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Digital nomad visas no threat to British talent pools

Last week Spain launched its digital nomad visa, offering foreign nationals the opportunity to work remotely while living in Spain. Could the same work in the UK? And will it affect the UK talent pool?

Yash Dubal, director at AY&J Solicitors, told HR magazine that digital nomad visas may be a draw for British talent.

He said: “On the face of it, the new digital nomad visa looks like an attractive proposition for professionals and freelancers who like the idea of relocating somewhere warm and sunny.”

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He was unconcerned, however, that any such visa would become a ‘brain drain’ on the UK.

He said: “While English is widely spoken in the traditional holiday resorts of Benidorm and Marbella, non-Spanish speakers will find it more of a challenge in the cities.

“And while the lifestyle benefits of sun, sea, sangria and tapas will no doubt be attractive for some, young digital hipsters may also be disappointed when they find the expat community is largely made up of the elderly and retired.”

Croatia, Germany, Costa Rica, Australia and Mexico already have similar visas available, and the UK hasn’t suffered any significant loss of talent as a result, Dubal added.

The visa will, if codified, come into force in the spring, and is aimed at attracting foreign remote workers to many of Spain’s picturesque but economically stagnant towns and villages.

Dubal said: “Whether or not the visa will have the desired aim of boosting talent retention and investment in Spain is another matter. 

“The visa is time-limited, and those eligible can only earn 20% of their income from Spanish companies, so opportunities to network and integrate into the Spanish business community are limited.”

Despite the number of countries introducing digital nomad visas, David Blackburn, CPO at the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, told HR magazine he was unsure that Britain would gain an advantage by introducing its own.

He said: “In a hugely competitive, increasingly personalised recruitment environment, employers will be looking to maintain an advantage – and flexibility is central to that. 

“Whether digital work visas are the answer remains to be seen.”

The most important thing, Blackburn added, is that employees feel connected to the social purpose of their organisation. “Being a ‘nomad’,” he said, “is very much focused on the individual as opposed to the collective.”

Dubal added: “Certainly people will try out the Spanish option, and some will use it as a stepping stone to residency, but it will be a niche option for a small percentage of freelancers.”