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At the airport, at immigration/customs, what do you say you do?

 

by @lachicnomad | 5yr  | 34 comments

Hi all, Iโ€™m from Mauritius. When you pass through immigration lines upon arrival in a country, what do you say youโ€™re there for? The concept of digital nomad is relatively new and not many people (especially those constricted to the normal 9-5 job) will understand it. Do you say you work remotely (because one isnโ€™t supposed to โ€œworkโ€ on a tourist visa)? Do you say youโ€™re on holidays (but then that would be lyingโ€ฆ). Iโ€™m a little torn. Would love to hear from your experiences and get your opinion and advice.

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@anouk | 5yr

I alway say itโ€™s for tourism.

Something you need to know: for immigration authorities, โ€˜โ€˜workโ€™โ€™ means taking a position in their country. If you run a business in your home country, and you manage it online, you donโ€™t break any law.

Work permit is to make sure that you donโ€™t take any job from a local. This is why there are immigration laws: to protect locals. If you are a freelancer, entrepreneur, remote employee, obviously you donโ€™t take any job from locals as the job itself is not technically located in the country.

Iโ€™m a former immigration officer myself so I know a โ€˜โ€˜little bitโ€™โ€™ about it.

Immigration regulations are not adapted to todayโ€™s reality. Make it simple: you are tourist, and thatโ€™s it.

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@wanderingdev | 5yr

i think it comes down to intent. if you are a business person working for x company in y city and youโ€™re here for a week of meetings they know youโ€™re going to head back to Y. thatโ€™s your home. If youโ€™re a remote worker who can work anywhere, you have no reason to leave so you are higher risk. the point is really moot though since it is completely dependent upon where you are from, where you are going, and who you happen to get in the immigration line. best rule of thumb across the board: you are a tourist, youโ€™re not working.

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@oskar | 5yr

Yes, tourist is good, or visiting friends. But again its imperative even if you hold a first world passport or a third world one, to have two weapons by your side: A bank statement with substantial savings and an onward ticket. The chances to have problems to enter a country holding these papers decrease substantially. Also
i would follow the rule to enter a specific country only once a year( it doesnt matter you can stay months if you like the place). Too many entries in a year to a single country looks suspiciousโ€ฆ

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@harris | 5yr

I have a USA passport, have lived in Costa Rica for nearly 3 years, and travel all over the place. I probably โ€˜have it easyโ€™ because of the USA passport - but, Iโ€™m only allowed to stay in Costa Rica 3 months at a time - so, weโ€™re having to answer that question all the time. I generally disagree that the agents have never heard of digital nomadism โ€ฆ I certainly would not call it that though. When asked, I say โ€œI have an internet businessโ€โ€ฆ I remember one agent in the USA said โ€œOh, youโ€™re one of those people that can just work wherever you want, arenโ€™t you?โ€. Pretty much. :slight_smile: โ€“ this was over a year ago.

Also, the I just told the principal at our kidโ€™s school in Costa Rica about the term โ€œDigital Nomadโ€ โ€“ he said โ€œohh, so we should start targeting that keyword on our website then?โ€ โ€“ he said probably half of the inquiries he gets are from digital nomads now. In the last year, heโ€™s had to shift the first question he asks prospective parents to something like โ€œand how are you planning on surviving financially here in Costa Ricaโ€ฆ are you working remotely, etcโ€.

The schools we interviewed with in Barcelona (our next move) also said that more and more parents are coming there with internet businesses as well.

The trend is bigger than I think most of us realize.

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@wanderingdev | 5yr

itโ€™s getting bigger, but itโ€™s still not widely accepted and it doesnโ€™t mean countries want you coming there and doing it. if you said, while entering the UK, โ€œi have an internet businessโ€ i bet youโ€™d have REALLY good odds of being refused entry and sent back to where you started. Central America isnโ€™t exactly known for itโ€™s stringent border policies so perhaps not the best thing to go by. I lived in Mexico for several years and everything was above board and I did nothing illegal but just having the multiple entries to Mexico flagged me in the UK because the guy said it looked like I was living in mexico and making border runs. which I was. but there was nothing illegal about it.

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@harris | 5yr

Agreed on Central America being laxโ€ฆ We just got back from Spain and they were even MORE relaxed. Didnโ€™t ask us ANYTHING. It was surreal. I wasnโ€™t even sure we had really gotten through customs.

Having a US passport vs Mauritus is going to make the biggest different to what you say. Iโ€™ve said all sorts of things though - all truthfulโ€ฆ rarely the whole truth.

The bottom line - if you got a tourist visa from wherever youโ€™re from and most importantly an ONWARD ticket out of the country youโ€™re visiting (preferably back to where youโ€™re from, but if not โ€“ something showing that youโ€™re leaving within the allotted time), you shouldnโ€™t have too much of a problem.

