If you are considering long term digital nomadism as a remote employee, it is a good idea to have this conversation with the payroll / accounts person of your company.
Month: March 2017
Taxation for Digital Nomads – Questions to Ask Yourself
As a traveller flitting from one country to the other, how will I go about doing my taxes?
Even if you are travelling from country to country, you can still be subject to paying taxes so long as you are still a resident of your home country. There are a number of factors that taxation agencies will use to calculate if you are still considered a tax resident. Please check official documentation or consult with an advisor.
In addition you potentially still paying taxes in your home country, you may still be subject to paying taxes in the new country that you are residing in. This is dependent on whether or not you are considered a resident for taxation purposes. For example, if you are living in a country for 183 days or more you may then be considered a resident, for taxation purposes, of that country. If you are living in a country are your source of income is in that country, then that may also mean paying taxes for that income source.
If you are considering trying to get income ‘under the table’ make a note that eventually you may need to fold underneath some sort of business structure like an LLC, LTD, etc. You may also need to have a unique tax number to identify yourself. A number of businesses will require you to operate as a business, rather than as an individual for a number of reasons – for auditing purposes, for liability protection and so on. In addition, without further identifying yourself and your income activities, it may be difficult to do any further paperwork within that country should you need to – for example, in answering income related questions when applying for long term or permanent residency or citizenship.
The Cost of Time
When you purchase tickets to see a theatre show, a comedy standup or a concert, you are very mindful of your experience of the time spent in the duration of that show. You want to savor every single minute with that comedian, that artist, that theatre group.
It is the same with life. I mean, I didn’t just move overseas and go through all the motions and issues of being overseas just to be miserable in a room somewhere in front of the laptop. I want to have a life well spent, and that makes making difficult decisions on how I spend my time.
And right now, the amount of time I spend in front of a computer screen in a room somewhere is worrying. Why go through the challenges of moving overseas, to Dublin or Berlin out of all places, just to live out my hours in front of a screen? The weather is getting better outside, the people are out having fun, there is the countryside yet to explore…and yet, there I was, just living in front of a screen.
How do people do this? And by people, I mean that ones in their 50s, 60s, and so on. The office workers. The cubicle workers. The remote workers. I wonder if they ever regret their decisions.
Kendall Hotel, near Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston
The Kendall Hotel is a very iconic establishment located just minutes away from the MIT campus.
I stayed there for a night while attending LibrePlanet 2016 that was at MIT.
The Two Main Stages Of Applying For Working Holiday Visas
If you are thinking of undertaking a working holiday visa, I’ve condensed the main essential stages and steps below. These are the steps that I usually take. And yes, these steps do revolve around budgeting.
A bit about me first…
I’m Australian and thanks to the reciprocal agreements made between Australia and numerous other countries, I have been able to live and work around the world. I am now on my 4th working holiday visa. This blog is my outlet for various tips and advice that I want to share to everyone. Enjoy!
A bit about the working holiday visas…
The main reason why they are called ‘working holiday visas’ is that essentially the main purpose is for travel. That’s it. It’s not a work visa nor is it a tourist visa.
Because of the name, there is a common assumption that this visa only relates to holiday/tourist work, that it’s only for unskilled work, and/or that there is no long-term opportunites from this. I’ve found the complete opposite. You can do all sorts of work, you can do work that is skilled and in your industry and you can also garner long-term opportunities – from opportunities for permanent residency to getting valuable experiences. Therefore, this blog functions as a way to rebrand these types of visas.
A bit about my approach…
My approach is that I only focus on doing a fact-finding mission and I focus on budgeting and meeting financial obligations. Unless I intend to move to that country, I do not want to spend too much time looking into subjective information online nor do I look into the fine grain details that is not related to the application process. Therefore, if it’s not related to any planning that I’m doing, then…it’s just wishful thinking.
Stage 1: Find out exactly what the requirements are for your nationality.
- Obtain your visa requirements from the official government/immigration authority. Do not resort to blogs or forums.
- From these visa requirements, make the plan on how you can meet the paperwork.
- Date your findings in case of visa changes and if you don’t plan to go for some time (ie six months).
