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Monday, October 19, 2020

Covid-19: These special visas are helping tourism-dependent nations bring back visitors

While Thailand plans to welcome tourists back to its shores amid Covid-19 through a 'special foreign visitor' visa, other nations like Barbados, Estonia, Georgia are offering a 'digital nomad' visa.

Written by Abhishek De , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: October 5, 2020 10:09:45 am
Tourists sit to dine on a 500 meter long table set on the medieval Charles Bridge, after restrictions were eased following the coronavirus pandemic in Prague, Czech Republic (AP)

With planes on the ground, hotels closed and borders sealed, several tourism-dependent nations lost one of their main sources of revenue almost overnight as Covid-19 pandemic forced governments to impose stringent lockdowns. However, to jumpstart tourism, popular destinations are now coming up with special visas to open their doors to foreign visitors.

While Thailand plans to welcome tourists back to its shores and enjoy its pristine beaches through a “special foreign visitor” visa that will let travellers stay for 90 days, other nations like Barbados, Estonia, Georgia are offering a “digital nomad” visa, targeted at the new breed of remote workers or “half-tourists”, to get their economies back on track.

Thailand

With tourism accounting for an estimated 12 per cent of its GDP, Thailand is set to reopen for tourists in October for the first time since it closed its borders to international visitors in late March. Aimed at long-staying tourists, the special tourist visa scheme (STV) will allow travellers to stay in the country for 90 days and can be extended up to 270 days. The government hopes to generate $3,78,668 through this scheme.

However, all tourists have to quarantine themselves for 14 days at a certified hotel or hospital. Besides, Thailand is also offering a “wellness quarantine initiative” where foreign visitors can stay at certified small-scale spas, five-star hotels or premium wellness centers.

According to The Bangkok Post, quarantine hotels in Bangkok and Phuket are offering quarantine packages ranging from 28,000 THB to 200,000 THB per person. After the quarantine period, visitors can travel around Thailand upon installation of a special mobile phone application that will track their location.

Cost of STV visa: 2000 baht for 90 days (nearly Rs 4,700; $64). Initially, 1200 STV visas will be issued per month.

Length of stay: 90 days. The visa can be renewed two times, making the total length of stay possible for up to 270 days.

STV visa requirements: Covid-19 negative certificate; proof of medical insurance that covers up to $100,000, proof of a stay equaling 90 days or more (this will include apartment rental contracts, hotel bookings, lease of a condo etc).

Bike taxis parked in Roemerberg square, that is usually crowded by tourists, in Frankfurt, Germany (AP)

Barbados

Who can ignore the tempting prospect of working from a beach! To revive its tourism-dependent economy, Barbados has launched a 12-month Welcome Stamp Visa allowing remote workers to relocate to the Caribbean island for a year. However, the scheme is only for those with an expected income of at least $50,000 in the next 12 months.

To apply for the visa, tourists need to submit documents like passport, copy of birth certificate and answer questions about the nature of work on a dedicated website. For those planning to go with family, the Welcome Stamp Visa will cost $3,000 and for solo travellers it is $2,000. Visa-holders will not have to pay Barbados Income Tax. The government has assured that it will take under seven days to get approval for the Welcome Stamp.

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People watch as a Russian tourist land on the beach after paragliding, in the Olympos area, about 100 kilometers west of Antalya, Turkey (AP)

Estonia

Estonia, where tourism contributes nearly 8 per cent of GDP, launched a Digital Nomad Visa scheme last month aimed at luring remote-working employees, freelancers and contractors. The scheme will allow stay in Estonia for up to one year at a time, however, only those having an income of 3,500 Euros per month can apply. Besides, a visitor has to show proof of an active employment contract with a company registered outside of Estonia or work as a freelancer for clients mostly outside of Estonia. Estonia is estimating around 1,800 people will apply for the new visa.

Georgia

Georgia is offering tourists then opportunity to work amid the backdrop of the Caucasus mountains through its Digital Nomad Visa program called “Remotely From Georgia”. The scheme is at present open for travellers from 95 countries (including USA, Canada, UK) and will allow tourists to stay for at least 180 days and up to one year.

To apply for the visa, tourists will need to show a minimum monthly income of at least $2000 and proof of health insurance for the entire duration of the stay. The government says the visa processing will take just 10 days. Upon arrival, tourists have to quarantine at one of the 19 pre-approved hotels for 12 days.

Czech Republic

Similar to Georgia and Estonia, the Czech Republic is offering a zivno visa for those wishing to work in the country remotely and take a tour of its stunning medieval castles and its capital city Prague. While the visa costs $217, a visitor needs to show proof of at least 124,500 CZK (nearly $5,400) in their account. Moreover, a document showing accommodation arranged at least for a year needs to be submitted.

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