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How to move abroad by working remotely

Did you know that many countries will let you live within their borders without working there? In some cases, all you have to do is prove that you have enough money (not even that you’re earning new money) in order to enter the country and live there completely legally. Now, of course EU citizens have it pretty easy to move around within the EU, but for the rest of us, getting into Europe can be downright daunting, not to mention other parts of the world where English is less widely spoken.

Here’s how you can make your world travel dreams come true by getting a remote job:

  1. Find a job that will let you work remotely.
  2. Decide where you want to live and research that country’s rules for residency.
  3. Move it!

Let’s get started.

Girl checking a cell phone

Why work remote?

A steady source of income. While often working remotely and freelancing seem to go hand-in-hand, having a stable remote job is preferable in my eyes for several reasons:

  1. You always know when you’re getting a paycheck.
  2. It helps you keep a schedule, even if you’re probably working from home.
  3. It can also make it easier to get a visa (so, your stability is also seen positively by the foreign government you’re trying to woo).

Here’s one big benefit that most people don’t consider:

Better options for long-term savings. If you are a US citizen, you are only allowed to contribute to state-sponsored retirement plans with dollars that have had US income tax applied to them. What this means is: you basically can’t save for retirement unless you’re paying taxes. Typically, you’re only taxes on overseas income when earning over $90,000 – which, *ahem* doesn’t apply to most of us. So, what to do? Well, if you’re working for a US company, it makes taxes and saving for retirement a lot easier.

TIP Don’t forget to ask your current employer if they would be fine with you working remotely, rather than quitting your job. Oftentimes, they will value you, your work, and not having to find someone new enough to let you do it!

Benefit from a favorable exchange rate. Having a remote job somewhere expensive while living somewhere cheaper is an old trick, but an effective one. This also happens within Europe: people live in Southern Germany, but have jobs in Switzerland and take home those sweet Swiss Francs. Right now while the Euro is weak, making money in another currency can be beneficial.

Location independence. This is what we’re all after, right?! Being able to live where you want and somehow manage to prioritize live over work. Having a remote job is probably one of the most stable ways to achieve this goal.

Find a remote job

Alright, so you’ve probably decided that you want to get a remote job (because I’m such a smooth talker) – but which one? You might also be wondering: Do I have skills that transfer to a remote job? I’m currently compiling a list of resources for numerous “portable” jobs and careers, but here are a couple of ideas for jobs that you can do from home or a co-workering space:

Copywriting, PR, SEO consulting, social media consulting, basically any kind of consulting, technical or design work, marketing, sales, customer support, translation, transcription, recruiting, human resources, as well as such alluring tasks as accounting, taxes, or even data entry or curation.

Websites to check for remote job listings

Keep in mind, this list is only the tip of the iceberg! These are the links that looked most promising to me, but there are countless lists of remote job websites out there.

  • We Work Remotely: Look here for programming, marketing, support, sales, and design jobs! The listings are updated rather frequently and are all either remote or are looking someone based in a particular region of the world or timezone.
  • Authentic Jobs: Lots of listing for developers and designers. According to their snazzy about page, Authentic Jobs has been used by lots of high-profile companies like Apple, Etsy, NPR, VSCO, Facebook, and the New York Times. Be sure to use the “Remote” filter in your search.
  • Remote OK: Although heavier on the tech and design side, Remote OK also allows you to filter by “non-tech” and copywriting jobs. You’ll find positions like Junior Marketing Analyst, Content Marketer, Finance Coordinator, along with a slew of Support and writing jobs.
  • Skip the Drive: This site has one of the most varied sets of listings, and even allows you to create alerts for categories that interest you.
  • PowerToFly: Calling all ladies in tech – this is the site for you! PowerToFly focuses on matching women with remote jobs in tech.
  • Jobspresso: Self-described as, “expertly curated remote jobs in tech, marketing, customer support, and more.” The interface looks really nice and user-friendly, and even allows you to upload your resume.

Pick a destination

It typically works like this:

You usually have to get a residence permit and a work permit. Normally, you get a residency permit as part of the process of getting a work permit, but not the other way around. However, if you have a solid work history and a decent income, many countries will allow you to apply for residency without a job in the country itself.

That said, some countries are easier to move to than others. Some countries also have different rules if you are applying as a freelancer vs. applying as someone who simply happens to have enough income to live there.

What makes it difficult to pin down the rules is the fact that a lot of the information about living without working in a country is either a) only available in the local language b) not readily available online c) or changing frequently.

I will focus on two scenarios: moving to the country as someone with sufficient funding who doesn’t intend to work in the country, or some workarounds which will still allow you to legally work remotely while pursuing interesting side-activities (e.g. learning the local language).

Working remotely from around the world

Here’s the best information I can find about the requirements of these countries. If you can provide any personal insight from having worked remotely in a foreign country, please share your experience in the comments!