That said, my Costa Rican friends have told me that itโ€™s VERY DIFFICULT for them to get a travel visa that allows them to go the USA.

The USA is very tough on visitors from many developing countries. (Sounds like UK is the same).

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@oskar | 5yr

USA is tough , but is nothing in comparison to the UK nowadaysโ€ฆ
I know many cases of people from USA, Argentina, Peru, Australia, South Africa, etc, etc that were deported from the UK. Things like saying iโ€™m coming to visit my boyfriend, not enough money, no bank statements, no onward ticket, good luck entering the UKโ€ฆ

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@blueblueocean | 5yr

Just say you live off your savings and are a private investor if asked about how you make a living. Otherwise, I agree tourism is the way to go.

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@midlifenomad | 5yr

You have to understand why they ask, it is to protect the local employment. Are you taking a local employment opportunity away ? - No. Are you supporting the locals spending money while you are there ? - Yes. Are you promoting their country? - Most likely. If a business man on holiday takes a phone call from his work is that not working?
So it is with a clear conscience I say with a smile, Hello, I am here on holiday to see your beautiful country.

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@thefrank06 | 5yr

Keep in mind that you will likely be dealing with squareheads. I donโ€™t mean to be disrespectful, but letโ€™s agree that immigration officials are not the brightest of the class.

So never go on explaining that you are a digital nomad, and work less than you travel. Keep it simple (from their perspective) or else it will harm you.

Try to put yourself in their situation, โ€œwhat would I doโ€. They follow rules so try to show them a coherent picture of you. As others mentioned, showing a bank statement (and an ongoing/return ticket) can really help.

I have a friend who has been traveling for about 10 years. He raised some red flags at some immigration posts. His strategy was telling them he worked his ass off many years, then inherited property, and is using his savings and rental to cover his travel expenses. He is Italian which could help make it credible if traveling in third-world countries.

If youโ€™re from Mauritius you could be in the same situation, so Iโ€™d go ahead and say something like that. I worked hard, earned money, now spending it visiting your beautiful country.

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@replay | 5yr

I relocated with the intention to work about 15 times, and I have only been asked what Iโ€™m going to do once, at immigration in Tokyo.
That guy got a little suspicious because I told him Iโ€™m planning to stay for 6 weeks, when he asked what Iโ€™ll do the whole time I said Iโ€™m visiting a friend in Tokyo and currently Iโ€™m unemployed anyway so I have nothing better to do (luckily I actually knew somebody there, so I could have given him a name of a permanent resident if he would have asked for that).
Then he only joked about me travelling for 6 weeks with only one back pack (that was actually all I own lol). So he let me pass.

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@don_lee | 5yr

I was angry with an immigration officer 2 months ago when I was leaving Cambodia. Yes, itโ€™s ridiculous that they asked me that kind of question when I was leaving their country. They looked at my passport and suspected that I wasnโ€™t a tourist because Iโ€™d traveled to much and too long without returning home. I only told them that Iโ€™d worked and saved money to travel. I didnโ€™t have a bank statement to show them but I had a gold credit card to prove that I had money but the guy had no idea what a gold credit card meant and kept asking the same question again and again. So I asked him whatโ€™s wrong with traveling too much. He couldnโ€™t answer while the airline was calling me to board my flight. So I eventually said GTFO to him, grabbed my passport and left to the boarding gate, he couldnโ€™t do anything else.

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@aldekein | 5yr

Thatโ€™s Cambodia, I strongly suspect that heโ€™d like to get a bribe. Immigration officers in Siem Reap airport asked us for a โ€˜tipโ€™ on arrival :neutral_face:

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@lachicnomad | 5yr

How do businessmen travel then? I used to work in a hotel and we had lots of foreign businessmen coming through, maybe as a stopover, and am sure they still respond to their clients/emails during. They do not need a work permit for that, because they are probably visiting their Headquarters or other branchesโ€ฆ Would they not be on a simple visitors visa? (some stay for as little as a day or twoโ€ฆ)

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@anon82020850 | 5yr

The businessmen are probably on Business visas. If they are there for legitimate business reasons they should be able to easily produce proper proof to obtain such a visa.

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@fiberopticnow | 5yr

Not true at all. The businesswomen and men that I know are often also working illegally and their companies support their visa runs.

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@anon82020850 | 5yr

So no business person ever uses a business visaโ€ฆ?

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@harris | 5yr

I donโ€™t think thatโ€™s true @jerriep - theyโ€™re on a tourist visa as well. They are not attempting to make a living in that country so there would be no need for a work visa.

