August 15, 2020 – A victory for common sense and progress? Is the Croatian digital nomad visa dream one step closer to reality?
It is one of the simplest pieces of progressive legislation that Croatia could pass to open up an entirely new sector of its economy without spending anything. A piece of legislation that only has positives once enacted, bringing significant revenue to the economy, as well as creating jobs.
A piece of legislation which, combined with Croatia’s famed lifestyle, could catapult Croatia to be a market leader in this emerging sector in a very short time. A rapidly expanding sector.
The piece of legislation is the digital nomad visa, and the sector is catering to the increasing number of wealth-creating remote workers looking for lifestyle as their office, and not the same four physical walls. It is predicted that there will be one billion remote workers in the world by 2035, a number which might seem a little conservative in the corona era.
TCN has been writing about the possibility of attracting digital nomads for some time now, including it in last year’s Branding Croatia for the Future; 5 Gifts and Trends to Focus On, But it was only when I sat down with a Russian/Ukrainian couple from Munich during their 3-month stay in Jelsa last June that I truly understood the potential. Their boss in Munich only required them to be in the office two months a year, and so they decided to travel for 10 months each year, choosing Jelsa, Sicily, Spain and Portugal for extended stays, then returning to Jelsa the following year for another three months.
Their Jelsa dates were April 1 to June 30, out of the main season. They had a swim before morning coffee on the main square each day. Then they went to work in Munich. Lunch in a local restaurant, back to Munich for the afternoon’s business, then another swim and some shopping before dinner. Working in Munich, spending in Jelsa. Taking Croatian lessons and engaging in the community. Rather than a tourist on a cheap package holiday in peak season, a leisurely 3-month stay in which they contributed significantly more financially to Jelsa than an average tourist does. You can read more about their story in How Croatia is Becoming Increasingly Attractive for the Digital Nomad Lifestyle.
And what was the main thing that attracted them? Lifestyle.
Croatia has the best lifestyle in Europe. It is safe, accessible, affordable, offers great authentic experiences, fantastic food and wine, natural beauty, has good infrastructure, is accessible and affordable, with English spoken everywhere. It would not be hard to brand it the Lifestyle Capital of Europe.
The world is changing, and more and more people are working in the same office. It is called the Internet.
There are only two variables in this new global office – connectivity (3G, 4G, 5G) and time zones. Apart from that, our office is the same wherever we are in the world.
When we leave the office, we go home. For many, home is the town or village we grew up in, surrounded by family and friends, but for a growing number, people want to leave their office to lifestyle. How about a swim in the Adriatic before dinner, or a stroll down Stradun?
So, if more and more people are seeking lifestyle as their home, and Croatia offers the best lifestyle in Europe, surely this is a marriage made in heaven?
It should be, and it could be, but…
Enter our old friend Croatian bureaucracy. Immigration laws are such that Americans, for example, cannot stay for more than 3 months at a time. Things are even more complicated for other nationalities. The digital nomads who are coming to Croatia are not just heading for the coast – they are as diverse as the global population itself. We interviewed Julie from Denver, Colorado last year, who was absolutely loving life in Osijek. Osijek, the city in Slavonia which has become the symbol of emigration of Croatian youth in recent years. No jobs, no opportunities. Julie found the city to be one of the best she had lived in – safe, great English, warm people, beautiful city, great nature, plenty to do, cheap – Osijek had it all.
Back to that simple piece of legislation
A digital nomad visa.
What if, bona fide, wealth-creating remote workers were allowed to come to live and work in Croatia through the issuing of a special digital nomad visa? To bring their spending power and positive mindsets to the lifestyle capital of Europe, whose overdependence on traditional tourism (more than 20% of GDP) is slowly devastating its exceptional coast.
The idea is not without precedent. Estonia, the digital champion of Europe, became the first in the world to offer a digital nomad visa. It is no coincidence that Estonia is the most digital country in Europe, as well as being home to the highest number of start-up unicorns per capita. The Bahamas has followed suit, as has the Republic of Georgia, two great lifestyle countries.
Why not Croatia?
It is a question that until recently was being discussed only in cafes among digital nomads, but as the opportunity is becoming more obvious (especially with corona), the voices are now becoming more public. Perhaps none has taken the mantle as strongly as Dutch entrepreneur in Split, Jan de Jong. I have watched Jan’s determination and progress with admiration and a big smile since he first became aware of the opportunity, presenting the concept of digital nomad tourism as a tourism strategy for Croatia at a conference back on May 5.
Using his large LinkedIn following as a sounding board, de Jong has published a series of posts advocating for the embracing of the remote worker opportunity for Croatia, including an open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic asking for the introduction of the digital nomad visa. You can read the letter in Estonia on the Adriatic? Dutchman Asks PM for Croatian Digital Nomad Visa.
An open letter which received a warm response, as de Jong informed his LinkedIn followers yesterday:
Yes, yes yes!! ?? I got invited to meet with Croatia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP) to further discuss the introduction of Croatia’s digital nomad visa! ????
With your support, this post got over 5.000 ?? and ❤ and over 200.000 views. ?
And then, one week later…I got asked by the Prime Minister’s office to send an official email – resulting in getting invited for a meeting with the responsible ministry – Croatia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP)
The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 18.08.2020. at 15.00 PM.
But there is more good news! I’ve had a lovely video call with the person who was the driving force for getting Estonia ?? its digital nomad visa – the one and only Karoli Hindriks.
Karoli Hindriks shared her experience with me and is willing to give Vlada Republike Hrvatske (Government of the Republic of Croatia) and me her support to really get this done ?? Thank you dear ?
So, lets stop waiting for things to get better…lets start making things better! ????
Follow me on #LinkedIn as I will keep you up to date on any further developments.
Thank you all so much for your support – ❤ –
TCN will bring you an update of the meeting once we hear back from Jan. Good luck!
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