- Find out any important dates or deadlines.
- Make a note what you need to do to make an appointment – is there an online booking system, do you need to be in a certain city to apply, what is the minimum amount of time that you should apply, etc.
Stage 2: Do not look into any other details until you can meet the following financial obligations:
You meet the minimum financial requirements for the visa according to your situation.
For example, if you plan only purchase a one way ticket, you must be able to show additional funds equal to the amount of a return ticket.
You also have savings equal to six months at the minimum, bare-bones living expenses in the country in accordance to your situation.
Now, this is the part where doing a budget spreadsheet helps.
Calculate your minimum (and if applicable, your maximum) expenses for things like housing, food, clothing and so on for the month. Then following from that, multiply by 6 (or however months you want to be the threshold).
Example: If your minimum projected expense ends up averaging to $1000 per month, then you’ll need $6000 at your absolute minimum for six months coverage. If the maximum projected expense ends up averaging to $1500 per month, you will need $9000 savings. Therefore, the sweet spot for you in terms of savings could be $7500, however keep in mind that this doesn’t include upfront costs.
Why six months in savings?
It doesn’t have to be six months, but you get the gist – it should be long enough. I would honestly just for all the way to calculating and aiming for having savings liquidity of 12 months worth of living expenses.
Also do not focus on the actual amount itself. You should only be looking at your projected cost of living for that month and then simply multiply it by six (or however long) months.
The reason why is due to the following:
- If you want to undertake skilled work, then you will need to take into account potential delays in obtaining that work.
- If you plan to rent, then there is the initial cash deposit involved which can be 2-3 months rent in advance.
- I find that knowing you have a certain x months amount saved up is a good source of comfort. It’s enough to live on, enough of a cushion in case something bad happens (ie your rental ends up being a scam..yes, this has happened!), you can budget for small trips in between and so on.
What do I do once I reach my minimum savings threshold?
In this case, if you already have $3000 in savings after you have met the paperwork expenses (see below), then what you can do is save until you reach your minimum projected expense (in the case above, that would be $6000). Once you reach that threshold, you can use that to start the rest of the visa application process and paperwork. The reason why is that obtaining the paperwork tends to be very quick, but then you have the application timeline which can vary immensely and is very much out of your control by the time you send your application through.
What about the up-front costs like flights, insurance, visa fees?
The reason why is that the upfront costs will be high. At this stage, you will need to purchase your flights, additional moving expenses, travel insurance, visa fees and anything else required for the visa. Each country will have different requirements, your home country may have certain agreements set up with the visa country and therefore the initial cost is going to vary.
For example, one country can be $2100 in upfront cost (flights, full-year insurance, visa fees), another country can be $1100 (shorter flights, visa fees, no full year insurance required), another one can be $3500 (flights, full year insurance, higher visa fees, higher up front costs). And so on. Your initial up front costs will be very high and they are things that you need to meet anyway to get the visa, which is why I’ve taken them out of the initial budget.
Stage 3 (optional): For those planning to move to another working holiday visa afterwards
If you are planning to move to another working holiday visa, your budgeting and planning skills are about to be taken to a whole new level.
Stay tuned since in another entry, I’ll be writing some tips on Stage 3.
If you enjoy this post, please take a look at the rest of my blog – https://www.hannahsuarez.me/blog/ – for more tips and advice!
Working holiday visas does not necessarily mean unskilled work!
There is a common misconception that people on working holiday visas are undertaking unskilled work. There is also the common misconception that only unskilled work is available for those on working holiday visas.
In some cases, this may be the reality but it is completely dependent on your skills, aptitude, attitude, flexibility, CV-writing skills and interviewing skills. Not only that, but it also helps to have good interpersonal skills when working with global teams and different types of people. You get an added bonus for being able to obtain skilled work if you’ve had previous industry experience in the field, if you’ve attained education (including certifications), your ability to prepare for the job market in the area and also the job market in that particular area.
Skilled work is also not in any specific domains. Some people will say that technical roles will land you the most opportunities but I’ve found cases that span across other many industries – the arts, not-for-profit/charities, travel, entertainment, media, advertising and more.
