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I am self-employed as an indie game developer and would like to visit New Zealand and Australia to do some touristing.

  1. Can I work on my projects (programming/design/online marketing/support) while visiting another country, say New Zealand or Australia?
  2. Can I do that for a month-long visit? What about longer periods: 90 days, 6 months?
  3. Can I do that under a regular tourist visa or do I need a different visa?
  4. Do I need to worry about taxes?

Not as important, but:

  1. Does the answer change if I (a) take on any (online) freelance work or (b) hire out some (online) freelance work while there?

Note that I am a US citizen. Also, assume things will return to the pre-COVID normal and the travel will take place long after the pandemic is over.

Similar questions, but asking about the UK: Can a US citizen live and work remotely in the UK for a month? (answer is no?) and Japan: Can a US citizen work remotely for a US company while in Japan for sightseeing? (conflicting answers, but it also seems like a no?).

  • @Midavalo thank you, I had not seen that one. It does not quite answer my question though, because it seems some countries have additional restrictions for when a person is self-employed. None of the answers on that question address the freelancing part, i.e. not being able to point at a company and say "I work for them". – Sirius 5 Jun 22 at 19:13
  • Your "Not as important" section is probably just as important, if not more so. If you take on local freelance work you are definitely "working", and if you hire out (subcontract) to a local, no matter which country you are in. Of course, local laws apply so you might well find conflicting answers to other questions. – Weather Vane Jun 22 at 19:25
  • @WeatherVane I realize it is actually important. I did not want that to be the focus of the question though. That is also why I specified online freelancing. – Sirius 5 Jun 22 at 19:31
  • Nobody here is going to help you evade local laws by being "online". It is very important whether or not the work does involve local people. Working remotely probably isn't the real issue, as commented below there is a big difference between working remotely, and affecting the local labour situation. – Weather Vane Jun 22 at 19:35
  • "Nobody here is going to help you evade local laws by being "online"" -- definitely not asking for that. My assumption is that if I was looking online, that the chances of the work being local would be greatly reduced. Though that is something I'd have to keep an eye out for. – Sirius 5 Jun 22 at 20:14
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Can I work for my usual employer remotely while on holiday in New Zealand?

Yes. As long as the primary purpose of your visit to New Zealand is ‘holidaying’.

If holidaying will be the main activity that you will be engaged in throughout your time in New Zealand, it would not be an issue to work remotely from time to time in relation to your usual overseas employment while holding a visitor visa.

The only time working remotely would become a problem is if a New Zealand citizen or resident were being deprived of a work opportunity.

Working remotely means working away from your place of employment and communicating by telephone or by email.

https://www.immigration.govt.nz/knowledgebase/kb-question/kb-question-16164

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  • This comes closest to answering my question. Good find. Thank you. – Sirius 5 Jun 24 at 12:12
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For most countries, the answer is no, a non-citizen cannot work there legally unless they apply for and receive an explicit permission to work in the given country. That might take form of a specific visa type, work permit, work-study program, endorsement etc.

There are exceptions, most notably the EU (a citizen of any EU country can work in any other), but they're uncommon.

That said, very few places prioritize catching and punishing people who take care of some of their business online while staying there for a few months. As long as you keep a low profile, don't tell anyone and don't do business directly with the locals, you should be fine. However, if you live somewhere for several years or get into trouble, at some point you might get questioned about where your income comes from.

Tax questions are almost impossible to answer without getting into many details about your unique situation. Generally, I wouldn't worry about local income taxes if staying somewhere under 6 months per year, but don't take this as definitive advice. Note that US citizens need to file taxes with the IRS even for income earned outside the US, but there are certain exemptions available.

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    "For most countries, the answer is no" - I think this statement is ignoring the fact that this question is about remote existing work that isn't taking the jobs of the citizens of those countries, and the rules where "the answer is no" may not actually apply. Do you have anything to back-up your "no"? – Midavalo Jun 22 at 18:53
  • @Midavalo, if you know about any exemptions in labor laws of any country allowing foreigners to do "work that isn't taking the jobs of the citizens" without specific permission, please list them. Generally, labor laws are written broadly and predate the widespread availability of online work, so such clauses are rare. It would be easier to find one or two counterexamples than to conclusively prove a general statement. – dbkk Jun 22 at 18:59
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    In most countries this would technically be seen as working in that country and avoiding paying tax, hence the answer NO is a good starting point. – Simson Jun 23 at 5:41
  • @dbkk That is precisely what the info from the NZ Immigration dept says (see the answer by Moo), and I believe the Australian govt treats it in a similar manner. I know for a fact that Mexico is the same. The statement "for most countries the answer is no" needs a source to back that up. – Midavalo Jun 23 at 23:08

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