When Lamin Ngobeh, a high-school teacher at the Freire Charter School in Wilmington, Del., saw a social media post last month about working remotely in Barbados for 12 months, his interest was piqued, the New York Times reports today.
“My school probably won’t open for in-person classes at least until February 2021, and I want to be in a country that’s safer —- health wise — and also enjoy the quality of life,” he said of the reasons for considering a temporary relocation. “I reached out to my school leaders and they were very supportive of my decision.”
When it announced its 12-month Welcome Stamp program in mid-July, Barbados became one of the first of several countries, in regions from the Caribbean to Eastern Europe, to create programs for remote workers. The programs employ either special visas or expand existing ones to entice workers to temporarily relocate. Other countries offering similar visas currently include Estonia, Georgia and Bermuda.
A substantial drop in these countries’ tourism numbers is a key reason for the new programs.
“Tourism is the lifeline of the country,” said Eusi Skeete, the U.S. director of tourism for Barbados. Tourism accounted for 14 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product in 2019, according to data published by the Central Bank of Barbados, and had a record number of international arrivals of more than 712,000. But in 2020, the number of visitors during the months of April, May and June were near zero.
If you’re interested in working remotely in Barbados, you can apply electronically and be easily facilitated. Once approved, the Barbados 12 Month Welcome Stamp visa is valid for one year, and you can also reapply after this period. Barbados offers a wide range of accommodation from budget-friendly studios to beachfront luxury condos.
So what’s the catch? The Barbados visa costs $2000, which might keep out the riff-raff. On the other hand tony Bermuda has its visa on sale for a bargain basement price. Compared to Barbados’ $2000 entry free, Bermuda’s $263 fee is extremely affordable. Digital nomads can save some cash on what they normally spend doing visa runs.
However Bermuda is aiming its pitch more at insurance company executives and higher income workers due to the very high cost of living on the island. A recent search of Airbnb revealed that the cheapest monthly rental on that site was $1,477 / month (Bermuda dollar has parity with US dollar), and that desirable one bedroom apartments started well north of $2500 / month.
Bermuda’s insurance industry believes the initiative has struck a chord. John Huff, president and CEO of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, said there has already been significant interest from the global insurance industry and insurance association members, adding, “The potential for this opportunity is extraordinary.”
Huff said, “There are a number of C-suite executives, risk professionals and advisors who currently have the ability to perform their roles remotely and are already familiar with the benefits of Bermuda and would welcome the opportunity to work from here.
“Whether they choose to base themselves from Bermuda for the entire year or simply to wait out the stress of COVID-19, the perfect work-life balance awaits them.”
Both islands will have to play hard to catch up with other leaders in the digital nomad field,, such as Ecuador, where a 2-year temporary visa goes for $500, internet connections are fast, and the cost of living is one of the lowest in the world.
Popular digitally nomadic V-loggers Amelia and JP who live at the beach in Olon, Ecuador, and call themselves “unconventionals”, recently clocked their two-millionth view of their videos, so perhaps moving overseas to work online is becoming a lot less unconventional than it used to be.
Their videos appear to be a great free marketing tool for Ecuador, and they were recently recognized by the Mayor of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, for their efforts.
In this video, the American couple from Colorado visit Guayaquil and explain how that city has fought back from COVID-19 disaster. Perhaps Bermuda and Barbados need something similar to entice the world to their shores.