Schengen tourist visa - legal to work for home companies?

So I know it’s illegal to work in Europe for European companies without a work visa / permit. I’m also aware of the Germany freelancer visa, which lets you work in Germany legally for 3 years (but I’m not stationing in Germany; I want to hop hop hop). I see many digital nomads programming on the road, making income from American companies on a Schengen tourist visa. Of course this seems fine, since it’s brining American dollars into Europe. But is it legal? Has anyone had experiences / conversations with immigration, or seen this discussed anywhere online? My Google fu fails me here.

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no. it is not legal to work while on a tourist visa in europe.

@lefnire I am not clear on your question. Are you asking about freelancing for a European company, while travelling in Europe on a Schengen tourist visa? Technically, if you are in any country with the intention of working rather than what your visa states you can do, you’d be in a bind.

However, this is how I understand it (being a remote worker for many years now): if you are a remote worker, and not a full-time/permanent employee with a company anywhere in the world, as long as you are getting paid in your home country, where you are a resident and pay taxes, you should be fine. As long as you are a contract worker with any company in the world, and get paid in your home country, then there should be no problems with the law of the country you are travelling in. However, if you are in that country to work onsite with their team, instead of travelling or doing what your visa allows you to, then you can get into trouble.

@anigupta your answer addressed my question, I believe. My plan is to work as a US resident (paying taxes in the US), for a US company; however, while traveling on a tourist visa in Europe for 2-3 years. To circumvent the 3month tourist visa bit, I plan to visit SE Asia (or any other non-Schengen visa zone) long enough for the 180-day counter to reset.

In short: USA company, USA resident + taxes; but working ~30h/wk while traveling Europe (at cafes, in the AirBnB, etc - web development). I’m hearing there might be some fuzziness depending on if the work arrangement is 1099 vs W2. I’m also hearing from others it’s totally illegal; which I buy. I’ve met lots of people doing this, they just say “it doesn’t come up” - which makes me pretty nervous.

@lefnire your plan should work. I don’t think you’ll run afoul of the laws of the country you’re travelling in. You may need to check on the 1099/W2 legality with a CPA. In my case, I work for a multi-national corporate remote team as a consultant. I am a business owner in my home country, which is where I get paid, and pay my taxes. All I need is a decent internet connection. I can choose to travel year long all over the world and work out of coworking spaces etc., as long as I am not getting paid in the country I am a temporary visitor.

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@anigupta that’s the ticket right there! Exactly the setup I’m planning. The strange bit is I can’t find any actual hard facts on said scenario. Have you ever been questioned at airport immigration? Sort of “I see by your bank statements you’re making income; but you’re applying for a tourist visa, what gives?” I have a hunch everything will be just fine; just wondering if there’s any concrete anecdotes / documents out-n-about.

I should add here, if asked by immigration authorities at any entry point, you shouldn’t say you are there to travel AND work remotely. You are technically not allowed to work when on a tourist visa. But it is not possible for them to prove you did any work, esp when you are a remote worker.

You should also check your US tax and residency requirements. US has a tax exemption provision if you are not living there 330 out of 365 days. It has many caveats though.

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Great info, lots to chew on. Thanks @anigupta!

The fact that you can’t tell them you’re working just shows that it isn’t legal. The plan outlined will work, I’ve been doing it for years. But that still doesn’t make it legal, and that was the question. OP, unless you get a work visa, no matter who you are working for or where you are getting paid, doing any kind of work while on a tourist visa is illegal and could potentially lead to problems. Now realistically, it isn’t an issue because most countries don’t care as long as you’re not taking a local job. The UK is the only place that hassles me.

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Curious to know. What kind of hassles have you faced in the UK?

getting into the UK if you are in any way a non typical traveler is a nightmare. i’ve been stopped and questioned a couple times now. to the point where it’s really my least favorite place to visit now. i only come here now if I have a house sit. otherwise just better to avoid it. it’s too expensive anyway.

How many times have you traveled to the UK in a year? if you travel once a year do they still give you trouble entering the country???

@wanderingdev What kind of response do you usually have to quell the brits? I imagine they look at a bank statement and think “hmm, there’s income…” which is a tough bush to beat around. Totally understood if that’s something you’re not comfortable discussing.

@wanderingdev I actually posted something in the onward ticket thread earlier today, but I too am getting questioned more and more by UK immigration. I had an actual onward ticket (to Thailand), but that wasn’t good enough. They did state that I must have a onward ticket to my country of residence and also asked for me to prove where I lived (which I didn’t state in the other thread – thankfully I had my old Hong Kong ID card which passed their sniff test!). Argh!

@lefnire I’ve never shown a bank statement. They just ask me how much money I have available and I tell them I have a few thousand liquid and about $15k in available credit. So that’s not been an issue.

@Oskar I’ve been in the UK twice in the last 12 months.

@international_man This last time, even with an onward ticket out of the UK and a ticket booked back to the US within 6 months they still questioned me for about 45 minutes.

It was seriously hard not to pretty much say ‘Dude, i can live anywhere in the world. If I’m going to overstay my visa it’s not going to be somewhere so freaking expensive with such shitty weather. And if I was planning on breaking the law, I would just tell you I was staying for a long weekend to explore London so you’d let me through, and then overstay. I wouldn’t be honest about how long I’m here.’ But I controlled myself. lol


oh, and the best part of this last entry was that the guy wanted to know the names and exact dates of everywhere I’d been for the last 6 months. When I told him I could list countries but not dates he was all “When I go on holiday I know exactly where I’ve been and exactly what dates I went.” My response was “I’ve been to 12 countries in the last 6 months and multiple cities in each country and I just don’t have the memory for that.” That kinda shut him up. :slight_smile:

yeah i thought USA was bad when trying to enter the country. But the UK is in a whole new level :slight_smile:

FWIW, had similar experience crossing into Canada. The first time went like this:
“Do you have any money?”, “You mean like in my pocket?”, “No, do you have savings?”. “Well, yes… I have income from my own business, have cash, have credit cards and investments”. That ended the conversation and they had me move on.

Now I skip the “You mean in my pocket?” snarky rhetorical question…

When travelling to Brazil in 2008, from the US, Americans need an expensive Visa, $120 US at that time, each. They required a bank statement for the visa application, since we wanted a long duration (90 days), showing a “certain” amount of money, to be “enough” to sustain us for the duration of the trip without employment. We were able to show, and the Boston consulate accepted, a heavily redacted bank statement for our 3 month long trip, as well as a letter from the landlord for the apartment we rented, as being paid for the first month of three. Never had this problem anywhere else. Haven’t been to the UK yet, but with my EU passport, there most likely won’t be a problem unless they drop out of the EU. :slight_smile:

UK is the worst. Immigration treats you like a criminal and just grill you.