Working remotely from Europe

Italy. Italy requires that you have a minimum annual income to live there without getting an Italian job. Latest reports suggest that it’s in the ballpark of €50k, so it’s not exactly “baby’s first remote job” material, depending on your profession.

Spain. Similarly to Italy, Spain will allow you to live within its borders without having a Spanish employer provided that you have sufficient income. Apparently this amount is less than in Italy. You can read here about Spanish visas (you’re looking under “Long Stay” for the “Residence Visa with non-lucrative purposes”). How much you need to work in Spain is a mystery. Some people have reported that you need as little as 5,000 euros per person per year to get the “non-lucrative purposes” visa.

France. France as well will let you kick in its borders provided that you can prove you have enough in the bank. The amount is not disclosed on the long stay visa for non-professional purpose, but you can bet it’s up there or higher than Italy. You can provide this information by disclosing a “financial guarantee”, such as detailed bank statments for the last three months. You can start with a one-year visa and then extend it.

Monaco. If there’s any country where you probably need to make the most money on this list, I would guess it’s Monaco! Similarly to France, you just have to prove that you have enough money to kick it at the Monte Carlo (okay, maybe you don’t need that much, but honestly Monaco is probably not the best place for remote workers. Anyways: Here are requirements for living in Monaco without working there.

Russia. Dreaming the soviet dream? Americans (but not other nationalities) can get a three-year tourist visa to Russia, which requires only that they cross the border once every 6 months, after which you can return to Russia immediately. Read more about the three-year Russian visa for US Citizens.

Working remotely from Asia

Thailand. It’s no secret that Thailand is cracking down on people with visitor visas living and working remotely, but luckily it seems that the government has clarified that people working remotely or runing online businesses can do so legally on a visitor visa. However, if you want to live in Thailand long term, it seems the government hasn’t caught up much on how to accomodate the growing population of digital nomads. Plus, the visitor visa is basically limited to 9 months, and then you are liable to be denied re-entry. One option is to join a Thai school (costing about $1k annually) and stay on a learning visa, meanwhile working.

Japan. Moving to Japan to work for a remote company isn’t a feasible thing on its own – instead, you would probably need to apply for a different Japanese visa and work remotely while you do it – again, a language-learning visa probably makes sense. Here’s a hefty tax guide for foreigners in Japan, which basically implies that’re exempt from taxes in Japan as long as your income isn’t technically entering the country (I’d interpret this as “not going into a Japanese bank.”)

Working remotely from South America

Uruguay. Uruguay is slowly becoming an expat haven owing to how easy it is for foreign visitors to apply for a residence permit. You have to prove an income of $500-$600 a month for a single person (amount has recently increased), and you can basically show up, prove you have income, and get the permit. There’s a lot of information about this available if you google “Apply for residency Uruguay”, such as this post by Internations on Uruguay visas and residencies.

Working remotely Africa

Morocco. There’s not a lot of information about working remotely from Morocco, but it seems they may have a similar policy to those found throughout Europe. For more, checkout Marocmama’s guide to Applying for Carte sejour (residency) in Morocco.

Working remotely from Australia and New Zealand

Australia. Checkout the awesome Visa finder by the Austrlian government. There are over 70 possible visas, including visitor visas they are good for up to a year. While it’s not the long-term visa you’ll get in some European countries, a year possibly enough time to meet a special Australian and begin to qualify for another visa ;) Read more about Australia’s work and holiday visa. The limitations are that you need to be under 31, come from a certain set of countries, and have enough money to support yourself (5000 AUD).

Job found, destination picked, what’s left?

Of course, this will depend on a country-by-country basis, and there are countless online forums and communities of people who’re doing the same thing – don’t be afraid to ask questions to strangers on the internet!

Another good resource is your local consulate – a lot of countries require that you apply for visas like these in advance before entering the country. However, in my research I’ve also ready stories of being misadvised by the consulate, so it always pays to verify with multiple sources.

Last but not least: Tips for making remote work…work!

  1. Consider additional expensies inccured by working remotely when deciding what combination of salary and location will be enough to support you.
  2. Be mindful of timezone differences, e.g. How soon are you expected to respond to an email or chat? Will it look weird to anyone when they receive emails at 2AM?
  3. Make sure your phone and internet connection are going to be reliable, especially if you’re responsible for interfacing with clients directly.
  4. If you’re the type not to leave the house unnecessarily, consider getting a table at a coworking space to help you socialize and meet locals and expats alike.
  5. Be sure to have a contingency plan if your employer decides that remote work isn’t working out.

Have you ever worked remotely, or considered it? Would you get a remote job if it meant traveling to your dream country?

Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments! Especially let me know if any information is incorrect or outdated :)

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About the author

Hi there! I'm Monica, an American expat living in Germany for nearly four years and using every opportunity to explore the world from my homebase in Berlin. My goal is to capture my memories in photos and posts that show how easy it is to start from scratch and travel the world by working abroad.

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