The Future of Remote Work: Digital Nomads and the Implications for Immigration Systems

Kate Hooper and Meghan Benton
Date of Publication: 
June, 2022
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated an ongoing shift toward remote work, with some “digital nomads” moving to work remotely in another country. But most immigration systems, this report finds, are poorly equipped to deal with such arrangements. Unclear rules around taxation, benefits and employment law pose hurdles for digital nomads and employers alike. The report examines the implications of remote work for immigration systems, workers and employers, exploring how governments can develop robust remote work strategies. Repositioning immigration systems to introduce greater flexibility for non-traditional work arrangements could bring significant benefits, including economic development, letting employers tap new talent pools, and allowing people displaced by conflict or environmental disaster to earn incomes. More than 25 countries and territories have launched digital nomad visas admitting foreign nationals who work for an employer outside the country or in some cases are self-employed. Other countries have adjusted existing employer-sponsored visa pathways, expanding flexibility on residency tests, while others allow some remote work while holding a visitor visa. The report’s analysis suggests that policymakers should consider a range of options, including creating flexible immigration policies that allow a greater degree of remote work; coordinating across portfolios to develop a remote work strategy integrating immigration priorities with economic development and inclusive growth objectives; working with other countries to streamline immigration, employment, social security and tax requirements; exploring how less developed regions can capture the benefits of remote work; and creating temporary-to-permanent pathways so that some remote workers on visitor and nomad visas can transition to permanent residence. In doing so, governments can create a more attractive environment for employers, workers, and visitors as remote work becomes more mainstreamed. (Jeffrey Gross, Ph.D.)

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Hooper, K., & Benton, M. (2022). The Future of Remote Work: Digital Nomads and the Implications for Immigration Systems. Migration Policy Institute.