11 European Countries Where Americans Can Work Abroad

Several European countries make it (relatively) easy for those who work remotely to settle in and stay awhile.

11 European Countries Where Americans Can Work Abroad

A public park near Museum Island and Berlin Cathedral, Germany

Photo by hanohiki/Shutterstock

In the past two years, the number of digital nomads from the United States has more than doubled, soaring from 7.7 million prepandemic in 2019 to 15.5 million in 2021, per MBO Partners 2021 State of Independence report. And with jobs going remote in the wake of COVID—plus, you know, that whole Great Resignation thing—even more people are thinking about packing up and seeing the world, working as they go.

While I might not be a nomad, per se, I moved to Europe for similar reasons in 2016: I wanted to immerse myself in an international community in a place far from where I grew up—Kansas. At that time, Germany was one of only a few options where self-employed U.S. citizens could take up residence, so I came to Berlin and applied for Germany’s freelance artist residence permit. As a travel writer, it’s been ideal to have a base in Berlin but also take off as frequently (or last-minute) as needed. At the moment, I’m preparing to leave Berlin’s gray winter behind for 10 weeks of travel that includes working stays in four cities and a little town in the middle of Tuscany.

Today, there are several European countries that make it (relatively) easy for those who work remotely to settle in and stay awhile, thanks to special residence schemes for digital nomads planning longer stays than a tourist visa would allow—but not wanting to settle permanently. Other countries, like Germany, have relatively relaxed residence permit rules for self-employed people that allow long-term stays with the bonus of easy travel for working trips elsewhere. (One note: Always check the relevant government websites for the latest requirements and translation requirements for documents, which are subject to change.)

Thanks to digital nomad visas and residence permits, these 11 countries in Europe make it easy to work remotely.

open-uri20220217-48-zirp4x

Germany does not have a digital nomad visa; instead, it offers freelance visas for those in creative professions like teaching or writing.

Photo by Norbert Braun

1. Germany

If you’re working as a self-employed person in a field like education, journalism, art, music, or acting, you might be eligible to apply for Germany’s residence permit for freelance artists (there are a few other options for visas here too). You’ll need to prepare well in advance: Appointments at the immigration office are booked many months in advance, and this being Germany, there is a lot of paperwork to get together.

On the plus side, having a residence permit gives you time to travel as frequently as you’d like from a centrally located country in Europe. Plus, with the environmentally driven revival of interest in night train travel, there are more options than just flying to get from A to B. For example, a new route, just opened in January, connects Berlin to Brussels, Amsterdam, and Prague.

Why Germany?

Social programs for families, access to nature, cities with green spaces and affordable costs of living, Berlin.

Who can apply?

Anyone who qualifies under the listed professions and can meet the documentation’s requirement. It can be renewed indefinitely or there’s the option to take up permanent residence after five years.

Cost

100 euros (around US$113)

How to apply

Head to your city of residence’s government website (for example, here’s Berlin’s) and download the relevant permit’s application form. Applicants must provide documentation in person at the visa office to apply, including a proof of main residence in Berlin (like an apartment lease—Airbnb bookings won’t cut it), acceptable health insurance, and proof of income and work, including contracts or letters of intent from clients willing to hire you.

open-uri20220217-48-km31al

One of the most popular destinations for digital nomads in Portugal is Lisbon.

Photo by Aayush Gupta

2. Portugal

Portugal has become a hot spot for digital nomads and freelancers in recent years, with artists, startup employees, and the self-employed heading to the vibrant cities of Lisbon and Porto. (No wonder: According to Numbeo’s comparison tool, the average rent in Lisbon for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is around $970 compared with $3,270 in New York.) The fantastic arts scenes, excellent food and wine, and strong communities of fellow digital nomads certainly don’t hurt. Surfers with remote jobs, meanwhile, flock to the Algarve, a southern stretch with waves crashing against some of the world’s most spectacular beaches.

