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Before You Open Your Mobile Office

Sylwia Bartyzel

Written by  June 9, 2015

Three key considerations for would-be telecommuters.

Regardless of what you call it—location independent, a digital nomadic lifestyle or telecommuting—the definition of “working abroad” has changed dramatically with the creation of an online labour market. But while employers are eager to seize on to this trend, governments and immigration departments are slow to follow suit.

Opening a mobile office typically leads to a more relaxed lifestyle, but there are some bureaucratic hurdles. Here’s what you’ll want to consider before you quit your nine-to-five for the freelance life:

Visas

Before you choose a country to settle down in—even if it’s just for a week or a month—thoroughly investigate work and tourist visas. What qualifies as “work” can vary greatly from country to country, with some states even requiring business visas for remote work.

“This is a grey area since being a digital nomad and location independent is such new territory,” says freelance graphic designer Janet Brent.

Computer programmer Greg Jorgensen agrees. “You need to check the local laws and how to stay on the right side of immigration authorities,” he advises. “As more people travel and work remotely, some governments have figured out that those people are not taking jobs from locals and are bringing money into the country.”

If you do enter a country on a tourist visa, be prepared to do a “visa run” every three to six months.

Taxes 

Where will you file your taxes? What country will you register your business number in? Seek out the advice of accountants and immigration authorities to determine the best fit for your work. (Just because you are a freelancer doesn’t mean that you’re an expat. You may only need to file taxes in your home country.)

“If in a foreign country, make sure you get a local to help you understand the tax system if you’re unsure,” suggests freelance translator Julie Gassmann Dutra. If you need to maintain a home address in your own country for tax purposes, sign-up for an online postbox service, which will scan and email your physical mail to you.

Health

Travel insurance isn’t going to cover everything. That’s why you need to stay healthy—both physically and mentally. “The paradox of a mobile office is that you are often glued to the computer, whether you are in Dubai or Istanbul,” says online tutor James Heywood. “I believe it’s important to maintain a healthy body, take breaks and walk away from the computer.”

Ready to start your mobile career? Check out our top jobs for the outwardly mobile.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Verge.

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Published in Work Abroad
Jessica Lockhart

Contributing Editor

Although Jessica has travelled to more than 30 countries, her favorite place to throw down her bag is still her hometown of Cold Lake, Alberta. A freelance journalist, Jess has worked for international development organizations and tour operators. She’s conducted workshops in Vanuatu, perfected the use of a satellite phone in the jungles of Guyana and supervised teenage pool parties in the Dominican Republic. Although she's based in Toronto, Jess works remotely from all around the world.

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