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Digital Nomads: The changing world of migration, mobility and work

A man working on his laptop on a beach

The Digital Nomads project aims to examine the growing phenomenon of digital nomadism, where remote workers who are not tied to a physical location for their employment choose to live outside of their country of origin. The project will investigate the emerging and changing trends and patterns of digital nomadism, including their impacts and implications from a migration studies perspective, as well as the responding policies and programs that are emerging around the world.  Specifically, the Digital Nomads project will:

  • theorize the migration-mobility interface of digital nomadism from a migration studies perspective,
  • explore the policy implications of digital nomadism and the emergence and role of a range of state and non-state actors in the governance of digital nomads and remote workers,   
  • investigate the racialized, gendered, passport- and citizenship-based, and other intersectional  experiences of digital nomads, including the impacts and implications of digital nomadism for local host communities.

The first stage of research examines the intented outcomes of government programs aimed at promoting digital nomadism, asking:

  1. what explains the proliferation of the digital nomad visa programs in countries around the world?
  2. what do countries intend to achieve through their digital nomad programs – i.e., are they to generate revenues and employment, attract and retain tech workers, or offer a new pathway to permanent residency? What are the results of digital nomad visa programs to date?  

Against the backdrop of two dominant perspectives of digital nomads – as either a privileged class of ‘powerful’ passport-holding transnational workers or a new group of underclass workers who trade their precarity at home for the flexibility to travel across the world – the research at the second stage asks:

  1. is digital nomadism predominantly a phenomenon of the privileged from the western world? To what extent do people from the Global South partake in digital nomadism?
  2. what are the gendered, racialized, citizenship-based and intersectional experiences of actual and prospective digital nomads?

Though digital nomadism is not entirely a new phenomenon, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought it to the limelight. Paradigm shifts in the modalities of work and employment during the pandemic appear to have firmly established the trends of remote work, potentially giving rise to digital nomadism. As per an report by MyBizOffice (MBO), 16.9 million workers from the United States alone in 2022 described themselves as digital nomads, including 11.1 million salaried workers.

Countries around the world are increasingly responding through digital nomad visa programs to capitalize on these transformations, though with different policy aims. Within a short span of two to three years, over 50 countries have devised their immigration policies to attract digital nomads, or remote workers, while many others are in the process of doing so. For example, Canada – as part of the Tech Talent Strategy – is currently creating its digital nomad strategy, with the aim to promote itself as a desirable destination for digital nomads. The emergence of digital nomad programs and the pace at which they have been embraced by countries are indeed intriguing phenomena.

Digital nomadism is at odds with the traditional notions of migration and mobility, and work and employment. It also poses questions for the social contract between citizen and nation-state and raises important policy questions in multiple other areas, such as taxation, healthcare and social security. However, there exists limited migration scholarship on digital nomadism and related issues. The limited academic research conducted so far on digital nomads remains largely confined to the disciplines of tourism management, hospitality and leisure studies. This is indeed a missing link that demands investigation of digital nomadism from a migration studies lens.

Engaging with critical theories, the questions will be answered through: 

  • content analyses of newly emerging policy instruments such as digital nomad visas, and remote work-related immigration programs,
  • thematic analyses of qualitative data gathered from policymakers and government officials, informants from various intermediary-like agencies and digital nomads themselves,
  • surveys among digital nomads and remote workers.

Under the first stage of research, data analysis on digital nomad visas has been completed and a journal article manuscript is undergoing a review process. For the second stage, ethics application has been approved by the Research Ethics Board at Toronto Metropolitan University, and data collection is currently underway.   


KC, H. & Triandafyllidou, A. (2023) Canada’s digital nomad program could attract tech talent — but would they settle down? (external link)  The Conversation

Dreher, N., & Triandafyllidou, A. (2023).  (PDF file) Digital Nomads: Toward a Future Research Agenda.

Upcoming publications

KC, H. & Triandafyllidou, A. (Under review). Digital nomad visas: a migration or tourism policy? International Migration Review (Special Issue).

KC, H., Dreher, N. & Triandafyllidou, A. (Under review). Digital nomads as temporary transnational migrant workers: disruptors of traditional migration governance. In J. Hennebry, M. Gordon & S. S. Carignani (eds). Handbook on Temporary Migration. Edward Elgar Publishing. 

Fall 2024

CERC Migration

Digital nomads; digital nomad visa; digital nomadism; migration and mobility; remote work; temporary migration; future of work