It was the realm of the travel blogger, penning their latest post from the lofty heights of a mountainside hotel and getting paid for their stay. Or the lifestyle guru who ran a multimillion-dollar business from their laptop, as they sipped mojitos from a hammock in the Maldives.

Remote working was the exception, rather than the rule. Then COVID happened and suddenly remote work was all the rage. The pandemic forced companies to accept that many (if not most) of their team could be just as effective working remotely than they could in-person. Workers made it through the stress and trauma of maintaining their workload while battling cabin fever and rising anxiety and found they weren’t willing to return to the office. At least, not all the time. Businesses were forced to shift to hybrid or remote models of working to retain quality talent. And after long months and (for some) years of lockdowns, these newly empowered remote workers naturally looked to the horizon and wished to be elsewhere.

Portugal, Digital Nomads and the Uber Wealthy

While the turning tide of remote work gave rise to workcations and new, alternative lifestyles, those looking to escape the confines of their native country were swept away on a tide of location mobility. For many, the ticket to their new life was a Golden Visa, an appealing option for the uber-wealthy enabling them to move to the bright and sun-kissed realms of Portugal, gaining an extra passport or a foothold on the path to citizenship, in exchange for a hefty investment in the Portuguese economy (largely by purchasing real estate or job creation).

Golden Visa schemes have become incredibly popular, particularly in the US, and the desire to gain that extra passport and ticket to a lifestyle of freedom in the sun isn’t abating any time soon. According to Knight Frank’s 17th annual wealth report, 13% of ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) individuals are seeking citizenship in another country or a second passport.

While the report is defining ‘UHNW individuals’ as people with a minimum net worth of $30 million, it’s not only the uber wealthy who have been flocking to Portugal thanks to schemed designed to encourage the cream of the crop from other countries to settle into Portuguese life.

Portugal’s Digital Nomad visa is giving remote workers the opportunity to make Portugal their second (or even permanent home). And while the government has called time on the Golden Visa we were comforted with the knowledge that the Digital Nomad visa wasn’t going anywhere, any time soon.

Despite this, and the fact the boom in digital nomad culture appears to have only just begun, Portugal may not be seeing much more of an influx from this source.

Golden Visa’s End Triggers Mass Exodus

The Golden Visa has proven particularly popular with US citizens over the last few years, as UHNW individuals from the states found themselves facing intense political divisions, rising costs of living and travel restrictions. All of this has fuelled an epidemic of wanderlust driving thousands to Portugal.

At the same time, low living costs and an idyllic lifestyle has proven too tempting for the digital nomad searching for a place to rest. To both the uber wealthy and the wandering remote worker Portugal represented a safety net; a place life could be enjoyed in peace, quite, and paradise-like settings. Compared to their homeland, life was cheap yet luxurious.

The announcement of the end of the Golden Visa has sparked something in this community of expats, which has expanded to include a broader demographic, including those concerned about future border lockdowns, and remote workers looking to move to another country.

While Portugal’s Golden Visa program has skyrocketed in popularity, becoming a kind of status symbol sought by the uber wealthy, other countries have begun offering similar programmes. In the wake of Portugal announcing the end of the Golden Visa, applicants are surging to other countries, including Dubai, Singapore, and Turkey, as well as Hong Kong and Germany.

The appeal of programmes like the Golden Visa and Noman Visa was freedom; a life lacking in complications yet brimming with potential. While it’s understandable the cancelation of the Golden Visa program would force would-be applicants elsewhere, what was perhaps unexpected was that the growing community of digital nomads would join the wealthy in a mass exodus of Portugal.

It would seem there is concern that cancelling one form of visa does not bode well for others, and rather than building a life in a country that may not want them later in the year, remote workers are looking for Wi-Fi hosting and a different way of living elsewhere.

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