I’ve done highly skilled work on the two working holiday visas that I was on – one in marketing in the UK which led to an award for the work and a lot of industry/global experience. Another in software SaaS for a US/Canada company while based in Toronto and after doing a career and industry change. Both opportunities also included additional educational opportunities – paid courses (including a paid course offered by University College London) and ability for me to easily attend meetups and industry events. On my 3rd working holiday visa (Ireland) I was interviewing for skilled work opportunities before settling on my current role which is closely aligned with my professional interest and I am also currently pursuing certification in the field also.
In all the countries, I’ve had no issues getting interviews for the skilled work though some didn’t want to talk further once they find out that my visa was temporary. Ireland was challenging because Australians can only work for 6 months but I came across short term contracts in software companies. Germany may have the additional challenge of being able to speak German but so far I don’t see this as a dealmaking obstacle.
It’s all about preparations
There’s a few ways to start reaching out and do your job search before the move to give yourself a head start:
Tips and inspiration for those on short-term, temporary work/resident visas
In addition, make sure to also read up on my other entries on other ways that you can prepare – such as housing, banking and more.
How I found my apartment in Germany (including signing my tenancy and landlord agreement) before arriving in Germany
One of the big hurdles when moving overseas is finding a place to live. You need to think about your temporary accommodation – its budget, its proximity to necessary locations, its contract stipulations in regards to stay. You need to get a bank account and other identity documents – including figuring out whether or not you can use your temporary housing to arrange this. For those that need to look for work, you also need to find work while juggling the fact that you don’t have a permanent place to stay, you don’t have a bank account (yet) and you are waiting for official identity documents. And to top it off, the fact that you don’t have these things, in turn, your ability to get housing – since landlords typically will want some identity documentation and so on.
Don’t fret though, because it’s not as bad as it seem. You can talk to the bank or to the real estate agent to find if there are any loopholes or flexibility in meeting their requirements. I’ve found that a lot of the discussions online, even the official text on a website, does not necessarily reflect the reality. I’ve talk to bank managers on other types of documentation that I can provide. I’ve talked to customer support to see if they can accept other types of documentation since I don’t have the document that they need.
Because of this, I developed an impression that 1) it’s difficult to find a place in Germany and 2) you need to find a place after arriving. But these impressions have been proven false because not only have I found a place in Germany, but I’ve been able to do all the paperwork before arriving!
It is possible for you to find online sites and startups that will not only show apartment listings, but will show photos/videos of the apartment, will allow you to book online AND will also serve as a conduit between yourself and the real estate agency/landlord. This is important and very convenient when you are finding your way around the non-English speaking world – I’ve found that even with Google Translate enabled, certain site functions don’t work and it starts to get exhausting constantly translating information to and from. Not only that, but I was looking for decently priced and high quality housing for up to 12 months, which strikes out those digital nomad oriented ‘coliving’ types of websites. Even then, I still persevered and found my awesome apartment here in Berlin.
I believe that being able to obtain the information that you need, in as real-time and real quality as possible – is an important asset for e-commerce websites. The information that I’ve obtained is as real as it can get and I trust the legitimacy of these sites (after looking at the reviews, the profiles, the company information and so on) enough to finalize all paperwork without being there in person. Not only that, I found that websites with no dedicated localization (and therefore, I need to rely on Google Translate), are not that trustworthy for me. If there is a feature that can’t be translated or it’s rendered useless because of translation then it makes for a bad user experience. So, if you’re going to localize your site then at least do it properly.
Anyway, back to apartment hunting in Berlin. The types of documentation that you may need to produce (other than identification) may include evidence of salary or a guarantor letter if you are a student. You will also need to state your study / work and your purpose of visit. With work, it is helpful to state your job title and whether or not you are a freelancer. I’ve also sent my correspondence in German (with the help of Google Translate!) as it was a bit awkward switching to English only.
Once you get the keys and move in and it’s all good, arrange an appointment to have your residence registered at the Bürgeramt. Originally, I was going to go there the day before I move in, but decided to cancel as this would have been a fruitless exercise.
