The case for a Nomad Visa


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By : Siya Mazibuko
South African Economist

Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of South Africa, characterizes the remote work visa as a tool to facilitate economic growth and in the wake of South African’s tourism unprecedented collapse, the case for the “Digital Nomad Visa” as part of the national path to economic recovery for Africa’s most industrialized country must be made.

What is the digital nomad visa?

Visas for digital nomads are authorizations that let you conduct remote work in another nation. To be eligible for this visa, you often need to work for an employer or corporation outside of your country of residence or have a business you can run from anywhere in the world.

Most digital nomads operate illegally since they use tourist visas to do their remote employment. Therefore, many nations grant digital nomad visas to give visitors a legal foundation for working while travelling.

So how would it work?

Remote employees (those who work or freelance for international employers, companies, or even start their own businesses) will be able to remain in South Africa with the help of the digital nomad visa. Currently, foreign visitors are only permitted to stay for 90 days, but with the digital nomad visa, their stay will be extended. The proposed visa would have a one-year validity period with the option of extension.

  • Requirements for a Digital Nomad Visa

Little information has been shared by the government of South Africa regarding the proposed Nomad Visa but at its core, the South African visa is likely to have fundamental requirements like a valid passport, proof that you work or freelance for foreign employers or own your own company, monthly minimum income, health insurance, proof of accommodation and could feature softer additional requirements as seen from other countries like civil documents (birth certificate, CV, qualifications, etc.), Proof of savings (bank account statements) or an insurance policy.

  • Trends from SA employees and/or multinationals regarding foreign workers

According to StatsSA, approximately 4% of people of working age (15 years to 64 years) across the whole of South Africa were born outside SA. Like internal (South African) migrants, many foreign-born people of working age are drawn to SA’s urban hubs/cities so there are slightly higher percentages (than 4 %) of foreign-born workers in some parts of SA and similarly lower percentages in other parts of the country. This means there already exists a viable network of foreign workers who could tap into a kind of familiarity.

Advantages of the nomad visa

Many areas that depend on international travel and tourism have seen a severe economic downturn since the pandemic’s start. Due to their far more reliable sources of income, digital nomads present a potential solution for these communities.

Save money and pay off debt

Being a digital nomad may not only quench your restlessness, but it may also be a wise financial decision. You may save a ton of money by relocating to a region with a cheap cost of living.

When comparing the cost of living between Boston, Massachusetts and Cape Town, for example, rent in Boston is more than 1007.14% greater than in Cape Town. You could live comfortably in Cape Town for $560 a month, which is equivalent to $6200 in Boston.

Your monthly expenses could be greatly reduced by relocating to a less expensive area. You might put in fewer hours at the office and still make ends meet, or you could utilize the additional money in your budget to save money or settle debt.

Create a lifestyle that suits your needs

The freedom to construct your lifestyle on your terms is an even greater benefit of working remotely, which includes the ability to pick where and when you work. It’s simple to believe that your life is being shaped by external influences at times. However, you have more control over important life decisions as a digital nomad, such as where you reside and how you spend your days.

You can find time to indulge in hobbies you enjoy and volunteer for causes you believe in if your job schedule is flexible. Instead of saving travel for only two brief weeks each year, you may make it a regular part of your life and with the abundance of e-hailing apps like Uber and Bolt, you don’t have to own a car to travel easily.

Decreased cost of living

People can look for regions to reside where the cost of living is reduced because of the digital nomad lifestyle. People can save money and enjoy a more luxurious lifestyle than they could in their home country if they had the freedom to select where to reside because their money can go further with South Africa being one of the cheapest countries to live in compared to the Dollar, Euro and Pound for an example.

Increases wellbeing

Being a digital nomad can improve wellbeing and make people considerably happier for those who dislike the 9–5  lifestyle and wish to be location-independent. 

Living a nomadic lifestyle can be more meaningful and rewarding, and it can give one the impression that they are always learning and developing since they are exposed to new things and forced to step outside of their comfort zones and with 11 official languages and unique cultures, South Africa is certainly attractive.

This type of exploration could add a meaningful contribution to the South African economy.

Some of the permits for digital nomads can lead to citizenship and permanent residency for instance, under Latvia’s scheme, nationals of OECD nations may be qualified to convert their status as digital nomads to temporary residents after two years. You can then apply for citizenship in Latvia after five years of residence, a similar approach could be taken for South Africa in light of immigration being a hot topic in South Africa.

Abroadscope visas and Foreign Exchange services specialises in Relocating foreigners to South Africa, we think the introduction of economically active foreign nationals entering South Africa, spending their money and submerging themselves in the African culture is the way to attract many foreigners to South Africa, notoriously the Retirement visa was used for this exact reason and this lead to almost 23 % of house sales to Foreigners being sold to people looking to make South Africa their place of rest and tranquility. While I believe there is more to be done to make living, working and investing in South Africa easier, we welcome the introduction of the nomad visa. We only hope that the government will not take more than 12 months to issue a 12 month visa.

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