Photo: Google

By JUAN DE JESÚS BREENE

They have been called covid foreigners, gentrification agents, traveling professionals and freelancers. These digital nomads have discovered Mexico and are here to stay, at least for now.

Social scientist Olga Hannonen, from the University of Eastern Finland, defines these nomads as those “who work while traveling and travel while working.

“Digital nomadism is driven by important societal changes, such as the ubiquity of mobility and technology in everyday lives and increasingly flexible and precarious employment,” Hannonen writes.

In 2021 in Mexico, about 140,000 temporary resident visas were issued or renewed, coupled with 68,000 foreigners in Mexico with permanent resident visa.

It is hard to know how many digital nomads are in Mexico since Mexico does not offer this type of visa. Many simply overstay their tourist visa, while others entered as temporary residents.

That they are in Mexico is certain. BBC News reports that these “covid foreigners” live in a bubble, but are having a massive impact on Mexico City in the Roma and Condesa neighborhoods.

As they move in, the neighborhoods change to meet their needs with more restaurants and cafes where a hardware store may have once been — not to mention, pushing both residential and commercial rents through the roof. The effect ripples out with those who leave in search of more affordable rents, impacting the new “desirable” neighborhoods like Juárez, Nápoles and Cuauhtémoc, where the ripple repeats.

Other countries have taken advantage of this phenomenon, especially those dependent on tourism, by creating a visa status between that of tourist and that of a temporary resident.

Digital nomad visas are travel authorizations that legalize the status of workers on the move. Like tourist visas, they are easy to obtain. They allow long stays.

The digital nomad visa allows its holder to work during their stay in the country, provided they do so independently and remotely. The worker must prove digital nomad status, as well as financial solvency, for the duration of the stay abroad. This is done by proving financial independence with bank and income statements. Some countries also require proof of health insurance.

Mexico no longer automatically authorizes 180-day visas to tourists. The alternative is a complicated outside-of-Mexico appointment based interview in the home country consulate to obtain temporary residency for a year.

Countries like Germany, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Norway and Portugal all have a middle-of-the-road visa, which can be obtained on line, usually good for one year.

In Latin America, only Costa Rica and Panama have these intermediate-type visas, which allow the extended stay traveler to open a local bank account and use the home country driver’s license.

Having surpassed Spain as the country with the highest percentage of its federal budget dependent on tourism, Mexico needs to wake up and make it easier for these travelers to spend their money in Mexico.

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