With your residence registration, you will need the signed lease agreement and also an additional form called the Wohnungsgeberbestätigung signed by the landlord – this confirms that you have actually moved in and you’re residing there now. The reason for both is that you can have a signed lease agreement, but you also have a certain amount of time to be able to inspect the property and give your final wishes/concerns to the landlord about the property.
After moving in, make sure to take a number of photos of the property.
You may also need to do an Übergabeprotokoll which is a sheet which shows damages in advance.
Anyway, I just thought to publish this entry hopefully as motivation for those that are stuck in the housing rut while preparing to move overseas!
Working Holiday Visa for Germany – Application Process, Documents, Banking, Housing
This series marks my experiences on my 4th working holiday visa for Germany and is written as an Australian applicant. If you are from other countries with the bilateral agreement, you may also find this post useful.
I also have some posts of my experiences under the Working Holiday Visas for Canada (called International Experience Canada), the UK (called Tier 5 Youth Mobility) and Ireland (simply Working Holiday Visa). It’s scattered all over my blog so please have a look at my earlier posts.
One main thing to keep in mind throughout the whole process
When I read posts from other applicants of the German working holiday programmes, there is a common theme emerging – and that is that the German immigration system will do the work for them. Meaning that, all German immigration authorities have native command of English and that everyone knows what a working holiday visa is.
The truth here is the opposite.
It is completely up to the individual to ensure that they meet the requirements for the working holiday visa. It is also up to the individual to ensure that they meet any other requirements to live and work in Germany – from making sure that the documents are correct to making sure to decrease as much miscommunication as possible.
With that in mind, feel free to continue on below for my thoughts around the application process for the German working holiday visa.
The Application Process
On the Australian Germany embassy website, Australians have the choice to either apply in the Consulate-General in Sydney or at the local immigration authority (‘Ausländerbehörde’). Being based in Dublin, I decided to do my application at the Germany embassy in Dublin instead. Another reason why I decided to avoid Ausländerbehörde was all because of their website. When I logged in to do an online appointment, there were no appointments available (not even if I browse all the way to 2020) and I was sure that there was an issue with their system after trying on three different browsers. I gave up and decide to apply here in Dublin.
If you decide to do your application after arriving in Germany, make a note of what the next available slot is for an appointment by going to the Ausländerbehörde website. From my experience in handling immigration bureaucracy (ie when getting my GNIB card here in Ireland), it is considerably better to research and try to get your paperwork and appointments ready in advance instead of showing up at the office and getting your information there. Do not assume that there will be a spot on the day of your appointment, or that there is even going to be availability in the near future.
In addition, don’t assume that information will be delivered to you in English and that it will be 100% accurate. I think that this comes from a source of naivety in people who the world is going to be functioning on their level at 100% English-speaking proficiency. The reality is that, especially in Europe, English is not going to be the native language and so it’s better to assume that whatever information you get, or whatever interaction you do, it will not be in native English level.
You are required to make an appointment and is usually booked out for two weeks. If you miss your appointment, you need to rebook again.
The documentation that you need in your application is pretty much straightforward and is outlined in the German embassy pages for working holiday visas.
One of the main areas of contention is around residence which was:
– Proof of main residence in Berlin
– Certificate of registration at the main residence or
– Rental agreement and written confirmation of occupancy from the landlord
I asked the embassy if it’s acceptable that I only show a booking for two weeks in temporary accommodation and they were fine with it.
A copy/paste of their answer is below:
Yes you will have to provide only the first 2 weeks accommodation in Germany for the VISA application. Hotel / Hostel booking are accepted for this. Regards, German Embassy Dublin
I am seeing some posts were others are going all the way to secure accommodation in Berlin as part of their application. For example, they would arrive in Berlin, go to Ausländerbehörd, sit there for a couple of hours to get confirmation that their real appointment is in 10 weeks, and during that time they’ll have the opportunity to do room viewings. I did thought that perhaps there is an advantage for already being in Europe AND I am on a working holiday visa but I am aware of someone in Argentina who also went through the process at around the same time as I did and not seeing any issues with the paperwork.
