Digital nomads find a home in emerging Europe

Emerging Europe is not short of prime destinations for digital nomads. New schemes can help countries fill labour shortages—especially in information and communications technology.  

Although an industrial leader in Central Europe, Czechia lags behind its peers in digitisation. The reasons are many, but a key factor is a shortage of IT specialists.  

In an effort to address this, in late August Prague announced it would take advantage of changing norms regarding remote work post-pandemic with a new ‘digital nomad’ visa programme targeting highly-skilled IT specialists.  

Now, tech workers—whether employed by a foreign company or freelancers—from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States with a STEM university degree or three years work experience in the IT industry can get a Czech visa for one year.  

After the expiry of the one-year visa, recipients can apply for a residence permit granting them a further two years with the completion of an adaptation-integration course.  

The application cost of the visa is 104 euros and spouses, registered partners, and dependent children of any nationality will receive residence permits when applying with a qualifying digital nomad visa applicant. 

KAYAK’s 2022 Remote Work Ranking—compiled based on 22 factors addressing everything from local prices to healthcare and weather—ranked Czechia as the ninth best country in the world for remote work.  

Many other countries in emerging Europe make the list—Romania is third, Croatia is eleventh, Albania is fifteenth, Georgia is seventeenth, and Estonia is eighteenth.  

Lithuania, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, and Latvia are also in the global top 40. 

Recruiting talent 

These other countries are also working to recruit digital nomads to improve their talent pools. 

Estonia—a world tech leader that offers 99 per cent of its public services online—has offered e-Residency since 2014 to allow non-Estonians to access the country’s e-services—including online tax filing—and to date, its 106,937 e-Residents have established 27,945 Estonian companies including 403 in September 2023 alone.  

While e-Residency allows non-EU digital nomads to register businesses in the EU without European citizenship, it does not grant the right to physically reside in Estonia.  

For those who do want to relocate and work from Estonia, Tallinn has introduced a separate digital nomad visa to give digital nomads the right to remotely work from the country for up to one year. The visa scheme stipulates that recipients’ must have an active employment contract with a company registered outside of Estonia, conduct business through their own company registered abroad, or work as a freelancer for clients mostly outside of Estonia.  

Like Czechia’s digital nomad visa, there is a minimum threshold for the income of recipients. 

Croatia also offers a digital nomad residence permit of up to one year for citizens of non-European Economic Area countries working in communications technology for companies not registered in Croatia or performing work to employers in Croatia. Close family members and spouses may join the recipient of the residence permit in Croatia. 

Established hubs 

Digital nomads are no strangers to emerging Europe—many of the most established hubs for digital nomads are in the region.  

Nomad List found that Tirana was the most consistently growing remote work hub anywhere in the world over the last five years. Ljubljana had the third-most consistent growth, Warsaw the fourth, and Riga the sixth. 

Nomad List found that Tbilisi is the world’s fastest growing already established remote work hub over the period of the last five years. Belgrade is seventh by the same metric and Warsaw is eighth. 

Bansko—home to both traditional horse-drawn carts and new ski resorts—hosts the world’s largest annual celebration of digital nomad life, the Bansko Nomad Fest. This year, 729 digital nomads converged on the town of 10,000 for a week of presentations about everything from artificial intelligence to networking, workshops, sports, and mindfulness in a beautiful natural setting. In June 2024, the festival aims to receive 1,000 nomads. 

Coworking Bansko, the local digital nomad community’s epicentre, boasts around 125 members at a time and 40 have chosen to become permanent residents of Bansko. 

Mountain treks, affordable skiing, gorgeous Adriatic coastline, and historical walled cities all await digital nomads who choose to work from emerging Europe—and if governments design digital nomad schemes around their labour markets’ needs, the pairing can be mutually beneficial. 

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