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@oskar | 5yr

@harrisfellman
Hmm no, i dont need a tourist visa to enter Europe, the UK, Japan, or Russia with my passport. Iโ€™m still a tourist thoughโ€ฆ

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@lachicnomad | 5yr

Thanks @wanderingdev @Dave_Chakrabarti @flyonthewall @kathrynoh for your responses. Really helpful.

What about saying am renting my flat while I travel. Will this be considered โ€˜workโ€™? How otherwise will I be able to โ€œsupport myselfโ€? I donโ€™t have a fixed income coming in, it depends on my freelance writing contracts (which of course I wonโ€™t mention). Or should I just ensure I have enough savings to prove I can support myself. Or does it help if I prove I am staying with friends/family in the country am visiting and they are supporting me financially (even though in reality they arenโ€™t)โ€ฆ?

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@oskar | 5yr

@lachicnomad
Girl this is not rocket science. You travel to a country, you say you are going to do tourism and you will stay a couple of weeks. Where are you going to stay? I have booked a hostel. You can book one through booking.com or hostelworld.com and you pay only 10% for the reservation so you can actually show proof you have a reservation at a hostel. And 2 more very very very important things. You must be able to show proof of savings, the more the better, a bank statement with enough money should silence questions. Lastly a return ticket so they know you will gtfo of their country (which you can change the date later with your airline once you are in). All these tips are fundamentally helpful for people from third world countries traveling to first world ones like myself :smile:
Keep in mind that all this works if YOU DONT OVERSTAY! if you do that next time pray to god they will let you in. Good luck!

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@wanderingdev | 5yr

donโ€™t say others are supporting you. they might be required to prove it. you can say you have rental income if you want.

i think the businessmen depend on where and how often theyโ€™re traveling.

really though, youโ€™re over thinking this. Iโ€™ve been traveling full time for 7 years. Iโ€™ve been asked these questions maybe 3-4 times. stop making it more complicated than it needs to be.

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@oskar | 5yr

@wanderingdev
The girl is overthinking this but she has a point. Its very different to travel around the world with a third world passport than with a first world one. believe me it can be a pain in the assโ€ฆ

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@wanderingdev | 5yr

true. but sheโ€™s been given the info on what she needs to have ready. itโ€™s simple really. tourism only (who cares how others do business, theyโ€™re not you), have a bank statement, etc.

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@anon82020850 | 5yr

I am on a third-world passport (South Africa) and thankfully have never had any hassles with customs - not even as much as a strange look. -Touch wood- :wink:

Getting a visa for places like Europe and the USA given my current nomadic status can be an issue, but thatโ€™s about it. So I simply stay away from those countries.

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@oskar | 5yr

@jerriep
Haha but you are confirming what iโ€™m saying. If you travel around the world with a third world passport to first world countries its a pain in the ass. I dont even need a visa for any country in Europe but still it feels like going through X-rays vision scanning when passing through immigration :smile:

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@anon82020850 | 5yr

Yeah sorry, I was only referring to the experience with customs themselves.

If you add the visa process to the โ€œpain in the assโ€ equation, then yeah, it is a pain in the ass. But for me I just ignore those countries. If they make it difficult, then I donโ€™t go there - simple as that.

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@vesper8 | 5yr

Iโ€™m really stressing out about this as well.

In my situation if they ask me how I intend to support myself. Would it be not ok to mention that I run a small community forum that generates about $1k per month? I donโ€™t even have to โ€œworkโ€ on it and truth is I barely do (a few hours a month if that) but is that considered work??

I mean even if I was going there to do tourism 99% of the timeโ€ฆ is just posessing websites, ie owning a tiny business, that generates monthly revenue and that requires you to answer emails occasionallyโ€ฆ is this considered grounds for not letting you in the country?

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@wanderingdev | 5yr

it varies by country and probably also what country youโ€™re from. in the UK i was told if I even looked at my work email while in the UK (not answered, looked at) it was considered working and I could be deported and refused further entry. if you have passive income you can tell them that but donโ€™t mention that you work on it at all. keep some cash in a savings account and have a line of credit to show you can support yourself.

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@eddie | 5yr

Do not mention the community forum. Like an immigration officer is going to know what a โ€œdiscussion forumโ€ is. Dave hit the nail on the head earlier. Anything that has the hint of working will trigger a no because of how they are trained.

The laws are not keeping up with the times and technology. So in the meantime, make it look like youโ€™re following the law.

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@flyonthewall | 5yr

Donโ€™t say youโ€™re working. If you work 6 hours a day and tourist around, sightseeing, going to cafes and restaurants, museums, etc. for the rest of the time - youโ€™re still spending the vast MAJORITY of your time as a tourist (and contributing greatly to the local economy).

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@kathrynoh | 5yr

TBH, Iโ€™ve never been asked. I put tourism on the customs forms.