Portugal offers a renewable Temporary Stay Visa for a wide range of activities, from independent work to music to amateur sports. It’s valid for long stays of less than a year and allows you to travel in and out of the country multiple times. And after five years, you’re able to apply for a permanent residence permit, followed by the possibility of naturalization.

Why Portugal?

Affordable cost of living relative to United States, vibrant city life, sun and sea, laid-back lifestyle.

Who can apply?

People who work remotely, earn at least 635 euros per month (roughly US$722), and can show proof of earnings.

Cost

75 euros (around US$85)

How to apply

For a Temporary Stay Visa, you’ll need to submit passport photographs, a return ticket, proof of accommodation and means, your criminal record, travel insurance, and more. You’ll also need to download the application form and fill it out, then submit it in person with the rest of your documents at a Portuguese consulate or embassy. The wait time on a decision is roughly a month.

open-uri20220217-48-tz7ojg

Plitvice National Park is one of the most popular parks in Croatia.

Photo by Pascal Habermann

3. Croatia

Croatia has had a digital nomad residency program since January 2021. With stunning natural scenery, including its Adriatic coastline, it’s a country that draws nature and sea lovers—and, perhaps, remote-working Game of Thrones lovers: Cities like Dubrovnik and Split offer Roman ruins, castles, and medieval streets that made them naturals for backgrounding the hit fantasy series. If you really want to dig into the lifestyle, there’s even the country’s first digital nomad community in Zadar (bonus: it’s beachfront).

Digital nomads, remote workers, and freelancers are eligible for Croatia’s digital nomad visa, which allows stays of up to 12 months. If you’re employed, it can’t be with a Croatian company.

Why Croatia?

Relatively low costs of living, fantastic beaches, historic cities, excellent food and wine.

Who can apply?

People working with or for companies registered abroad or who are self-employed and who meet a monthly income threshold. The income requirement corresponds to at least 2.5 average monthly net salaries paid the previous year; right now, that’s 16,907.50 kuna (around US$2,550) per month. Note that additional family members will increase the monthly income requirement by 10 percent of the average monthly net salary.

Cost

Prices differ depending on how you apply, but start at around $180.

How to apply for Croatia’s digital nomad visa

Among other things, you’ll need to download the application form and provide proof of work and income, a background check from your home country, proof of health insurance that covers Croatia, and an intended (or current) address in-country.

You can apply online or in-person. If online, the application will be evaluated by the police station closest to where you’re going to be staying in Croatia. If you’re from the United States or another country that doesn’t require a tourist visa in advance of entering Croatia, you can apply from either a Croatian embassy or consulate abroad or from the nearest police station to your current address in Croatia. (The visa application form should also be available at the station, and there should also be a specific counter inside for foreigners.)

You’ll receive a decision over email, by phone, or by post if you applied online. After being approved, make sure you register your address and temporary stay soon after arriving in the country: Both have short turnarounds, and if you don’t register your temporary address within 30 days of approval, it’ll be revoked. You’ll also need to obtain a biometric residence permit in person at a police station.

open-uri20220217-48-iyg07o

Since 2020, Iceland has offered a longer-term visa for full-time workers—but not freelancers.

Photo by Josh Reid

4. Iceland

Iceland’s landscape is a paradise for outdoors enthusiasts, and the capital of Reykjavík is a charmer, too. Launched in 2020, the country’s Long-Term Visa for non-EU/EEA teleworkers is aimed at remote workers wanting to stay in the country for up to 180 days. One important thing: It’s only open to permanent remote employees of foreign companies (sorry, freelancers).

Why Iceland?

Impressive natural landscapes and plentiful outdoor activities, widely spoken English, relative proximity to both the United States and Europe.

Who can apply?

You’re eligible to apply if you’re working permanently for a foreign company, you’re from outside the EU/EEA/EFTA and don’t need a visa to travel to Iceland, and if you haven’t already gotten the visa in the past year. You must also meet a monthly income threshold of 1,000,000 ISK (around US$8,000), or 1,300,000 ISK (around US$10,400) if you have a spouse, cohabitating partner, or kids under 18 coming with you.

