelance or self-employment permit here.
France is also quite popular with digital nomads, especially in it’s bigger cities. In Paris, you will find plenty of coworking spaces and a well-established expat community. Toulouse has a great startup and tech scene, with high-speed internet available in pretty much any cafe you’ll find there. One of the quickest visas to get in Europe as a freelancer is the long-stay visa for France. This visa is only valid for up to 12 months, so if you are eligible for a Working Holiday Visa for France I’d advice you get that one and stay 12 months on that visa first. If the Working Holiday Visa runs out, you could apply for the long stay visa next.
How to get a long-stay visa in France
It’s not possible to go on a tourist visa to France and try getting the visa there. To get a long-term visa for France, you will have to do the application in the country where you’re from or where you currently reside in. If your citizenship allows you to apply online, you should use the official website for visa applications for France. First, create an account and fill out the application form online.
To continue with the application, you must provide a passport – issued less than 10 years ago, valid for at least three months after your return and with at least two blank pages left, two recent passport photos and the following documents:
- Proof of income. You can show bank statements or copies of your investment portfolio
- Proof of health insurance, including evacuation insurance
- Proof of your address in France. Most expats bypass this requirement by using a friend’s address or temporarily renting a place
- A letter certified by a notary public that promises you won’t engage in work for an employer
- A letter of employment stating your current occupation and earnings
If any of these documents are not in English or French, they must be translated into French.
After applying online, you will have to make an appointment with the consulate in your current country of residence or the one you are a citizen of. Once you manage to make an appointment, attend your appointment in person and bring all required documents. At this appointment, you will also have to pay the application fee of €99 and your biometric data will be captured. The appointment will take about 20 minutes and once you return home, you will be able to track the progress of your application online. You will be notified once your passport is ready for collection from the consulate or visa center where you applied.
Italy is a beautiful country and could be very affordable, depending on your location. You’ll be very welcome to work as a freelancer or business owner on a long-term visa in Italy. The process of getting the visa – surprisingly – doesn’t take too long and could be done in about one or two months. The visa is similar to the long-term visa for France, as this visa is valid for only 12 months as well. For this reason, I advise you to check if you’re eligible for a Working Holiday Visa first. For the Working Holiday Visa, fewer requirements need to be met and you could always apply for the long-term visa after your Working Holiday Visa runs out.
How to get a long-term visa in Italy
You will have to apply at the Italian consulate in the country you are a citizen of or where you are currently residing. During this appointment, you will need to present the following documents:
- The long-term visa application form, signed at the consulate
- One passport photo
- Your passport – valid for at least three months after your return. The consulate will keep your passport for the remainder of the process
- A notarized background check
- A letter specifying the reason for your stay in Italy, length of stay, and where you plan to reside
- Proof of your accommodation in Italy
- Proof of health insurance
- Proof and explanation of steady income
- Proof of financial means: you can show bank statements to prove the current amount of money in your bank account
Once the consulate has made a decision about your visa, your passport will be returned by mail. If your application is approved, your long-term visa will be included in your passport.
Stockholm comes second – after Silicon Valley – in regard to the number of people that are involved in the tech business, so you can be sure you’ll find plenty of coworking spaces and other digital nomads residing in the capital. If you plan to freelance in Sweden for more than three months, you will have to get a residence permit. The process to get it is done online (in the country you are currently living in) and quite straightforward, but the requirements to prove you’ll be suited to live in Sweden as a self-employed business owner are quite harsh compared to the other countries in this article. However, if you’re able to obtain the permit, it will be issued to you for up to 24 months instead of 12. After these two years, you may be granted a permanent residence permit to live in Sweden indefinitely.
How to get a self-employment residence permit in Sweden
The visa application process is explained thoroughly on the website of the Swedish Migration Agency. In short, you will need to apply online to get a long-term visa to freelance or run your business in Sweden. For the online application, you will need to submit the following documents:
- Copies of the pages of your valid passport
- Proof that you have significant experience in your field and previous experience of running your own business
- Proof that you have relevant knowledge in Swedish and/or English and previously have documented in these languages
- Proof that you are running the business, that you have the ultimate responsibility for it and that you own at least half of the business
- Proof that your business’ services or goods are sold and/or produced in Sweden
- Proof of sufficient funds to support you and, if applicable, your family during the first two years (equivalent to SEK 200,000 for you, SEK 100,000 for your spouse and SEK 50,000 for each accompanying child), by showing bank statements
- Proof of reliable source documentation for your budget
- Proof of established customer contacts and/or a network in Sweden
- Proof that your company, following a 2-year probationary period, will have its finances in balance and you have the ability to support yourself
After the decision has been made by the Migration Agency, you can pick the decision up at the embassy or consulate you’ve selected in your online application. Up to four weeks after that, a residence permit card will be sent to the embassy or consulate and with that card, you’ll be able to enter the country.
5. Czech Republic
The Czech Republic has become more and more popular in the past few years. The country is still an affordable destination for freelancers and other digital nomads. Public transport is reliable and inexpensive. Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, already has a well-established expat and digital nomad community.
How to get a visa to work as a freelancer in the Czech Republic
To get a freelancer visa from the Czech Republic, you will have to do a part of the process from outside the Czech Republic and another part inside the country. The process is, however, not very complicated (provided you speak Czech or have someone who will help you) and most freelance professions will qualify for the visa. Interested to read how you could get a visa to freelance in the Czech Republic? Read here how.
Tech-driven country Estonia is quickly becoming Europe’s startup capital. Estonia was the first country to declare Internet access as a human right, so you won’t have to worry about a reliable high-speed connection or coworking spaces when you decide to move to Estonia. English is widely used, especially in Estonias capital Tallinn. With one of the lowest cost of living on this list, Estonia will only become a more attractive destination in the following years for digital nomads. To cater to this group of workers, Estonia has announced to start issuing digital nomad visas in 2019. This will make it a lot easier for remote workers to settle in Estonia for up to 12 months.
How to get a visa to work in Estonia
The visa is expected to be fully rolled out in January 2019, so the wait will be over soon. You’ll find more information on our website when the Estonian government starts issuing the visa, so stay tuned!
Bonus: for American, Japanese or Turkish digital nomads – The Netherlands
If you have American, Japanese or Turkish nationality, you will have a shortcut to a residency permit for The Netherlands. You won’t have to go through the scoring system that self-employed people from other nationalities do. The most important condition is to have a business in which you have invested at least €4,500. This makes The Netherlands quite an attractive destination for American, Japanese and Turkish digital nomads that run their own business. You will find more information about the Dutch American Friendship Treaty and Dutch Japanese Trade Treaty on the website of the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation service or ask your questions in the comments below.
Even in Europe, plenty of self-employment visas are within reach. If you are a citizen of a country that is in the European Union or European Economic area, you won’t have to worry about a visa to freelance in Europe. If you’re under 31 and from Canada, Australia or another country that has Working Holiday Visa agreements with European countries, it won’t be too hard to become a digital nomad in Europe either. Another option is to get enrolled (for free) in your country of choice and work on your online business when you’re not in class. Luckily, as a digital nomad, you will also be able to get one of the self-employment and long-stay visas mentioned in this article. These are not too hard to obtain and the countries are very welcome to digital nomads. Where will you be going next?