One of the most noticeable effects of Covid-19 within the new labor reality is that companies, and therefore, their employees, have realized that traditional work conditions: offices, work hours, location, have given way to more flexible, and more efficient, schemes for everybody.
This is how we have been introduced to the so-called “Digital Nomads”, which, as has correctly been stated by Erika Collins from the Epstein Becker & Green law firm, are individuals that do not depend on a location, who work independently or as part of a company’s payroll, and who provide their services through nonpresential technological resources. Under this figure, a Digital Nomad could be at a hotel or an AirBnB at the beach or the mountain, at a coffee shop, or a coworking area, without the need to be in an office or even in their own country.
This new concept has been born as a more flexible variation of the working from home scenario, allowing the service provider to work remotely from any part of the world, provided they comply with their objectives and deadlines, while maintaining the labor relationship with his/her employer from a distance.
Given this new reality, countries such as Estonia and Barbados have created new temporary visa categories to reactivate their economy and tourism with temporary stays for these individuals, who upon producing foreign currencies and consuming in the “host” country directly impact the country’s economy.
In the case of Barbados, the visa has a cost of US$2,000 for an individual and US$3,000 for a family and it allows you to stay in the country for up to a year, with unlimited entries and exits. Estonia, on its part, values its visa between €80 and €100 depending on the stay and lets you move between the European countries that are parties to the Schengen treaty. In both cases, requirements are not much different than those established by Costa Rica for tourists: be free of Covid-19, have medical insurance, and quarantine upon your arrival at national territory. Additionally, nomads must have an annual income greater than US$50,000 for Barbados and US$48,000 in the case of Estonia.
Without a doubt, Costa Rica offers multiple characteristics and technological, tourism, and health advantages for a model like this to be attractive for Digital Nomads that would allow for its development throughout the entire national territory, impacting local economies that have been depressed by the pandemic and contributing to reactivating sectors strongly hit by this crisis through chains of Página 2 de 3 value, which due to lack of tourism have suffered greatly. Therefore, we must ask ourselves if Costa Rica can offer suitable immigration conditions in order to become one of the Digital Nomads’ favorite destinations.
We must point out that Costa Rica’s legal system does not contemplate an immigration category that fully adjusts to the characteristics developed by Barbados and Estonia. Specifically, and unless there is a decree that demands it, it is highly unlikely that Costa Rica will be able to compete with the time periods for approval which in Barbados is of 72 hours to grant the aforementioned immigration status.
However, there is an immigration category called “Stay”, which allows a legal stay in Costa Rica for a twelve-month period (renewable for the same period) to those foreigners who are business agents, travelling agents, or commercial delegates of foreign companies that enter the country to tend to matters of the companies for which they work for from here.
One of the main characteristics of this immigration category consists in the fact that foreigners must not receive salaries or professional fees in the host country, given that their remuneration is paid in the country of origin. Therefore, it could perfectly adjust to this specific case.
Another option that could work as a way to become a hub for Digital Nomads is Decree Nº36576-G-COMEX “Regulations for the Registration of Companies before the General Immigration and Foreign Affairs Office and its Regularization before Immigration”, which was enacted by the Ministry of Foreign Trade to develop a policy for the attraction of direct foreign investment in Costa Rica.
Said regulations define a legal framework that may be applied so those companies with international projection can transfer their foreign human resources to Costa Rica. Thus, the Ministry of Foreign Trade could perfectly reform said Decree to create a new category in which it could include Digital Nomads in order to attract new foreign currencies and turn Costa Rica into an international point of reference for this new tendency that could greatly benefit the country’s position within the Covid-19 and post-pandemic realities.
We consider that focusing on this group of global workers with tailor-made solutions, based on the powers granted in the aforementioned Decree, will send a message of progress to the international business community and will be a sign that the government also seeks to offer novel answers to the current economic dilemma and the growing unemployment levels.
In this last regard, whoever is going to occupy the position of head of COMEX could speak to the Minister of the Interior of Estonia, Mart Helme, who in this Página 3 de 3 sense has stated “the digital nomad visa will strengthen Estonia’s image as an electronic state and will offer Estonia a more influential voice within the international community. It will also make the export of Estonia’s electronic solutions easier, which is especially important in recovering from the current economic crisis.
Mr. Pedro Oller
Founder, Oller Abogados
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