A growing number of people have turned to the dream of a “digital nomad” lifestyle — answering emails from the beach or the cloud forest as remote working goes mainstream during the pandemic.
Costa Rica hopes to attract more of these workers through a bill that would grant year-long visas for qualifying digital nomads.
If the bill is approved in the Legislative Assembly, remote workers could obtain a permit to stay for one year in Costa Rica, extendable for one additional year. They would also have the possibility of opening local bank accounts and could drive in Costa Rica using their country’s license, among other benefits.
“In the current situation, where tourism recovery could extend for up to three more years before returning to the pre-pandemic demand, the segment of digital nomads is key to the rebound of the sector,” said Tourism Minister Gustavo Segura.
The Tourism Board (ICT) has endorsed the digital nomad project, though some lawmakers have expressed concerns about the number of tax exemptions that would be granted to qualifying workers.
As the bill works its way through the Legislative Assembly, the ICT says it’s launching a promotional campaign to highlight the benefits of attracting remote workers.
“It’s a move that other destinations in the world have already advanced,” Segura said.
An ‘ideal destination’ for nomads
While Costa Rica’s digital nomad visa doesn’t yet exist, the country has granted more than a year’s worth of tourist extensions for visitors during the pandemic.
Thousands of tourists have taken advantage of the grace period, working remotely from communities like Jacó, Santa Teresa, Monteverde and Manuel Antonio.
Costa Rica is an “ideal destination” for them, the ICT says, because of its high internet connectivity paired with warm weather and outdoor adventures like surfing and hiking.
“Tourists who stay for longer periods of time redistribute their money in the value chains generated by tourism,” Segura said.
“They make more local purchases, rent a car for several weeks or months, use services such as the beauty salon, the supermarket, restaurant, soda, laundry, greengrocer, medical services, among other businesses in the community, hence the importance of becoming an option for remote workers.”