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Emerging Immigration Pathways for Digital Nomads - What is BEATS?

By

Jürgen Pretsch

Posted

October 05, 2021

at

10:08 AM

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In the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic an increasing number of countries have started introducing programs aimed at streamlining long-term visa and residence permit processes. And during these chaotic times, many individuals have realized multiple advantages for working remotely, and are actively exploring opportunities for finding a place to call headquarters.

Digital Nomad Visas and Why They Can be Good for You.

Apart from the opportunity to work for at least one year from some of the most exotic and beautiful places in the world, many of the so-called digital nomad visas enable individuals with a range of certain benefits. While usually not providing an access to the local labor market, the ability to open a local bank account nor having access to any social benefits, these visas, nonetheless, enable their holders with substantial flexibility.

Travel Flexibility and Global Mobility for Processing Visas.

Usually there are no requirements regarding the number of days a visa holder has to spend in the country, which enables digital nomads (and other individuals with a strong urge to travel) with an option to decide whether to spend all 365 days of a year in a country that granted them the Digital Nomad (DN) visa, or half a year of coming and going as they please. Another benefit that might be quite substantial for those who chose the lifestyle of a digital nomad, is the opportunity to apply for visas to other countries, as well as deal with other Consular matters in the foreign consulates located on the territory of the country that granted the DN visa: For individuals living as nomads this can be challenging, as they often do not fall under a particular consular jurisdiction, thus requiring them to travel to their country of origin if the need to handle such topics arises.

The latter might be of a particular relevance for the holders of passports that limit their freedom of movement due to the necessity of getting visas to countries like the USA or EU states. Having a long term DN visa typically enables its holder to apply for visas to other countries from their new “home”, thus giving them more freedom and flexibility.

Some Less Obvious Considerations Before Filing a Digital Nomad Visa Application.

Every potential applicant should consider the following when filing a Digital Nomad visa application:

  1. Digital Nomad visa programs were created just recently, and most of them exist less than a year, which explains why often the application process does not work as smoothly as described from either the technical or the administrative points of view.
  2. Many countries offering DN visas are small island countries, which cannot afford additional personnel for the newly introduced programs. In most cases there is one department that is responsible for everything: regular tourism, COVID-19 regulations and other programs. This might explain why sometimes in spite of the announced timing the actual process might take longer.
  3. The main thing that an applicant should consider in his/her pursuit of a DN visa is the fact that the countries offering those opportunities aims to grant digital nomad visas to financially sufficient individuals with a clean criminal background. As island countries are often small communities, they want to have assurances that digital nomad applicants will become good members of those communities.

Bahamas walkway.jpeg

There are over 700 island in the Bahamas to call home (feat. New Providence Island)

The BEATS program as Learned Through the Experience of a Digital Nomad.

The BEATS program (Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay program) was initiated by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism in 2020. This new immigration pathway for Digital Nomads provides legal authorization to live and work/study in one of the Bahamas islands for a period of one year. Successful applicants will also have an opportunity to extend their stay twice.

Overall, the newly enacted BEATS program presents individuals who can work remotely with a chance to get a one-year visa by submitting an online application with minimum documents on the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism web site. In spite of the fact that the application process described on the web site looks (and actually is) pretty straightforward, there are some hurdles, which applicants will need to overcome:

Applying for a Digital Nomad Visa in the Bahamas.

Here is a breakdown of the application process described on the official Bahamas Ministry of Tourism Website. Overall, the BEATS online application process consists of seven simple steps requiring you to provide basic information about yourself, accompanied by the following documents:

  • Data page of a valid passport
  • Medical Insurance valid in the Bahamas
  • Proof of Employment (for those who plan to work)
  • Student ID (for those who plan to study)

The application processing fee is 25$. Once the application is approved, those planning to stay for work are required to conduct an additional payment of $1000 USD plus $500 USD for each dependent. Those who plan to study are required to pay $500 per person. The total processing timeline should not exceed 5 working days after which you receive a digital confirmation of your approval.

All of the above mentioned points explain why you should approach an application process not merely as a formal procedure, but also as case where you are required to showcase your credibility for the local authorities. While it may not be written on any official government websites, the local officer adjudicating your petition in Nassau will want all applicants to clearly explain why they should grant you a visa to come and stay in their community. Therefore, it does not hurt to go slightly beyond the formal requirements (that are often not comprehensive enough due to the reasons mentioned above) and provide not just a bare minimum of documents, but additional supporting documents that will help local officers make a positive decision about your case.

Informal Advice for Successfully Obtaining a Digital Nomad Visa in the Bahamas.

By strictly following the guidelines published on the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism Website, and only providing the absolutely necessary documentation, the chances for an approval seem lower.

During a conversation with a polite and professional officer responsible for adjudicated our application, it was revealed that it is highly advisable to present additional papers showcasing the financial standing of the applicants, or a more detailed description of their work experience and job descriptions. Applicants – from our professional experience – are advised to go above the minimum requirements. In these smaller island countries where Digital Nomad visa pathways are just untested waters, allowing the officers responsible for the decision to have additional information for making a decision (i.e. which benefits an applicant might bring to the country, proof that they have a clean criminal history), a mutual trust can be established.

While at first glance this might seem like a tedious approach, it is a rewarding one: The friendliness of local people, their good hearts and their willingness to allow digital nomads to settle on their islands is a perfect reward for a couple of hours of paperwork.

Jürgen Pretsch is a professional researcher and consultant, but first and foremost, he is a "serial expat" and contemporary "digital nomad". Having lived in nearly a dozen countries, Jürgen has produced extensive research for major private institutions and governments. At the moment, Jürgen is pioneering work relating to expatpreneurship, and will continue to provide resourceful articles in the global mobility space.

Connect with Jürgen today to learn more about his Advisory & Consulting services.

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