Housing – moving from temporary, short-term housing to long-term
There are quiet a number of various residence options in Berlin and I have to admit that it has been a dream meeting the most basic residence requirement! Meaning that there is established infrastructure in place making foreigners seeking housing in Berlin very easy. We are talking public transportation and all the different options and places that you have available to search for housing.
It is also possible to book for and pay for housing online on trusted, dedicated platforms where they make the effort to provide as much detail as they can on what to expect.
Overall, even though I didn’t need to book for months long accommodation for the working holiday visa application, I still had the option to do so safely and securely.
I think that Berlin is one of the leading hubs for expats / digital nomads, global / remote workers and so on.
Back to the paperwork. Don’t forget that shortly within obtaining your long-term accommodation, you will also need to register with the town hall. Check online for an appointment slot that is available. In addition, there are documents that you need to take with you when you register.
One thing to keep in mind around housing is that if you require temporary accommodation to look for longer term housing, you do not need to register as a resident within two weeks of arriving. I would recommend going for temporary housing while applying for the working holiday visa as this is enough. Since it’s considered temporary, then you do not need get the additional documentation for residence.
A one year’s travel insurance is enough, so long as it covers Germany. Certain visas may require specific types of insurance but a standard travel insurance is enough. The reason being is that a working holiday visa is only temporary in nature.
One thing to keep in mind is that there is a difference between travel insurance and health insurance. You can read more about my thoughts on this area here.
It is possible to open a bank account online and prior to arrival. You can also authenticate your identity online and without needing to be in a branch.
There are also various loopholes when it comes to opening bank accounts. It all depends on who you talk to, what type of account that you open and which bank.
Of course, you can also opt to go with other options that require in-person appearances. Banks these days need to be customer-centric. This means that banking services, should they wish to remain relevant in today’s modern world, also need to be available whenever and wherever the customer is. Hopefully, we will see more of these practices rather than forcing customers to change their whole day’s schedule just to open an account or cash a cheque.
Once you have registered as a resident you can now apply for your unique German tax number (Steuer-ID). This should be sent to you automatically after registering your German address.
Next part of the series…
Stay tuned for the next part of my German working holiday experience!
Luxury Beauty Tips for Digital Nomads and Travellers
Long intro / rant… skip this to my tips below!
Ever since I started travelling and working remotely, I seem to have developed a huge thing for makeup and skincare. Much of it has been a change of habit. I’ve very recently discovered YouTube make-up videos and since them, have learnt a lot about applying make-up. When I was in Toronto, there really was very little for me to do (that was near where I lived anyway). I therefore used to go out, maybe a few times a week, to go to the mall to shop. I would go into a store, browse around, buy a face mask or some makeup. The following week, I would go in again, browse around, buy a lotion or nail polish. Next think I know, I have 8 bottles of nail polish, something like 30 skin care masks and months worth of hair care products. Sure, I could opt to not go to the mall or not buy anything, but believe me, it was just sheer boredom that ended up multiplying with small purchases. Even if I had opted to stay in, there was still the option to go online shopping. I’ve mainly developed this just to get out of the house and go for a walk – but because of where I was living at the time in Canada, there were very little options to go for said walk.
When it was time to move overseas from Canada to Ireland, I ended up giving away quiet a few products. It really wasn’t enough but that was fine. Even if I ended up using my beauty and skin care products, I would end up refilling them. Like that Lancôme haul in the photo!
Anyway, the following are some tips and advice around beauty / skin care for digital nomads / expats. Enjoy!
Instead of a large brush, opt for a comb or those small detangler brushes. I have two detangler brushes – one with a mirror compact mirror. I recently bought this Tangle Teaser from Harvey Nicholls below:
If you are splurging on luxury brands, opt to get the gift set versions as they tend to be smaller. While they won’t be good value for money they may be more convenient in being more portable. I also find them to be a good introduction to a new line if you are new to the brand.
If you need more product, I always ask what size is available. Some brands only deliver limited sizes. Personally, I dislike larger product sizes – all I can think of is how annoying it will be when it’s time to pack.
Yes, definitely get those refillable travel bottles / containers.
