(CNN) — Whereas most European Union nations have saved their borders sealed in opposition to non-European guests through the pandemic, Croatia has been welcoming arrivals from the US and plenty of different international locations.
Summer time noticed it enable nearly anybody to trip on its stunning Adriatic shoreline and revel in its beautiful islands and the “Recreation of Thrones” metropolis of Dubrovnik. Even now, non-EU guests are welcome, supplied they take a look at or quarantine.
Now Croatia is making it simpler for individuals who need to keep longer — tweaking its immigration legal guidelines to grant one-year residency permits to distant digital employees from exterior the European Union, supplied they do not require vacationer visas to enter.
Whereas different locations resembling Dubai have paid a value for holding their borders huge open, Croatia is satisfied encouraging long-term tourism is a winner.
The brand new guidelines started on January 1, and the primary candidates have already arrived.
On January 15, American Melissa Paul had the surprising honor of changing into Croatia’s first official digital nomad underneath the brand new regulation. Since then, she has been caught up in a flurry of media interviews by nationwide dailies and tv networks.
“I’ve really been a distant employee for 15 years now, proudly owning my very own firm, however contracting with firms all around the US, UK, and Mexico,” she tells CNN.
Paul, a advertising and marketing guide who produces web sites, weblog articles, newsletters and manages social media for artwork and design, occasions, wedding ceremony and hospitality companies, had already skilled life in Croatia previous to receiving her one-year allow.
Soulful high quality
Melissa Paul is Croatia’s first official digital nomad.
Courtesy Melissa Paul
“Once I moved to Croatia, being a digital entrepreneur allowed me to proceed to make a dwelling whereas dwelling and touring across the nation and Europe,” she says.
Paul initially moved to Croatia along with her American-Croatian husband, whose dad and mom hail from the island of Krk. When the couple divorced, she realized she did not have many choices to proceed dwelling in Croatia as a resident. However the brand new regulation opened a window of alternative.
She is now working her enterprise from her kitchen desk in a home within the walled hilltop city of Labin on the Adriatic peninsula of Istria, in northwestern Croatia.
“Labin has a soulful high quality,” she mentioned of her new residence. “From the pleasant folks, the massive variety of working artists right here, in addition to the combo of historical past, tradition and trendy business. All in a wonderful, central location. It is excellent for me and I like it extra day by day.”
European-style paperwork was one thing Paul was already acquainted with, however the utility course of nonetheless concerned a paper chase.
“I knew that the extra ready I used to be, the higher,” she says. “However there have been many paperwork I had to offer detailing the work I do, the place my shoppers are, and proving my firm is energetic, I’ve the monetary means to work independently, medical health insurance and a spot to reside. Since I’ve been a location-independent employee for years, this was all simple for me to offer.”
Paul sees her prolonged keep in Croatia as a chance to get to know the nation higher and expertise it firsthand, “not in a rush of days however slowly savored over months or years.”
A lift for the vacationer business
Croatia presents a Mediterranean way of life with greater than 1,000 islands.
STR/AFP through Getty Photos
The thought to introduce a residence allow for digital nomads was the brainchild of Jan de Jong, a Dutch entrepreneur and investor dwelling in Croatia since 2006.
In July, he posted an open letter to Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on LinkedIn, declaring the potential financial perks of welcoming distant employees.
Plenković acquired the message and, after consultations with De Jong, related adjustments to immigration regulation have been adopted in December 2020.
For de Jong, welcoming digital nomads as long-term vacationers is a win-win.
“Croatia is a secure nation with a Mediterranean way of life many digital nomads will discover engaging,” he says. “It is a very heat and welcoming nation and the hospitality of the folks is nice.
“Then there’s the local weather, superb nature and over 1,000 islands. Folks communicate nice English. Additionally there’s good Web and simple journey connections with the remainder of Europe. Lastly, life is reasonably priced right here.”
On the identical time, this new potential for year-round tourism might increase struggling native economies and Croatia’s vacationer business, which has been hit by the pandemic regardless of the open-door coverage.
Locals renting out vacationer lodging and new companies catering to digital nomads are set to money in.
“Effectively-paid digital nomads will spend their revenue right here which will likely be nice for the companies business,” says de Jong. “Additionally, via the VAT they pay on all the pieces they purchase, they’re going to be offering extra income.”
