Learning how to become a digital nomad in the U.S is interesting because most people go abroad instead. Currently, the U.S does not have a digital nomad visa like other countries. But some people work remotely around the country – including me!
There is much to consider when contemplating a digital nomad lifestyle, from the cost of living to taxes. And deciding to stay in the U.S to do it is no different. So let’s unpack how to be a digital nomad in the U.S to enjoy more location freedom and flexibility.
How much money do you need to be a digital nomad?
The amount of money you need to be a digital nomad in the US, or anywhere else, varies. If you live a more luxurious lifestyle, you will need more money to afford it. And some digital nomad visas do have income requirements.
To understand how much money you need to be a digital nomad, you need to inventory your lifestyle. What are your expenses? If you need extra storage, how much will that cost per month?
Most digital nomads make anywhere between $50,000-$100,000 a year. However, some people live a lot less than digital nomads. Understanding your lifestyle will make this easier to calculate.
Is being a digital nomad legal?
Being a digital nomad is legal. Since it is becoming more common, more countries are starting digital nomad visas to attract digital nomads. But you should consult your job and a tax professional to know what legalities you need to understand to become a digital nomad.
How do digital nomads make money?
There are a variety of ways that digital nomads can make money from their businesses. Some digital nomads are entrepreneurs meaning they have their businesses. Like me, other digital nomads work our 9 to 5 jobs remotely and travel. Then some are freelancers and take on contracts to fund their lifestyle.
Ultimately there are many ways to make money as a digital nomad. As a social worker who is also a digital nomad, I have a more traditional job that I took remotely. But if you are curious about how to become a digital nomad with minimal skills and experience, check out this blog post here.
Tips to consider before being a digital nomad in the U.S
U.S digital nomads are required to file federal tax returns. The U.S has a citizenship-based tax system meaning your taxes are linked to your citizenship and not your residency. You may also have state income taxes and self-employment taxes if you are a digital nomad and entrepreneur.
Taxes can get tricky for employers if you are a digital nomad with a 9-5 job. The tax conversation is why many companies do not entertain digital nomadism. In addition, filing taxes in multiple states can make your job more reluctant if you lose more money in the end.
Hiring a tax professional is your best bet for understanding your situation! You want to avoid getting caught up in a tax mess and owing a lot of money. Check out this post from Greenback Tax Services to learn more about U.S taxes as a digital nomad.
Cost of living
The United States has the 10th highest cost of living in the world. When you are planning to be a digital nomad in the U.S, you need to factor in where you want to live with your salary. Compared to other destinations abroad, the U.S is not cheap, and your money will deplete fast. There are questions you need to ask yourself to know how to be a digital nomad in the U.S.
– What are your monthly expenses?
– How much will health and travel insurance cost?
– Will you want to join a gym with a monthly subscription?
– How much do you spend on groceries? Or will you cook more?
You must create a realistic budget based on your country’s currency and the US dollar conversion. Finances can hold you back to overestimate than underestimate it. A Google spreadsheet, Notion, or Google doc can help you map this out.
Lodging and accommodations
One of the most critical decisions as a digital nomad is choosing where you will stay. You need a comfortable but productive space with good wifi to do your work. Some options you can choose from in the U.S include the following:
– Traditional subletting
– Van life
Considering the cost of living in the U.S, a monthly budget of $2,000 for rent makes sense. However, if you are choosing smaller cities, this number can decrease. And if you choose cities such as New York City or San Diego, be prepared to pay more.
Passport and visa restrictions
At the time of writing this post, there is no digital nomad visa in the U.S. Therefore, remote workers and digital nomads without U.S citizenship need to understand passport and visa restrictions to work in the U.S. Contact your embassy to figure out the legality of coming to the U.S as a digital nomad.
For U.S digital nomads, this is easier because you are from the U.S. You do not have to worry about visas and passport restrictions unless you plan on going abroad.
If you need to know how to be a digital nomad in the US without a car, this tip is for you! Unfortunately, the US is not known for its robust public transportation system outside Chicago, New York, and a few other major cities. Therefore you need to consider what lifestyle you desire – one with or without a car.
You can fly, drive, or take the Amtrak for a digital nomad who wants to travel between cities. However, flights can get expensive, so moving between closer towns may make more sense. During my remote trip around the U.S, I opted for cities where I could use public transportation, walk, or use rideshares.
Diet and food preferences
The U.S is a vast country with many regional and subcultures amongst cities and states. Your dietary restrictions may dictate where you have more options to eat. For example, a vegetarian may struggle in the southern states due to their love of BBQ. Someone allergic to shellfish may need to take extra precautions if they choose to stay in New Orleans.
To balance your expenses and adhere to your food preferences, write meals you can cook into your budget. Choose a location with a variety if you want to take out food some days and cook the others. You should also factor in proximity to a grocery store as a digital nomad.
Where do digital nomads live in the U.S? Here are the top cities.
The U.S is enormous, and most tourists forget that fact. However, there are cities outside of Los Angeles, New York, and Miami where you can work remotely. According to Lonely Planet, the top cities for digital nomads are (1) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, (2) New Orleans, Louisiana, (3) Northern California, (4) Sante Fe, New Mexico, (5) and Glacier National Park, Montana.
However, instead of following a simple list, you should create a list of essential things for you as a digital nomad. For example, do you want to be surrounded by nature? Are you a big-city person? Using your list and comparing it with other lists of the best places to be a digital nomad in the U.S can help you narrow your search.
Pros and cons of being a digital nomad
Digital nomad life is less glamorous than it may seem on social media. While you can work from a beach, most digital nomads work from a co-working space or cafe. Travel can also get tiring, no matter how exhilarating it can be too, and loneliness is real. Read this post on the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a digital nomad.
Is becoming a digital nomad a good decision?
If you are a traveler who loves being on the go, digital nomad life may be the lifestyle for you. You can slow travel in some of the most beautiful countries in the world while working, meet new people, and learn new languages often. You would thrive! If living out of a suitcase does not sound appealing, being a long-term digital nomad would not be a good fit.
You are the only person who can determine if the digital nomad life is a good decision. Researching remote work and digital nomadism is key to deciding if it’s worth considering. But the best way to know is to go!
Have fun and safe travels.
Want to get your digital nomad life started? Read how to become a digital nomad with no experience!