Can an ESL teacher be a digital nomad?

The simple answer to this question is YES, it is now common for TESOL qualified teachers to work exclusively online while traveling from place to place or while spending an extended time in one location. Internet download speeds continue to increase in most countries around the world, including many that you might think are off limits. There are also plenty of different employers targeting the online teaching market, with more starting up on a regular basis. With countless potential employers and no shortage of possible destinations, there has never been a better time to leave your stale nine to five behind. However, which countries offer the best visas for a long-term stay.

Indonesia (Bali)

Visa length: Up to 60 days

Bali has long been a popular tourist hotspot and a stop on the backpacker trail, and it is now a hit with digital nomads. Although the long-term visa situation is not as good as many others on this list, Bali still makes the grade due to its popularity alone. On arrival you can get a visa that is valid for 30 days for $35. If you want to stay longer, this initial visa can be extended once for a further 30-days (also $35). After a couple of months you might be ready to move on elsewhere, but if not you can do a visa run to another country and get a new visa on your return.


Visa length: Up to 90 days

Vietnam is rapidly becoming a major player in the digital nomad scene, with plenty of attractions including a low cost of living, warm climate, amazing cuisine, beachside living, and a laid back atmosphere. Before arrival you will need to fill out a visa form online, you can then pick it up at the airport when you land. Visas are available for one to three months, with American citizens able to apply for a one-year multiple-entry visa. However, if you go for this option you need to be aware that you still have to leave the country every three months, if only for a day.


Visa length: Up to 180 days

One of the most popular aspects about Colombia for many teachers is its close proximity to the USA. Unlike other popular destinations in Asia for example, flights to Colombia are quick and affordable. The climate is also excellent, the cost of living is low, and the social scene is typically very lively. When it comes to visas, most nationalities are able to get a 90-day visa that can be easily extended for a further 90 days. However, there is a limit of 180 days in any calendar year, so you will need to leave the country and not return until the following year.


Visa length: 6 to 12 months

Located in a unique location bordering both Europe and Asia, Georgia might not be the first country to come to mind when thinking about teaching and traveling. However, with amazing scenery, lively nightlife, an affordable economy, and a specific digital nomad visa, it is likely to become more and more popular in the coming years. Known as ‘Remotely from Georgia’, this new visa allows citizens of 95 foreign countries to live and work remotely in the country for between 180 and 360 days. To be eligible for the visa you need to prove you have the financial ability to pay taxes during your stay with a minimum salary of $2,000 per month.


Visa length: Up to 12 months

Croatia has made a big effort to attract virtual workers by introducing a new Digital Nomad Visa that is valid for up to a year and includes tax exemptions. This could be a real game changer for many non-EU nationals who might otherwise find it hard to legally stay in Europe for an extended period. The beautifully preserved medieval city of Dubrovnik is just one of many great locations that are proving to be very popular in this fascinating part of the continent. To be eligible you will need to meet quite a long list of criteria, such as proof of remote work, health insurance, security background checks, and a rental contract.


Visa length: Up to 12 months

If you prefer to be in the north of Europe, Estonia is well worth a look as it is a modern, welcoming country that is at the forefront of technology in this part of the world. It was also one of the first countries to introduce a specific Digital Nomad Visa that allows freelance or remote workers from foreign companies the chance to stay for up to a year. To be eligible you will need to meet the minimum monthly income threshold that currently sits at €3504 (gross of tax).


Visa length: Up to 12 months

The many attractions of Thailand are well known to the millions of visitors it receives every year. If you want to extend your stay and enjoy the stunning beaches, great food, lively nightlife, and year-round warm weather, there are several options open to you. Many people arrive on a 60-day tourist visa that can be obtained from the Thai embassy or consulate in your home country. This visa can then be extended for a further 30 days. If that expires and you are not ready to leave, you can cross the border into a neighboring country and apply for a fresh visa.

A second option if you know you want to stay long-term is to apply for an Education Visa that is valid for one year. To get this option you need to sign up for lessons with a school that is recognized by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The most popular type of study is Thai language lessons, but Muay Thai classes are also increasingly popular.


Visa length: 12 months or more

The capital city Lisbon has been a hub for digital workers for some time, although Porto with its laid back vibe is now also becoming very popular. One of the big attractions of Portugal is the D7 Passive Income Visa that allows you to stay for up to 12 months. If you decide you don’t want to leave, this can be extended by two years at a time, and it can even be changed to a permanent residence permit after five years. You will need a clean criminal record and a regular income that exceeds the national minimum wage of €600 per month.

Costa Rica

Visa length: Up to 2 years

Costa Rica is a great option as you can choose between the city lifestyle of the capital San Jose, and the calm tropical vibes of a number of different beach resorts. Here you can stay for up to two years on a temporary residency visa known as ‘rentista’. This can also be extended later, although it is only valid for self-employed work and not work with a local business. Proof of a monthly income of $2,500 over the previous two years is required. If you do not qualify, no worries, as there is also a three-month tourist visa option which can be extended by crossing the border and re-entering the country.


Visa length: Up to 4 years

Mexico is a popular choice with digital nomads, especially those from the USA and Canada, due to its convenient location, low cost of living, and good visa options. On arrival many nationalities can obtain a six-month tourist visa that allows them to find their feet without complication. This can be renewed for a further six months simply by leaving the country and re-entering. Another option is to apply for a temporary resident visa which lasts for up to four years. The financial requirements for this visa are an income of at least $1,620 per month over the last 6 months or a lump sum of over $27,000.

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