I put all sorts of product in these – from hair spray to scrubs.
When purchasing foundation, opt for the ones delivering the foundation via a pump as they tend to last longer in regards to expiration dates. I very recently bought a Chanel foundation which is in a small pump and also have SPF.
Always go for palettes. They come in a number of sizes and themes also.
For eyeshadow, my main issue with palettes is the eyeshadow fallout, so I usually clean around the edges after a few uses.
For lip palettes, there is the Anastasia Beverly Hills Lip Palette as a good example:
Apparently you can make your own but I haven’t gotten to that stage yet. I’m pretty much a moth when it comes nice packaging.
Thin / small / compact is always better.
The higher-end brands tend to go for size and weight as markers of it being ‘luxury’. For example, a common comment could be “It feels heavy…so it must be good!”. I usually prefer the smaller/compact ones but at some point it becomes unavoidable when an eye cream you really want to use is in a heavy pot and you really don’t want to switch to a lighter pot…
Have mini serum / face masks at hand during long haul flights to moisturize the skin (and as a bonus, freak out everyone that walks past you).
Other items that find its way when I go on long haul flights – hand sanitizer, mini hand cream, mini face cream, lip balm, alcoholic wipes, perfume sample sprays, mini serum, etc.
Opt to use SPF for moisturiser and foundation – SPF 25 should be the minimum. I previously used the Christian Dior Forever Perfect Foundation which has SPF 35.
Like above, look for options with dual benefits. For example body shimmer with perfume. I recently bought the Tom Ford Soleil Blanc Shimmering Body Oil below which has the Tom Ford Soleil perfume scent:
You need to accept that there comes a stage when dragging along makeup tools like 10-set paddle brushes, packs of beauty blenders, face sponges, lash staplers, and so on are simply just too annoying to deal with.
Unfortunately…I bypass that stage after one month of settling in and my guilt peaks one month before moving when I realize how much I’ve manage to hoard.
Be nice to the beauty consultants so you can get samples 🙂 I always like to have small samples with me when going on short trips.
Weekend trip to Galway!
Recently, went on a weekend trip to Galway – the city, that is.
Thoughts on the application process for the Irish Working Holiday Visa
I decided to move from Canada (where I was under the working holiday visa there) to Ireland under a working holiday visa programme.
- You are required to show up in person at the Irish embassy in Australia but this was not possible. I was able to get my passport sighted and signed by the Australian embassy (there was a fee involved) and from there use it as part of my application.
- You needed to fill in a form with your plans during your stay in Ireland and submit as part of the application.
- There will be other papers required. I usually go to the bank and have it stamped by them just to verify the documents. I didn’t want anyone coming back disputing any of my documentation.
- The process to approve was really quick, though considering the fact that I’ve had to mail the package to the Irish embassy in Canberra. What delayed this by many weeks was that they had to send my package to my address in Australia as they couldn’t send it to a non-Australian address.
- The contact that I had (Ann) was very wonderful and patient with all the questions that I have! I’ve had a couple of instances where embassies don’t even bother answering emails… so a huge applause/bonus to the people at the Irish embassy for being responsive.
- What made my application more delayed than usual was that the package was held up by customs in Vancouver when it was mailed from Australia to Ireland. I ended up having to rebook my flights – though luckily, I was given a full refund of my booking when I explained them my situation. Believe it or not, I ended up getting my package on the day after I rebooked my flights.
- One thing to note with the fee is that the embassy site didn’t include the fee for your GNIB card which is required if you are planning to stay for more than a few months – which is the reason for the visa in the first place. The border officer also stamped me to ‘stay’ in Ireland for a month to get my GNIB appointment even though the next available day was in 6-7 weeks – it ended up not being an issue but this was a big disconcerting at first. I have a blog post dedicated to it here.
Overall, Ireland and living in Dublin has been really wonderful. It has been a culture shock (!) moving from Toronto to Dublin. From the roads, to the housing, to the shops, to the Irish culture (ballads in pubs while drinking Guinness pints and eating Guinness shepherd’s pie!) and all the history of Ireland. I was already here for a few weeks four years before and much has changed since then.
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