Cost

12,200 ISK (around US$98)

How to apply

Fill out the application form and put the required documents, which include proof of income, health insurance, and passport photos, together. Once the fee is paid, send everything in via mail; alternatively, submit it to the drop box in the Directorate of Immigration’s lobby in Reykjavík or, if you’re outside the capital, you can drop it off at the District Commissioners’ offices in your locality. Visas aren’t issued until you arrive in-country—contact the Directorate of Immigration when you get there for them to issue it (it’s valid from that date on).

open-uri20220217-48-d08jhq

Greece has more than 6,000 islands and islets to visit.

Photo by Alex Blajan

5. Greece

Greece practically sells itself when it comes to destinations to live and work, and thanks to Greece’s digital nomad visa, announced in 2021, the possibility of working from one of the country’s scenic islands is now a reality. The visas are valid for up to 12 months with a renewal of another two years. They can be issued to freelancers, the self-employed, or those working remotely for foreign businesses or clients. Even better? Digital nomads can halve their income tax for the first seven years in the country.

You need to spend at least six of the 12 months in Greece, but you have another six months to travel around as much as you want in the Schengen area. A tip: Crete is working on getting 5G across the island, so it’ll soon be even better living the digital nomad life there.

Why Greece?

Tax break, history; artistic city life; beaches, beaches, and more beaches; at least 6,000 islands (did we mention beaches?).

Who can apply?

You must work remotely and have a net income of 3,500 euros per month (around US$4,000), although additional adjustments are made per family member joining.

Cost

75 euros for the application (around US$85)

How to apply for Greece’s digital nomad visa

Among other documentation like proof of work and income, you’ll need to gather documents (contact an embassy for the latest ones) showing you have an address in Greece, a clean criminal background, that you’re in a good health, and that you have health insurance. Submit them in-person to a Greek consulate near you, and you’ll be notified of approval within 10 days. Once you’re in Greece, be sure to register for your residence permit, too.

open-uri20220217-48-1jl65kx

Victoria, Malta, is known for its medieval architecture.

Photo by Ostap Senyuk

6. Malta

The island isn’t just beautiful, it’s also a hub for digital nomads thanks to its special program and status as the first country in Europe to boast a 5G network, making remote work connectivity more seamless than ever. Plus, it has a lot to offer, including a Mediterranean lifestyle and enough year-round sunshine to keep your Vitamin D levels fully topped up.

The country’s Nomad Resident Permit is open to freelancers and remote workers for foreign companies alike—as long as you can do your job independently of location using telecommunication technologies. It’s good for up to one year, and you can renew it as long as you’re still eligible for up to three years.

Why Malta?

3,000 hours of sunshine per year, multicultural history, Mediterranean lifestyle and gastronomy—plus, English is an official language.

Who can apply?

Freelancers, consultants, or employees of foreign companies (or who have foreign clients). Applicants must also meet a gross monthly income threshold of 2,700 euros (US$3,071).

Cost

300 euros (around US$340) per applicant

How to apply for Malta’s digital nomad visa

Fill out the application form, write a letter of intent including the duration of stay, and submit these along with proof of health insurance with coverage in Malta via email to the government’s Residency Malta Agency. You’ll also need to pass a background check, and once your application is approved, you’ll have to submit a rental or purchase agreement for your residence.

open-uri20220217-48-abxgvo

The Zivno visa is targeted mostly toward freelance teachers, IT specialists, or creatives.

Photo by Martin Krchnacek

7. The Czech Republic

The Czech Republic has a lot to offer digital nomads, including attractive cities, great skiing, more castles than any other country, and a comparatively low cost of living. The visa suitable for most freelancers is called a Zivno visa for short, and this type of trade license–based visa is the key for digital nomads wanting to get to know the historic city center of Prague or modernist streetscapes of Brno at a deeper level. It’s targeted mostly toward freelance teachers, IT specialists, or creatives.