Historical past and assets
Cut up, on the Dalmatian shoreline, is a well-liked vacation spot for vacationers.
DAMIR SENCAR/AFP through Getty Photos
Mexicans Ariel Medel and Claudia Sau have been dwelling in Cut up since November 2020. Quickly after settling into this historic seaside metropolis on the Dalmatian coast, they heard of the federal government’s digital nomad plans.
Medel has been a contract comedian guide artist, illustrator and graphic designer for the previous 15 years. The attraction of working as a digital nomad grew because the couple made prolonged visits to Europe twice a yr.
“I feel changing into a digital nomad was a pure step to take, provided that I like to journey and find out about different international locations’ tradition and historical past, an curiosity that my spouse shares with me,” he says of their determination to use for the allow.
The couple has already explored the capital Zagreb, the place they first arrived. They then moved on to the seaside cities of Zadar, Šibenik and Pula. As for a lot of long-term vacationers, the traditional port of Cut up held the best attraction.
“We determined to remain in Cut up as a result of in addition to being a wonderful metropolis on the coast, and having lots of historical past, it is sufficiently big to have all of the assets we’d like with out it being too huge,” says Medel.
From Singapore to Zagreb
Jane Tor plans to maneuver to Croatia from Singapore after touring along with her dad and mom.
Courtesy Jane Tor
After making an prolonged cease in Croatia this previous fall, long-term traveler Jane Tor from Singapore has hatched a plan to return in March 2021. This time, along with her laptop computer in tow, she’ll apply to remain long-term as a digital nomad.
Tor works for a tech firm main and managing tasks with startups working within the schooling, fintech, digital advertising and marketing and journey industries.
“I arrived in Croatia the primary week of October, solely as a result of I had been in Albania earlier than that, and could not fly into any EU international locations with out going via Croatia,” says Tor. “My preliminary plan was to remain for 2 weeks, which stretched out into 84 days.”
She was drawn by the Croatian shoreline and the alternatives for windsurfing, diving and climbing. Her enthusiasm attracted her dad and mom, who joined her on a five-week trip.
Collectively they explored the turquoise lakes and waterfalls of the nationwide parks of Krka and Plitvice, a UNESCO World Heritage Web site. The coastal metropolis of Zadar was a spotlight.
“Coming from Singapore, a sunny island that is additionally a metropolis state, I am drawn to being near the ocean,” she says. “I get pleasure from strolling quite a bit, so strolling alongside the ocean in Zadar was superior. You possibly can stroll for a number of hours from one port to the opposite, ending at a sundown bar.”
Although Zadar can be her most popular place to reside out her digital nomad expertise, Tor is scoping out a transfer to Zagreb.
“I favored strolling round its previous city within the fall and watching the colours change,” she says. “And I like the native markets in each city. Going there day by day to purchase native produce was a pleasant routine. Croatia can be sufficiently small that I may be on a quiet island inside two or three hours of driving from Zagreb.
“I undoubtedly need to discover the islands round Zadar and Cut up, take up kitesurfing and do extra climbing.”
In comparison with Singapore, Tor finds Croatia much less crowded and less expensive to reside in. She was additionally in a position to join with expat communities that encourage new companies.
“I’ve solely met nice folks in Croatia, particularly from the tech business, which I am from,” she says of her first expertise there.
Professionals and cons
Jane Tor says she finds Croatia cheaper and fewer crowded than Singapore.
Courtesy Jane Tor
The professionals and cons of every nation seeking to appeal to digital nomads is a sizzling matter on on-line boards.
Croatia has loads of pluses — it doesn’t require nomads to pay revenue tax and the residence allow is legitimate for one yr, though extensions require one to go away the nation for six months.
Some, nevertheless, discover the police examine requirement to be an additional problem.
Sara Dyson of Expat in Croatia presents one-on-one consulting to anybody contemplating a transfer and has seen an uptick in inquiries from digital nomads.
“The one grumble to this point is that the digital nomad allow doesn’t put folks on a path to everlasting residence or citizenship,” she says. “However this allow is at present the best choice for a third-country nationwide to use for residence.
“If somebody nonetheless needs to return to Croatia, this drawback would not dissuade them. If somebody is contemplating another nation, then it’s giving them pause on whether or not Croatia is the appropriate alternative.”