Destinations like Colombia, Costa Rica, or Mexico are becoming reference points for the life of a digital nomad. However, they are also causing discontent in the population and controversies among legislators. We will tell you why.
LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos
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A digital nomad is a person who is dedicated to traveling to different destinations and generating income remotely. That is, you have a contract that allows you to work from anywhere on Earth as long as you have an internet connection. Likewise, you can be a traveler who offers knowledge, services or generates income through digital media. Since being "nomads," they seek constant movement. It is a new paradigm in how work and personal life have been conceived.
With digitization and the rise of remote work, more people are or want to be, digital nomads. For this reason, various countries are offering visas for this type of traveler/worker to facilitate stays within their borders. The requirements vary depending on the country, but something familiar is usually the requirement of a certain amount of income to opt for this residence permit. These tend to be much higher than the minimum wage of the country in question and sometimes offer them tax breaks.
Which Latin American Countries Offer the Digital Nomad Visa?
According to the Planet Nomad portal, 40 countries worldwide offer facilities for digital nomads. The period of permission to stay is usually between 1 and 2 years, although some countries have up to 5. In Latin America and the Caribbean, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Aruba, Grenada, Colombia, Saint Lucia, Dominic, and Bermuda have this type of visa. Argentina and Chile also have benefits for foreign workers who want to live in their country for a while.
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Controversy in Colombia
"With various coworking spaces and accommodations available in cities like Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena, remote workers can have unforgettable experiences while enjoying the country's vibrant culture and diverse landscapes. Plus, with its low cost of living, the government is one of the most affordable places in the world. According to the International Life Index 2023", ProColombia points out social networks to promote the country as a destination for digital nomads.
However, not all Colombians find it a good idea for digital nomads to arrive in the country. Citizens in Medellín have demonstrated on social networks and in the streets with messages indicating that the arrival of tourists and digital nomads to the city is making living costs more expensive. In fact, in these claims, which occurred mainly in the Provenza neighborhood, some posters point to the phenomenon as a new form of colonialism.
The same Mayor of Medellín pointed out on his Twitter account that one of the reasons why the city's housing cost increased is the presence of digital nomads and tourists. However, the matter is not so simple, and the increase in prices has a variety of reasons, which can not only be attributed to nomads. According to the Paisa newspaper El Colombiano, 1.4 million foreign tourists visited the city last year. And, without a doubt, this has an impact. However, the problem in Medellín involves a housing deficit and a lack of government planning to regulate the phenomenon. Likewise, there is a lack of housing supply for the most vulnerable social groups. It must not be forgotten that the right to housing is a human right, not a commodity, although governments tend to ignore it.
Positive and Negative Impacts of the Digital Nomad Visa
In social networks, there are comments about whether rejecting the advantages of digital nomads is about xenophobia, rejection, and fear of foreigners. And although this factor may have something to do with it, it cannot be simplified. It is a mistake to frame the issue as a culture war. It should also be noted that migrating for humanitarian reasons or in search of better opportunities, having a situation of vulnerability, is different from migrating with a stronger currency and favorable conditions. And for that reason, it is not pertinent to establish comparisons between the two cases.
In the particular issue of digital nomads, beyond the debate on whether foreigners are welcome, it is necessary to establish mechanisms that ensure that the local population does not see a detriment to their quality of life based on the arrival of people with disabilities. A much greater economic capacity. A person who earns in euros or dollars and has a salary 3, 4, or 5 times lower than the average salary in a country can pay for goods and services with much higher costs. The problem is that these costs are rising for everyone, and only those with high salaries can access them. This phenomenon is known as gentrification, in which local populations have to be marginalized due to their economic inability to access the goods and services of their area.
Countries like Puerto Rico or cities like Lisbon are an example of this phenomenon taken to the extreme, meaning that only people with very high incomes (usually foreigners) could live and have access to places like parks, beaches, restaurants, hotels, etc, and of course, households. On the other hand, countries encourage the visit of digital nomads precisely because they help activate the economy of the country and the tourism sector. Likewise, many of them are influencers who promote destinations, and, in this sense, they bring benefits to cities.
In this sense, to overcome the challenges, measures must be applied that, while promoting tourism, help regulate the internal market to be affordable for all. Setting limits on home prices, having clear regulations and limitations for Airbnb, building homes and providing facilities for those who have less income, providing guarantees that strengthen businesses and local communities, and designing sustainable tourism models that generate impact on communities are vital to addressing the phenomenon.