Remote workers based in the United States, rejoice! Yet another country has embraced the Digital Nomad trend and will start issuing residence visas for eligible foreign nationals, including Americans. If you’ve never heard of this Eastern European country before, allow us to introduce you to the wonders of the fascinating Latvia:
One of the most affordable places to visit in the continent, it is a Baltic Sea jewel bordering Lithuania and Estonia and a nation steeped in History and tradition. Although it is not the most obvious of tourist destinations, Latvia has been growing in popularity in recent years, especially among travelers looking to escape overtourism.
So what exactly makes Latvia such an appealing Digital Nomad destination?
A Country That’s Been A Digital Nomad Hotspot In The Making For Years
Latvia is a relatively new country. While the Latvian language dates back centuries, the region the Latvian people today call their home has existed as a province under several Empires throughout History. The most recent example is the Soviet Union, that collapsed in the early nineties and opened the path for Latvia to proclaim independence in 1991.
Fast forward 31 years later and you will find a well-developed nation that managed to shake off the ghosts of its Communist past, and despite being in close proximity to Russia, is now a member of the European Union and NATO. Latvia is no stranger to change, and since it found its freedom it’s been constantly looking for ways to revitalize its economy.
Riga, its picturesque, 632,000-people strong capital, has been an entrepreneurship hub for years, attracting people from all over Europe and beyond due to its highly affordable cost of living and low bureaucracy for those starting a business. In fact, the Latvia Government has been committed to a ‘Zero Bureaucracy‘ policy.
Their aim is to reduce the unnecessary paperwork in the public sector and make it easier for businesses to prosper. Because of that, Latvia is at the forefront of the digital revolution in Europe: according to data from the European Commission, it ranks at number 17 in the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), out of a total of 44 European countries and territories.
Unsurprisingly, launching a new Digital Nomad residence permit is the next natural step moving forward. As we have discussed extensively in this other article, both solo travel and long-term travel are here to stay, now that the pandemic has boosted the digitization of the economy and remote working is more popular than ever.
Latvian Digital Nomad Visa: The Easy Path To EU Citizenship For Americans?
As of now, only citizens and residents of OECD countries (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) will be able to apply for the Latvian Digital Nomad Visa. This includes natives of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Turkey, and many more.
The visa allows digital workers, whose business or companies that employ them are registered in OECD states, to live in Latvia for up to two years, without requiring local sponsorship. Additionally, the country will be offering a path to permanent residence for those who apply to remain in Latvia once two years have elapsed.
After five years of continuous legal residence in Latvia (e.g. two years under the Digital Nomad scheme, and then a further three years as a permanent residence), foreigners are eligible to apply for Latvian citizenship, which would grant them EU citizenship as an extent, and the right to move freely across the whole European Union.
What Are The Visa Requirements?
In order to apply for this visa, digital nomads will need to satisfy the following requirements:
- They cannot hold Latvian or another EU/EEA citizenship, or Swiss citizenship*
- Their own company, or company they work for must be registered in an OECD country, such as the United States, Canada or Mexico
- They must be highly qualified professionals
- They need to prove at least six months of employment with a foreign employer, or register as an entrepreneur abroad
- Their monthly salary must be 2.5 times higher than the national average in Latvia**
*EU, EEA (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein), and Swiss nationals already enjoy freedom of movement in Latvia as per the Free Movement directive, with no requirement other than nationality. If you are a U.S. passport holder, as well as a European citizen, you can already take up residency in Latvia freely by presenting proof of your other nationality.
**The minimum wage in Latvia is roughly USD 521,00 as of January, 2022, according to Eurostat.
Other requirements, such as filling out an application form, presenting proof of mandatory health insurance and payment of a visa fee may be detailed at a further date, once the new visa is officially launched. Essentially, non-Europeans must prove they are qualified professionals in their field and a stable source of income of at least USD 1,302.50 a month.
Latvia is the latest European country to issue Digital Nomad Visas, following:
- Croatia (Already launched)
- Italy (Planning to launch)
- Romania (Planning to launch)
- Hungary (Planning to launch)
Latvia Could Be The World Capital For Digital Nomads
Several other EU countries will also be opening the doors to Digital Nomads in the coming months, though none has been as generous as Latvia in regards to financial visa requirements. Authorities in the country believe that introducing this category will ‘help the tourism industry’ by bringing in a ‘large number’ of international travelers working remotely.
Marija Golubeva, the Latvian Interior Minister, has conceded that countries with a ‘more open’ immigration policy have higher GDP, lower unemployment rates, and ‘better-educated’ labor force. Besides being open to the digital revolution, Latvia has the potential to be one of the world’s digital nomad hotspots.
It is a front-runner in broadband coverage and is already prepared for the wider 5G roll-out set to take place next year. As stated by the European Commission on its latest DESI report, one of Latvia’s ‘main strengths’ is the extremely advanced coverage of fast broadband, comprising 93% of the territory – slightly higher than the EU-wide average of 87%.
Latvia has a 4G coverage of 99.9% and has been one of the first in Europe to allocate a radio spectrum for 5G once it’s been fully implemented. This means digital nomads can find a reliable internet connection to carry out their daily work anywhere, from the metropolitan Riga to the idyllic Latvian countryside.
Eastern Europe is our favorite destination to travel right now, mostly due to its affordability compared to other Western states, like France or Spain, and the freedom travelers now enjoy country-hopping in the region. Bar a few exceptions, the East has no travel restrictions in place whatsoever – fortunately, Latvia is part of this collective.
When making Latvia (an EU country) their base, American nomads will enjoy higher standards of living compared to the United States, incredible culture, and nearly negligible crime levels. As aforementioned, they will also have the opportunity to apply for Latvian citizenship, so long as they integrate into Latvian society and show proficiency in the language.
More information can be found on the Government website.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com