Coronavirus: Can I work from home overseas?


A woman on the beach with a laptop

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Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, more of us have been getting used to working from home. With social distancing measures still in force, some companies have suggested workers may not be back in the office until 2021.

So if you’re getting bored of the same four walls, are you allowed to pack up your home office and work remotely from another country?

Can I go anywhere?

Because of the pandemic, not every country is letting in people from the UK right now.

Australia and New Zealand, for example, have closed their borders to anyone who isn’t a citizen or permanent resident.

Many countries have other restrictions. For example, in order to enter Cyprus, a negative coronavirus test result needs to be presented on arrival.

If you fancy the Caribbean, however, this option is more straightforward. Barbados has announced a one-year visa for working remotely that you can apply for online before you travel. It costs $2,000 (£1,500), or $3,000 if you want to take your family with you.

You can find rules for each country on the Foreign Office website.

Do I need to tell my boss?

Yes. Working abroad can cause all sorts of tax and employment problems for your employer, says Tom Marsom, an immigration lawyer at Macfarlanes.

“If you don’t tell your employer what you’re doing, you may be in breach of your employment contract, and if a tax bill turns up – you could end up having to pay it,” he says.

It varies from country to country but after a period of time (usually about 90 days) a country could decide you now have to pay tax there.

For some countries, that could be tax on all of your income even if you’re paying tax in your home country.

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Another problem could arise if more than one person from the same company decides to relocate to the same country. If that happens, the tax authorities might decide you’ve set up an office there – and that could have tax and legal consequences for your employer.

So if you’re going for more than a couple of weeks, you’re definitely going to want to get advice from a tax lawyer or it could become a very expensive trip.

Do I need a special visa?

Whether you need a visa depends on how long you’re likely to be there, says Mr Marsom.

“Checking your emails whilst you’re on holiday is probably ok – as is having the odd meeting. But when you’re going to be there for weeks, even months, then a country could say, ‘This isn’t a holiday any more,'” he says.

If you want to stay in Europe, the rules are relatively straightforward. From now until the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020, UK nationals still have the right to live and work anywhere in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Official figures suggest about three-quarters-of-a-million Britons of working age currently live in an EEA country .

If you move before the end of the transition period, you should be able to stay afterwards. But you will need to ensure that you’ve registered that you’re living there. The rules for anyone arriving from 2021 onwards are still being worked out.

Outside the EEA, each country has its own visa rules.

What do I need to know about the coronavirus?

What about data protection?

Working from home from anywhere can cause all sorts of data protection headaches, says Sharon Tan, a data protection partner from law firm Mishcon de Reya.

This is especially true if you’re going to be outside the EEA for a long time. That’s because a company could be accused of transferring data internationally – in breach of data protection laws.

Ms Tan says companies need to get proper advice to make sure they won’t be breaking the law.

What else might I have to pay for?

Generally, travel insurance only covers you for short trips abroad – even if it’s an annual policy. So you’ll need to think about how you’ll pay for medical bills while you’re away.

Also, if you’re given private medical insurance as part of your job, it won’t usually cover you outside the UK.

If you’ve got a company car, you need to ask your company if you can take it abroad with you – and there may be paperwork.

If your salary is still paid in the UK, you may incur costs trying to access that money while abroad.

Many banks charge a fee of around 3% to withdraw money abroad – and if you’re paying rent or taxes locally this could get quite expensive. All this is before you take into account the latest exchange rate.

Are you working from abroad? Or are you an employer who encourages your employees to work from abroad? Tell us about your experience by emailing.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist.

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