Digital Nomads Are Tourists

Digital Nomad, Traveller, Expat are just a few states that someone can be in at any one time. Yet it is not even official terms that governments in immigration and border control use like:

  • Citizen
  • Permanent resident
  • Temporary resident (other types)
  • Foreign exchange student
  • Worker (on temporary business visit)
  • Worker (on a special extraordinary ability permit)
  • Worker (humanitarian grounds)
  • Worker (unskilled labor)
  • Tourist
  • Refugee
  • Illegal Alien
  • And so on, and so on.

Digital nomad is just some made up term that could easily be in any of those ‘official’ categories. A digital nomad can be a temporary resident, a foreign exchange student, a tourist, someone on a temporary business visa or a citizen if they are nomading in their own national jurisdiction. However it’s common knowledge that once outside their own national jurisdiction, many are merely just tourists, living and working under the guise of tourism. The only way to break out of this is to go underneath other visa categories – temporary resident, working holiday agreements, start-up visas, freelance visas and so on.  Ironically, but only if you believe in the shallow definition that a digital nomad must always be on the move, you might think it difficult to comprehend a nomad who is also setting down roots to meet non Tourist visa arrangements.

One of the discussions that I’ve run into in the past is that a digital  nomad, to be considered one, must always be on the move.  They must not have roots.  They must not worry about all those pesky normie stuff that involve having any form of residency like bank accounts, rental contracts, tax numbers.

The problem here is that we have to function and live within existing systems of the worlds.  And of those systems is the Almighty Immigration and Border Control System. There is no way around it.  In my mind, I’m one of those carefree digital nomads.  But officially…I’m a tourist in Paris, I’m a temporary resident for non-taxation purposes in Makati, I’m a temporary resident for taxation purposes in Berlin, I’m a permanent resident in Canada, I’m a citizen of Australia, I’m a non-resident citizen of Australia visiting New Zealand and so on and so forth.

Even if you are a digital nomad couch-surfing it and going to those special Digital Nomad meetups, working in some cool co-working are a tourist.  You are on the same category as the sightseeing-on-a-bus, overpriced-hotel tourist types.  Unless of course, you figure out how to hack the immigration and border control system in place and find a way to make things work for you in the long term without being a complete slave to the visa systems in place in this world.

And by the way, I suspect that the nomads who are strict with the rule of constant movement probably are doing so out of complete necessity – in order not to overstay in their host country, they have no choice but to be on the move.  Where is the freedom in that type of life?