Many digital nomads head to Asia for the diversity of travel options, networking opportunities, and comparatively low cost of living (in some countries). Here, we’re going to discuss the remote work Asia visas that allow you to work abroad legally, working holiday visas, and whether or not you should work on tourist visas at all.
Should you Work in Asia on a Tourist Visa?
Typically, digital nomads have taken advantage of 90-day tourist visas, based on passport privileges or other tourist visa options which allow you to stay even beyond that for non-work related reasons, such as the:
- Philippines Long Stay Visitor Visa
- Cambodia Retirement Visa
- Thailand Study Visas and Six-Month Visa
- Indonesia Social Cultural Visa (B-211 Visa Budaya)
Of course, the catch is that you shouldn’t be working on these visas. While plenty of digital nomads have operated under this system, many remote work companies aren’t happy with their employees partaking in technically illegal activity at risk of fines or even being detained.
Note: If you’re a freelancer, operating your own business, or working for a business outside of the country then it’s worth checking, on a country-by-country basis what the rules are there. For some countries, it’s a blanket rule that working is not allowed in any format; online work is more of a grey area in others. What a country or immigration officer deems “work” depends on their laws and interpretations.
However, the lifestyle of hopping around and doing border runs can become quickly exhausting and leaves people vulnerable to sudden changes.
Holding down full-time work duties while keeping an eye on your visa isn’t ideal so remote workers understandably want a visa situation that allows them to work abroad, be entitled to some residency rights within their country they’re staying, and with the possibility to extend their visa if they’re settled.
So here are the current Asia visas that allow you to work legally. They can provide the security you need and a base in a new and exciting country.
We anticipate, with the new interest in remote work, and countries looking into attracting talent (and money) to their countries, this will hopefully require updating often.
Tip: Make sure to leave plenty of time for applying for visas, some can take up to two months to be processed.
Working Holiday in the APAC Region
I think it’s worth dropping a few words about working holiday visas if you’re thirty or under (or in some cases, like Australia, thirty-five or under). Many countries, including most in the APAC region, offer working holiday visas which allow you to live and work in the country for a year with some options to extend depending on the country’s own rules.
They’re usually swift and easy to apply for, and require you to have a certain amount of money in your bank account to show you can support yourself. The idea is that you will spend more time travelling around the country than working but you are legally allowed to work and have access to bank account options, formal rental agreements, etc.
This can be a great option if you fall within the age and passport bracket and your company has no problem with it.
Asia Visas Suitable for Remote Workers
Currently, the Asia visas you can obtain to legally work if you’re not eligible for any working holiday visas are few and far between. However, things are rapidly changing so hopefully this list will be much longer in the future.
1) Dubai/UAE Remote Work Visa
If you’re in need of some time near the beach and some hot weather than the UAE could be the one for you. Dubai and Abu Dhabi offer plenty of travel opportunities for those looking to explore more of the United Arab Emirates and the beautiful natural scenery of nearby countries such as Oman while enjoying the kind of luxuries only the UAE.
Living in Dubai becomes comfortable very quickly and is well-suited to anyone who loves brunch, shopping in world-class malls, lounging on private beaches, or visiting party islands.
Because it is a Muslim country, there are restrictions on pork products and alcohol. That said, drinking to excess is certainly not hard to do, thanks to hotel bars being the place to indulge, and specialist stores, catering to westerners offering everything you might want that isn’t widely available. Most chain stores and restaurants are available, and, of course, the wifi is excellent.
The downside is that the cost of living in Dubai is incredibly high, which is reflected in the visa requirement which states you should earn $5000 a month from your employer or your own business. You’ll also need health insurance which covers the UAE.
I worked in Dubai for six months and thoroughly enjoyed my time there until I wanted things to do outside of shopping, brunching, and sunbathing. However, I know many people who loved it in Dubai so much they’ve stayed for years and worked towards permanent residency.
How to apply for the Dubai/ UAE remote work visa: You can find other information and how to apply online on the Remotely in Dubai website.
2) Remotely in Georgia Visa
As Georgia sits on the border of Asia and Europe, we’ve also covered this fantastic remote work visa option in our favourite visas in Europe for digital nomads guide.
Nevertheless, it is officially an Asian country and remains an ideal option for anyone looking to work remotely in a friendly and dynamic country. You’ll need to prove a minimum monthly income of $2000 USD and annual health insurance.
Georgia offers a perfect location, at the mid-point between Europe and Asia, for those looking to explore off-the-beaten-track boasting incredible natural scenery for blowing off some steam, great food, and a low cost of living. The internet is fast and cheap.
Georgia has always been particularly generous, offering stays of up to one year for residents of ninety-eight countries. Now, their ‘Remotely From Georgia’ visa (applicable to ninety-five countries including UK, USA, and Canada) allows you to legally work your online business up to a year with the possibility to extend after.
How to apply for the Remotely in Georgia visa: You can apply online on the Remotely From Georgia website. Currently, over a thousand people have already applied for the visa.
We’ve covered what life is like in Georgia for remote workers in our guides:
3) Artist Visa Japan
This is one of the more complex visas to apply for, with a low acceptance rate, but seeing as spending significant time in Japan is a dream for many, the self-sponsored Japan visa could be worth giving a go. If you fall into the right category as an artist and have a degree, then it’s worth a shot for a self-sponsored visa.
They do also offer a working holiday visa for those thirty and under which is simpler to apply for with a much higher success rate and could help with the artist visa later.
Categories include composers, lyricists, painters, sculptors, craftsmen, writers, and photographers who engage in creative activities or instructors of creative arts.
If you can demonstrate achievements and a stable income from any of these areas and would be working in this area you can try the application. If you have any previous history of working in Japan, this would also help with the application. Information on how to apply can be found on Japan Visa.
Having remote worked in Tokyo myself, aside from the high cost of living, I know it’s a dream place to work with great wifi and so much to see and do when you’re not working. The travel opportunities are truly endless.
4) South Korea Workcation and K-Culture Visas
South Korea recently announced the launch of its digital nomad-friendly workcation visa and K-Culture, making it the first in East Asia to offer a dedicated visa that allows digital nomads and remote workers a chance to live, work, and experience Korean culture firsthand.
The program seeks to attract talent from around the world, introducing them to K-culture and allowing digital entrepreneurs to expand their working horizons far beyond their home countries. The visa also provides digital nomads with added flexibility and peace of mind, knowing they can stay connected while exploring all South Korea has to offer. Visitors will be able to stay in Korea for up to two years to explore their areas of interest
Ultimately, this long-awaited move signals an increasingly digital future, making South Korea a top destination for digital nomads everywhere. The visas are set to be launched later this year.
Hopefully, in the near future with the ever-changing environment, there will be far more remote work Asia visas available.