How to become a remote worker living abroad

The flexibility of remote work has made working from home more desirable than ever in recent years – but some people take the concept of ‘working from anywhere’ even further.

Digital nomads are known to take their work with them as they travel around the world, funding their stays in different countries while keeping work secondary to their enjoyment of new cultures.

So-called ‘digital nomadism’ is on the rise, especially among young people who want to experience more of the world and frequently see others ‘living the dream’ on social media.

However, remote working from a different country isn’t always easy, and moving from one place to another every few months or so can be a daunting lifestyle change to get accustomed to.

Here is a simple guide with the three main steps you’ll need to follow if you want to take your laptop somewhere sunnier and become a remote worker living abroad.

Find a remote job you can do from anywhere

It may be obvious, but the first step is finding a remote job that you can do mostly online, allowing you to earn a stable income from wherever you might be. 

You shouldn’t leap right into globetrotting without reliable work options, as you must be able to support yourself while travelling (and be able to pay for a secure internet connection!).

The first option, if you’re already working for an employer in your home country who allows remote work, is to find out whether they would be willing to continue employing you while you work remotely from another country.

Most companies will have some reservations about logistics and efficiency, as various factors from time zones to data protection laws can affect your ability to work with their team as normal. 

‘Permanent establishment’ laws could also require your employer to register with the government of the country you’ll be staying in and pay taxes there, which – understandably – they may not be willing to do. However, there’s no harm in asking!

The second option, which you may have to switch to, is becoming a self-employed worker or freelancer, working for clients from around the world. 

There are many fields offering roles that can be performed remotely, but appropriate qualifications and experience may be required. For example: computer science, software engineering, accounting, transcription, and teaching or tutoring.

The most popular and diverse remote job market is probably the digital marketing sector, which includes roles from SEO (search engine optimisation) and social media management to graphic design and web development – plus copywriting and editing.

The type of remote work you can do will depend on your current skill set and qualifications, and which kind of job you would find most suitable for your planned nomadic lifestyle. 

Choose a place to stay as a digital nomad

Once you’ve found a remote job, you can start planning the places you’ll travel to and set up a temporary base. You may want to search for destinations at the same time as searching for remote work opportunities, as one can affect the other.

The easiest route is to choose a country you want to visit, and select one of the main cities or major metropolitan areas. You can be within easy reach of tourist areas for holiday fun, but also base yourself in a well-connected business hub with all the resources you need.

There are countless destinations to choose from when it comes to working remotely from abroad, but when narrowing down your options, be sure to consider factors such as:

  • Cost of living
  • Infrastructure
  • Healthcare 
  • Weather
  • Language
  • Cultural customs
  • Local laws
  • Safety

Remember, living in another country – even temporarily – is a very different experience to simply going on holiday there. Your chosen country and city should align with the lifestyle you want to lead and your social values.

Two more major factors are time zones and resource requirements. Does your job have specific working hours, meeting schedules, or task deadlines that you must adhere to? Do you need a portable home office or can you rely on co-working spaces and internet cafes? 

When it comes to cost of living, sociability, health and safety, weather, and remote working facilities, both the Kayak Work from Wherever Index and the InterNations Expat Insider Survey rank Spain as the second most popular destination in the world for foreigners to live and work. 

Apply for the appropriate remote work visa

The third step, after confirming a line of remote work and choosing your destination, is to identify the visa requirements for your visit. Most countries will not allow visitors to work and earn income while staying there on a standard tourism visa.

However, you may not want to go through all the trouble of applying for a full work permit or residency permit. It pays to choose a country that offers a digital nomad visa specifically for remote workers, making it easier to travel and work without getting bogged down in bureaucracy.

That said, taxes are unavoidable – no matter where you go and where you work from, you can’t escape legal obligations to pay tax on eligible income. 

Which is why it’s best to opt for a digital nomad visa with straightforward tax conditions – preferably in a country that has a double taxation agreement with your home country, to avoid paying tax twice. 

As a newer addition to the world of remote work visas, the Spanish digital nomad visa is generating a lot of international interest. Could this be the solution for your overseas remote work musings?

If you’re planning to move abroad to work remotely and Spain is your destination of choice, it’s a good idea to consult Spain immigration lawyers, who can advise you on visas and taxes and help with your application.