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Society

Greece Plans Visas this Summer for Skilled Digital Nomads

ATHENS -Now that tourists are being allowed in during the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, Greece's New Democracy is looking at offering visas to so-called digital nomads who have the electronic skills to work for their companies – or themselves – anywhere in the world.

And that might as well be Greece, the government has said, pointing to the climate, good food and other attributes, and with plans to improve Internet access that had lagged behind other countries, but with 5G coming.

The pandemic has changed the face of work forever, with many companies saying they won't have employees return en masse to offices because they've been able to work just as well, or better, from home.

And home can be anywhere in the world for many businesses that don't require a person's presence in an office or cubicle, which could spell trouble however for skyscrapers in big cities that used to be packed top to bottom with workers.

For all that it offers, Greece is far behind in attracting people to work and live and pay taxes in the country, ranked only 50th among 85 countries in luring the digital nomads, whose numbers are expected to hit one billion by 2035.

The special visa is one answer, the government is said to believe, reported Kathimerini, and a bill will be filed by the Migration Ministry to address it and provide those workers with a sense of security.

Recent research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimated that, if Greece could attract 100,000 digital nomads annually, and if they stayed in the country for an average of six months, the annual net benefit for the economy would reach 1.3 billion euros ($1.58 billion,) almost the same as a week’s stay from 2.5 million tourists. 

While trying to upgrade Internet speeds, the government is rolling out a pitch for people to come by highlighting other advantages, especially being a member of the European Union and access to the region and a speeding digital reform.

The key targets are citizens of the United Kingdom, where many Greeks and expatriates moved to work during a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis that drained Greece of many of its youngest, best and brightest.

With the UK now out of the EU, Greece would be a magnet for those who want to work in a country that's in the bloc and where English is widely spoken. UK citizens who come to Greece will have a visa lasting twice as long as others.

The aim is that these visas, accorded strictly for work outside Greece, will boost the catering, real estate and tourism sectors, while some of the nomads may also choose to move their tax base to Greece, the paper said.

Along with a Golden Visa program offering rich foreigners a residency permit and EU passport for investing, there will be a 50 percent tax write-off for the first seven years of tax residence in Greece.

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