Digital Nomad Visa Programs: An APAC Update



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Digital nomad visa programs have grown increasingly popular. Seen as a means of attracting top-tier, global talent and tax revenue, this trend is especially prevalent in the Asian Pacific region.
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Digital nomad visa programs have grown increasingly popular. Seen as a means of attracting top-tier, global talent and tax revenue, this trend is especially prevalent in the Asian Pacific region. Indeed, Japan recently announced it joined the digital nomad visa party – its policy to be officially rolled out in early April 2024. Below, we discuss this new development and provide a summary of the current state of digital nomad programs in the APAC region.

Japan's new digital nomad visa program: a sumo-sized development

Japan's Ministry of Justice announced that Japan created a digital nomad visa. Situated as the 4th largest economy in the world, Japan began issuing digital nomad visas at the beginning of April 2024 to the citizens of 50 countries and territories.

The short-list of eligible countries includes at least the United States, Australia, and Singapore. The visas are valid for up to six months and available to those earning more than ¥10 million (app. $68,300) per year. Nomads may work from anywhere in the country and bring their spouses and children with them. Their work must be tied to "a sales contract or non-provision contract...with a public or private company in a foreign country". Carrying private health insurance will be obligatory to participate in the program.

Behind only China and Thailand, Japan is consistently ranked as one of the largest recipients of international visitors in APAC. In 2024 alone, it is forecasted that Japan will receive a total of 33.1 million visitors. With the aperture of this new program, coupled with sustained global interest in Japan's rich cultural heritage, the country is projected to receive thousands of digital nomads for years to come.

Thai-tanic-sized companies are welcomed in the Kingdom

Visa options for digital nomads in Thailand remain limited. Whereas the B visa program allows visitors to enter the Kingdom for up to 90 days to engage in a short list of activities, the government has gone to greater lengths to attract international corporate investment.

Indeed, under its "Remote Workers for Well-Established Overseas Companies" program, employees of publicly traded companies (or private companies with combined revenue of over $150 million in the last three years) will be able to apply for a 10-year long resident permit. The employee must (i) make an annual salary of at least $80,000.00 USD per year for two consecutive years or (ii) if holding a master's degree, make no less than $40,000 USD for the last two years. Alternatively, the individual may be self-employed provided they own productive intellectual property or have received Series A funding of no less than $1 million USD. Like Japan, visa applicants must carry personal health insurance.

With some of the lowest corporate tax rates in all of APAC, Thailand is situating itself as one of the region's premier hotbeds for foreign investment and, consequently, international talent.

Malaysia welcomes entrepreneurs from backgrounds as diverse as their landscapes

Maylasia arguably presents one of the most agile digital nomad visa programs in APAC. Offering temporary residence through the "De Rantau Nomad" program, employees of local or foreign employers, freelancers, and independent contractors are welcome. The nomad must be coming to work in an IT or digital space and earn at least $24,000 USD per year.

Pursuing a K-drama storyline in South Korea remains tricky

Early this year, South Korea made a splash on the global stage by launching its own version of a digital nomad visa: the "Workcation" visa. Whereas the visa program does offer a two-year period of validity, it is available only under a niche set of circumstances. For example, the minimum income threshold is KRW 85,000,000, or approximately $63,683.53. Digital nomads availing themselves must not only refrain from assuming gainful employment in South Korea, but must also refrain from earning money in South Korea associated with the South Korean economy (e.g., entering contracts with local businesses). In addition to having at least one year of work experience, nomads must also carry health insurance coverage valued at KRW 100 million, or about $75,000 USD. Given these restrictions, we anticipate S. Korea's digital nomad visa program to be leveraged only by the truest of K-POP fans.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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