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Should the UK introduce a digital nomad visa?

Italy has introduced a new visa aimed at remote workers looking to live in Italy for up to a year

Italy's digital nomad visa opened to applicants last week.

The new visa permits highly skilled workers from outside of the European Union and Switzerland to work in Italy for up to a year, and is open to both freelancers and payrolled employee.

Applicants must have at least six months' of experience in the industry they intend to work in, and they must have a minimum income of €28,000, which is triple the salary required for exemption of Italian healthcare costs. Applicant must also have been a remote worker or digital nomad for at least six months previous to applying.

They must cover health insurance for the length of their stay, and provide proof of accommodation. 

Successful applicants can apply to renew the visa at the end of the first year.

Read more: Digital nomad visas no threat to British talent pools

Masha Sutherlin, director of global corporate legal and mobility for the hiring platform Deel, told HR magazine that introducing a digital nomad visa could help attract talent to the UK.

She said: "Right now, the UK visa process is highly complex. This makes attracting the entrepreneurial and tech talent into the market much more challenging.

“People can’t be bothered with the administrative and financial burden when they could go elsewhere at greater ease.  

“If the UK is to effectively compete with other markets in terms of talent attraction, the implementation of a digital nomad visa in the UK, with our own set of clear guidelines, could allow prospective talent to ‘try before they buy’.”

She continued: “It would enable individuals to move to the UK for a short period of time, before committing to the process of lengthy long-term visa applications.

“A digital nomad visa may also help entice fully remote tech workers, a group currently not covered by a dedicated visa in the UK. This solution would allow the government to regulate remote workers while attracting top talent.” 

Read more: Cost of living could see remote workers stay on the move

Jonathan Beech, managing director of immigration law firm Migrate UK, pointed out that it is unlikely that the UK would implement a similar scheme.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Although it is a scheme fit for the times, especially as sponsorship can be seen as expensive and complex for employers, it is doubtful that the UK will engage with this as other non-sponsored routes are available, and net migration figures are high.”

Beech noted that this was due to abuse of previous non-sponsored schemes and the availability of other non-sponsored visa routes –  including high-potential individuals, graduate visas and youth mobility – that allow talent to live and work in the UK for up to three years.

He continued: “The above schemes have strict and non-ambiguous qualifying criteria. 

“One of the reasons why the UK’s most open and well-used non-sponsored routes, the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, was axed is because it was open to abuse due to subjective criteria.

“The government may well view a digital nomad scheme in the same way. For example, how is a digital nomad defined? How do you measure work experience and who can vouch for your previous remote work status?”