In a bid to attract more people to its paradise beaches during the coronavirus pandemic, Barbados has unveiled a new 12-month work visa for digital nomads who don’t have to be based in an office. Jenny Southan reports

The government of Barbados has announced that it could soon be introducing the 12-month “Barbados Welcome Stamp” to allow visitors the option to work remotely from the island for a year at a time. [Editor’s note: applications opened on July 24 and the stamp costs US$2,000 per person or US$3,000 for families.]

The visa would allow people “to come and work from here overseas, digitally so, so that persons don’t need to remain in the countries in which they are”, said Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley.

“You can come here and work for a couple months at a time; go back and come back,” she said.

The idea is based on the fact that the pandemic has shown that short-term travel is more difficult because of the requirements for rapid Covid-19 testing, which are not reliably available yet, and the fear people feel getting ill abroad.

Domestic tourism will be most prevalent in the months to come, followed by short-haul trips for longer periods (rather than weekend city breaks and long-haul journeys).

Mottley said: “The Government is committed to working on the promotion of new concepts like the 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp, being able to open our borders to persons travelling and making it as hospitable as ever for all of us.”

Chairman of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, Sunil Chatrani, says that with many companies moving the majority of their workforce to the working from home (WFH) model, Barbados presents an excellent option for corporate teams or individuals.

He says: “Recently, Barbados was growing as a destination for millennials and it was firmly established as a leisure destination, but we can easily accommodate working from on-island.

“Barbados boasts the fastest fibre internet and mobile services in the Caribbean and with a range of different flexible office space locations the working environment in Barbados definitely enables you to get things done. As our country also offers excellent health care and a high education standard, we know it is ideal for those who want to bring their families to the island for the 12-month period.”

For people that have been made redundant and are starting afresh or will be working remotely on a permanent basis as a consequence of the crisis, six months or a year in Barbados, which is a nine-hour flight from London, could sound really compelling. It would also bring much-needed revenue to the island.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism contributes almost 31 per cent of Barbados’s GDP every year.

Tourism to Barbados began on July 12, however, those coming from “high risk” countries such as the US (with more than 10,000 new cases in the past seven days) are “strongly encouraged” to take a Covid-19 test within 72 hours of their departure. Travellers from low-risk places (with fewer than 100 cases in the past week) can take the test up to a week before departure.

Those who don’t take a test and have no health certificate to prove it will have to take one when they land, and quarantine at their own expense for two days until the results come in.

Barbados has been commended for how it has handled the virus this far and has effective contact tracing protocols in place. The country of more than 280,000 people has had just over 100 cases of the novel coronavirus and seven deaths.

Not quite as glamorous as Barbados, Estonia has also launched a a “digital nomad visa” as a way of attracting non-European entrepreneurs and company employees into the country.

It says: “Digital nomads and remote workers have long faced ambiguity when working while they travel, often skirting the law by working while visiting a country with a tourist visa. But soon, eligible location-independent workers can apply for the chance to come to Estonia to live for up to a year with peace of mind that they can legally work.”

There will, however, be a minimum income requirement of €3,504 (gross of tax) a month.

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