The process for getting a visa isn’t exactly simple, though it’s not impossible, so you’ll want to start well ahead of when you want to be there—many interested in relocating there often hire an expert to guide them. (Nomads interested in a more transient lifestyle might find it less difficult to cope with shorter stays there versus deal with the bureaucracy.) First, you have to secure your trade license (more on that here); after that, you can apply for your visa to stay for up to one year.

Why Czechia?

Good value for money, Prague’s international community, great universal healthcare.

Who can apply?

You must have a trade license (which involves a clean background check) and meet an income threshold by submitting proof of possessing 124,500 CZK (around US$5,800).

Cost

5,000 CZK (roughly US$232)

How to apply

After receiving your trade license (a different process), submit the required paperwork for the visa to a Czech embassy in your home country (U.S. citizens can apply at embassies abroad, although not in Czechia itself). You’ll also have to go for an interview and explain why you’d like to be in Czechia. Applications can take a long time to process and be approved, and you might need to submit more paperwork if called on to do so—so be patient.

open-uri20220217-48-1likj1r

Even though Estonia is incredibly connected, there are still many places to decompress—like Lahemaa Rahvuspark, pictured.

Photo by Maksim Shutov

8. Estonia

Estonia has a bustling startup scene, a reputation for cool design and art, and an affordable cost of living for many digital nomads. Famous for its e-residency program, which it launched in 2014, the country in 2020 also introduced a visa specifically for digital nomads: It grants them up to a year’s stay with the ability to work.

The country is incredibly digital, with widespread Wi-Fi in public areas and almost all government services—including birth certificates, medical records, and even digital contract-signing—available online. The country’s also trialing 5G.

Why Estonia?

Relatively low cost of living, hip scene in Tallinn, lots of startups, super-digitalized government and society.

Who can apply?

You must be able to do your job 100 percent remotely using technology and have a non-Estonian employer or clients. You should also meet an income threshold of earning a gross total of 3,504 euros (US$3,988) within the six months prior to your application.

Cost

100 euros (around US$113)

How to apply for Estonia’s digital nomad visa

Fill out the online application form, then print and gather up the other required documents for your application. Bring them to your closest Estonian embassy or consulate and then be prepared to wait up to 30 days for a review of your application. If you’re in Estonia legally already, apply in-country at a local Police and Border Guard office before your existing tourist visa ends.

open-uri20220217-48-ivwm14

Romania’s new program is aimed at attracting (high-income) earners to the country.

Photo by Haseeb Jamil

9. Romania

Romania is one of the latest European countries to hop on the digital nomad visa wagon, with a new program available from January 2022 that’s part of an effort to attract (high-income) earners to the country to help the post-COVID economy recover.

Why Romania?

Scenic hiking and mountains, very affordable relative cost of living, lively scene in Bucharest.

Who can apply?

Based on the latest reports, requirements include medical insurance, proof of employment, and a monthly salary that equates to three times the national average gross salary of 6,095 lei, which currently equates to around US$4,170.

Cost

No information available as of yet.

How to apply for Romania’s digital nomad visa

Apply online or at an embassy.

open-uri20220217-48-16hr6yp

No law has been passed yet, but Spain is considering implementing a digital nomad visa.

Photo by Dorian D1

10. Spain

While not in place yet, Spain recently announced plans for a digital nomad visa in conjunction with the country’s Startup Act, which has been introduced in parliament. Reports on duration vary, and few details are known yet, but one of the main requirements is reportedly that workers must be employed by non-Spanish companies or have an income with less than 20 percent coming from Spanish companies. The law has yet to be passed.

open-uri20220217-48-1igzdc3

Montenegro has hinted that its digital nomad visa may come with tax breaks.

Photo by Radik Sitdikov

11. Montenegro

Montenegro, which has ample coastlines and mountains, is also following in many European countries’ footsteps. In December, the Montenegrin cabinet announced the launch of a digital nomad program (potentially with tax breaks) to be implemented from this year until 2025.

>> Next: These Countries Make It Easier to Work Remotely

More from AFAR