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What @wanderingdev said. Tourism is what youโ€™re there for. You cannot even hint you are going to work, and you have to deny this convincingly if they accuse you of it. Digital Nomadism is new enough that most countries donโ€™t have visa classifications for it yet, which means you arenโ€™t going to qualify for most business / work visas in most countries, which means youโ€™re technically illegal in a lot of countries if the country in question even suspects youโ€™re working. On the other hand, youโ€™re not the typical image anyone has of an illegal immigrant, either. Faced with that kind of ambiguity, most immigration folks are going to default to their training; theyโ€™re looking for reasons to deny a visa, and โ€œIโ€™m going to engage in a new kind of work that should be ok because Iโ€™m still a touristโ€ is not a convincing argument for an exception.

This also means you canโ€™t use work as a source of income to officially document that you have enough support to cover the length of your stay; you need to have other means of documenting resources.

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@wanderingdev | 5yr

Iโ€™m there for tourism. Itโ€™s not a lie. Youโ€™re going to work, but youโ€™ll also explore the country, see the sights, eat the food, etc. Telling them youโ€™re working will just pretty much guarantee youโ€™ll be kicked out.

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Read and participate in 14,086 discussions on Nomad List

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by @donaldbough | 3d 2 days ago | 0 comments

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Are there any digital nomads in the Islands e.g Bermuda, Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis?


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Ukraine Residency


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I have a slightly above average US income which I can work remotely from paired with a $1000 a month income stream and more than enough to purchase a middle end Flat in Ukraine. Does anyone with knowledge of this process have any advice to acquire a reliable way to stay in the country?

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Is there a map of countries open for travel now?


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I have two passports from different countries and am trying to understand where can I travel now. Is there a publicly available map of countries open for visitors by passport country that I can use to see what are my options? I was pretty sure such a thing should exist, but cannot easily find any.

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Any good coliving or other monthly rentals in Seville?


in Seville, Spain by @antoine_th | 2mo 1 month ago | 0 comments

Hello Everyone

I'm planning to stay in Seville for 6 weeks for mid January - end of February. Do you any recommandations for a coliving or a place to live in?

Thanks ๐Ÿ™

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Are restaurants, cafes and malls working in Mexico City taking into account COVID situation?


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Introduce yourself โ€” who are you, where are you and what do you do?

 

by @coffeeshopceo | 6mo 5 months ago | 672 comments

tl;dr: introduce yourself in this thread.

We must all get sick of the same backpacker travel questions when we meet new friends, I know I do.

You know the ones - where are you from, whereโ€™ve you been, where are you going, what do you do, how long have you been doing it - etc.

The novelty of answering these questions wears off after maybe a week, but theyโ€™re nonetheless insightful and no matter how much we hate them, we find ourselves asking others.

So letโ€™s bring the dreaded backpacker questionnaire to NomadForum and introduce ourselves shall we?

**

  • whatโ€™s your name?
  • where are you from?
  • how long have you been away from home?
  • what do you do?
  • where are you currently?
  • where are you going?
  • what has been memorable for you so far?
  • will you go home anytime soon?
  • what have you learnt during your time as a nomad?
  • [insert your own question here]

**

No need to answer them all if you donโ€™t want to :smile:
But the more you shareโ€ฆ The merrier!

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What kind of work do digital nomad web developers do?


by @cryberg | 3yr 3 years ago | 8 comments

Hi everyone! Iโ€™m thinking of making the jump from being an office-bound web developer to freelancing instead. I was hoping to talk to some of you who do freelance web dev while living a nomadic lifestyle.

Iโ€™m at a bit of a loss, because when Iโ€™ve tried looking for posts about this kind of lifestyle, the majority of what Iโ€™ve found is for web designers or Wordpress developers, which are both pretty different from being a developer who likes to work with React or whatever other framework.

So for those of you who are living my dream right now:
Are you usually building Wordpress sites, or more often using a framework like React or Ruby on Rails? Or something else entirely?

What types of contracts do you take on? Ecommerce? Building blogs?
Are they on-going, or one-off projects?

How do you get clients while on the road? Is it mostly Upwork or word of mouth?

I have a ton of questions, and would greatly appreciate hearing about your experiences. Thank you!

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In everyone else's experience, do others rate working remotely as highly as we do?


by @munly_leong | 5yr 5 years ago | 7 comments

I got inspired when someone else mentioned that nomads/100% remoters are kind of niche and even hard to find vs the norm. Is this really the case in other peopleโ€™s experience?

I know most would jump at the chance if it was offered, at the same time for most people I know it would be a first for them and many I know would struggle with the self mgmt/productivity aspect but given time most would probably be onboarded successfully.

What I described as my ideal, speaking to another startupper a few months ago she described it as her hell. She would not want to be isolated and wants to see her team every day and hang out with them.

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