Digital Nomad Visa vs. Self-Employed Visa: What’s the Difference?

Last Updated on 22 April 2024 by Brittany

With the flexibility of modern-day jobs, remote workers can relocate to just about anywhere in the world. When researching the best way to move abroad, you may be concerned about the digital nomad visa vs. self-employed visa situation. 

Many more visa options exist for remote workers looking to move to a new country. Finding the right one for you can be challenging, especially with contradicting information online and difficult embassy websites to navigate.

Fortunately, you came across Nomads Embassy: The Worldโ€™s First Embassy for Digital Nomads to finally settle the debate of digital nomad visa vs. self-employed visa once and for all. 

We pride ourselves in sharing verified information about visas for remote workers to help you make an informed decision about your relocation. Plus, our hand-selected local immigration lawyer partners can assist you in applying for your desired visa. 

In this article, weโ€™ll discuss digital nomad visa vs. self-employed visa and which one may be right for your situation. 

digital nomad visa vs. self-employed visa

What is a Digital Nomad Visa?

A digital nomad visa is essentially a temporary residence permit for remote workers to live abroad. 

To be eligible for a digital nomad visa, you must have a remote job and meet a set minimum income requirement, depending on the country. This type of visa does not allow you to engage in local economic activity. 

You must support yourself with your remotely earned income. 

Some digital nomad visas can lead to permanent residency, but most have a renewal limit. This would allow digital nomads to live in the country for one to three years,  on average. 

What is a Self-Employed Visa?

A self-employed visa, sometimes referred to as a freelance visa, allows foreigners to register businesses in a new country while also obtaining a residence permit. 

These individuals would be liable for registering a compliant freelance business in a new country. You can engage in the local economy and cater to local clients with this type of visa.

Self-employed visa holders will be liable to pay local taxes. These visas and residence permits could eventually lead to permanent residency too. 

digital nomad visa vs. self-employed visa

Are Remote Workers Eligible for These Visas?

The number one question when discussing a digital nomad visa vs. self-employed visa is if remote workers are eligible to apply for them. 

With a digital nomad visa, the applicant must work remotely as either an employee, business owner, or freelancer. 

With a self-employed visa, the applicant must be a freelancer willing to register a local business. However, they do not necessarily have to work remotely but do have the ability to. 

Remote employees of a foreign company are not eligible for a self-employed visa.

So, while remote workers are eligible for both a digital nomad visa and a self-employed visa, it all depends on what kind of remote worker you are. 

digital nomad visa vs. self-employed visa

The Differences Between Digital Nomad Visa vs. Self-Employed Visa

While digital nomad visas and self-employed visas may sound fairly similar, there are plenty of stark differences between the two. 

Digital Nomad Visas are Independent of the Local Business Economy

To be eligible for a digital nomad visa, applicants must earn their income from abroad while working remotely. 

In other words, they cannot seek local employment or search for local clients in the country where they hold their digital nomad visa. 

So, digital nomads are independent of the local business economy. However, they do impact the local economy by purchasing local goods, paying rent, etc., which can boost and improve a countryโ€™s economic situation. 

Self-Employed Visas are Dependent on the Local Business Economy

To be eligible for a self-employed visa, the applicant must register a local business in the country to which they wish to relocate. 

So, self-employed visa holders are dependent on the local business economy as they must integrate their businesses into the local economy and cater to local clients. 

Those with self-employed visas directly impact the local economy by providing goods or services to either other businesses or the general public. 

Tax System and Benefits

Taxes look different depending on if you have a digital nomad visa or a self-employed visa.

Some digital nomad visas have no tax implications for remote workers. Others offer tax breaks or incentives for remote workers relocating to a new country. 

When living in a new country with a self-employed visa, you will owe local taxes. While there may be some tax breaks, there will never be an opportunity where you will not owe taxes to the country.

Since self-employed visa holders must register a business in the country, they may be liable for both corporate and personal income taxes. 

Business Formation

If you decide to apply for a self-employed visa, you will likely open and register a local business in the country where you wish to live. 

This could be an excellent opportunity for those solopreneurs and freelancers who are self-driven and want to open a business abroad. However, this is not ideal for remote employees who have no interest in operating a small business. 

Opening a business often involves hefty startup costs, primarily when registering the business, and attracting new clients. 

Freedom to Work Remotely

Both the digital nomad visa and self-employed visa are great for those who want the freedom to work remotely and abroad. 

