Are you reading this at home? Perhaps in the spare room/kitchen table/garden shed “office” that has been your improvised workspace for most of this year? Poleaxed by the pandemic, many of us have had to adjust to a strange new era of business travel – one abruptly shorn of getting on planes and going to offices and where the business day is now conducted almost entirely via electronic screens. The trend towards remote working has been rapidly accelerated (even Zoomed) by Covid-19, along with the dreamy thought that we might as well do this somewhere warm and uplifting – a lifestyle change that is now being encouraged by exotic destinations ranging from Anguilla to Georgia, inviting us to up laptops and “work from paradise”.
Doing so is worth considering, given that the technology exists to allow work from almost anywhere and that Covid-19 isn’t going away. As Professor Sir John Bell, a leading immunologist and Regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, has put it: “There’s going to be lots of this virus around for a long time, probably forever.”
At the same time, working remotely is going mainstream. Microsoft has said it will allow staff to do this permanently, even from another country if approved. Germany plans to make working from home a legal right, while the Welsh government wants to see “around 30 per cent of the workforce working remotely on a regular basis”. Pontypridd or Bora Bora? Now that is a question.
The good news is that working from abroad doesn’t have to mean a major sell-up and relocation. Most of the new long-stay working visas are valid only for a year, so are ideal for testing the water, and their requirements are pretty standard. You can’t work in the host country, you need to demonstrate a decent income and have health insurance, you can come and go as you please, and you are not taxed locally. (Note that the chance to set up in these locations is subject to entry restrictions on international arrivals owing to the pandemic.) With uncannily good timing, in April travel guide publisher Lonely Planet brought out a bible for all this, The Digital Nomad Handbook (£12.99), that is full of tips on how to live and work on the road. It outlines how to apply for a work-friendly visa in less-hyped places such as Mexico and Costa Rica, and even suggests a novel way to stay in Thailand. Apparently, if you sign up for a year-long course in Thai boxing, you only have to train for four hours a week – and that might come in handy if the boss is giving you grief...
The best of the new, Covid-inspired long-stay visas have a fast and inexpensive application process, such as Work from Bermuda, which is all done online with approval within five working days. It’s worth remembering that this manicured financial centre and British Overseas Territory is notoriously expensive, with its capital, Hamilton, topping the global cost of living index compiled by the collaborative database website Expatistan.
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