Is Malaysia, Thailand or Indonesia the best place in Southeast Asia to become a digital nomad?
- According to a June report by the Migration Policy Institute, more than 25 countries globally offer remote work visas
- Currently, only three countries in Southeast Asia offer visas specifically for digital nomads: Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia
Applications for Malaysia’s DE Rantau Nomad Pass opened on October 1. Applicants to Malaysia’s digital nomad visa are required to have an annual income of at least US$24,000. It costs 1,000 Malaysia ringgit, or US$215, to apply for the visa.
The visa allows remote workers to stay in Malaysia for up to 12 months, with a three-month minimum stay requirement, according to the Malaysia Digital Economy official website. It can be extended for up to 12 additional months, and the spouse and children of remote workers are also allowed to live in Malaysia during the course of the visa’s validity.
Not all digital nomads are eligible for the visa – only freelancers and independent contractors who work in digital industries like IT and online marketing, and remote workers who are employed by non-Malaysian companies, are eligible.
Thailand launched the Long-Term Resident Program in September, which is meant for four categories of foreign applicants: “Wealthy Global Citizens,” “Wealthy Pensioners,” “Highly-Skilled Professionals,” and “Work-from-Thailand Professionals,” according to the visa’s official website. Remote workers can apply under the last category.
Applying for Thailand’s visa from inside the country will set you back 50,000 baht, or around US$1,320.
The visa includes tax exemption on income earned overseas, but it comes with strict requirements. Remote workers need to have an annual income of at least US$80,000 for two years before application, per the visa website.
If applicants don’t meet this criteria, they must have at least a master’s degree, intellectual property, or in the case of business owners, received Series A funding.
Applicants must also be employed by a company that’s publicly listed on a stock exchange, or if employed by a private enterprise, it must have a combined revenue of at least US$150 million in the three years before the visa application.
And that’s not all – remote workers need to have a minimum of five years working experience in the “relevant fields of the current employment.”
Indonesia launched a remote work visa on October 25. The “second-home” visa allows eligible foreigners to legally stay in the country for either five or 10 years, according to a press release by Indonesia’s Directorate General of Immigration.
Visa applicants are required to have proof of funds of at least 2 billion Indonesia rupiahs, or US$130,000, per the press release. The money must be placed in Indonesian state-owned banks.
Visa holders must pay a non-tax state revenue of 3 million Indonesia rupiah, or around US$193. The visa allows foreigners to conduct investment-based activities to “contribute positively to the Indonesian economy,” which is not listed on the B211A visitor visa.
The press release did not state if visa holders are subject to income taxes.
Indonesian tourism minister Sandiaga Uno said in an Instagram post in September that digital nomads could work remotely under the B211A visitor visa, as cited by Reuters. But remote work did not officially appear as a valid activity under the visitor visa, according to Indonesia’s immigration website.
According to Indonesia’s immigration website, the B211A visa restricts visitors from taking up employment in Indonesia, but it’s unclear if this includes remote or digital work.