However, those who apply for a self-employed visa may be limited in just how much freedom they have to work remotely. They may be required to stay in their country for a certain amount of time to work and build their business. 

digital nomad visa vs. self-employed visa
via Unsplash

Which Countries Offer a Digital Nomad Visa?

There are currently over 25 countries that offer official digital nomad visas. Many nations in South America and Europe are welcoming remote workers of all industries to come and experience life in their countries.

Some of the most requested digital nomad visas include:

You can find a complete list of visas for digital nomads here

Which Countries Offer Self-Employed Visas?

There arenโ€™t as many self-employed or freelance visas available as digital nomad visas. However, that doesnโ€™t mean that they are any less valuable! 


Germanyโ€™s self-employed visa can take years to obtain. It requires the applicant to submit a complete business plan to be approved before they can apply for the visa. 

You must also already have customers committed to using your services after you have registered the business in Germany. 


There is a strict quota for how many self-employed visas Italy grants each year. Applicants must submit their resume, education background, and already have their business tax compliant in Italy. 

It can take six months to a year to obtain Italyโ€™s self-employed visa. Applicants must apply for the visa in their country of residence at an Italian embassy or consulate.

Successful applicants will receive a two-year temporary residence permit that is renewable.


To be eligible for Belgiumโ€™s self-employed visa, applicants must prove that their business will have a direct positive impact on the local economy. These positive impacts can include local job creation, be of innovative character, or offer social and cultural value. 

Applicants must apply for a D visa in their country of residence at a Belgium embassy or consulate. 

Successful applicants will receive a two-year professional residence permit, which a maximum renewal of five years.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic zvino visa allows third-country nationals to register a business and live in the country. Applicants must apply for a Trade License and work in one of the specified industries. 

Successful applicants must have Czech clients but may serve foreign clients as well.


Norwayโ€™s self-employed visa states that freelancers must have a contract with at least one Norwegian client that pays the national minimum wage. 

This self-employed visa does allow applicants to bring family members with them. They can also apply for the visa while already in Norway if necessary.


The Netherlandsโ€™ self-employed visa requires applicants to submit a business plan and earn a minimum income of 1,462.41โ‚ฌ per month. 

They must also register a business in one of the selected industries and prove that they have prior experience working in the field. Your business must also provide added value to the Netherlands, which is decided by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (ROV) when you apply.


France also has a self-employed visa for those who work in a liberal profession. Applicants must meet a minimum income requirement based on the industry and profession. You must also submit letters of interest from prospective clients while applying. 

Successful applicants must register a business in France and contribute to the local economy. 

digital nomad visa vs. self-employed visa

Are Digital Nomads Eligible for a Self-Employed Visa?

Yes, digital nomads may be eligible to apply for a self-employed visa. However, they must be freelancers or solopreneurs prepared to open and register a business in a new country and contribute and engage in the local culture and economy. 

A self-employed visa is not ideal for all digital nomads, especially those who are employed by a company. 

Self-employed visas are ideal for digital nomad freelancers and entrepreneurs who would like to settle down in a foreign country and set down their roots. In other words, they would have to give up the nomadic lifestyle in exchange for an expat lifestyle.

Which Type of Visa is Best for Digital Nomads?

For digital nomads who want freedom and flexibility, the best visa option would be an official digital nomad visa. 

These temporary visas allow applicants to keep their current professions while embracing a lifestyle in a new country for a year or two. They are also easier to apply for than a self-employed visa.

Self-employed visas are for those digital nomads who would like to open a business in a foreign country and integrate themselves into the local culture and economy.

However, only you can decide which visa is best for your lifestyle and goals. 

Find the Right Digital Nomad Visa for You with Nomads Embassy

Are you ready to pack your bags and explore a new country for a year on a digital nomad visa? 

Nomads Embassy can help you decide which digital nomad visa is right for you in just 15 minutes! 

With our free eligibility call, we can determine which digital nomad visas youโ€™re eligible for and connect you with our hand-selected immigration lawyers to assist you in your application and relocation abroad. 

Find out which digital nomad visa youโ€™re eligible for today! 

Content created by
When Iโ€™m not writing and teaching people how to achieve a location-independent lifestyle, you can find me globetrotting, experiencing new cultures, and working on my amateur photography skills.
At Nomads Embassy, we independently test and review digital nomad services and provide detailed insights on digital nomad visa applications and requirements using a detailed, multi-step methodology. When you use our affiliate links to make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more about our editorial process and read our full disclosure.
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