Once upon a time, back in ancient history, ‘work’ was a place we’d GO to trade time for money.
Today, work is what we DO. And for the typical location-independent solopreneur, the place we go may change again and again!
When you use Estonian e-Residency to form and operate your business, you can run it from anywhere: your business stays permanently located in a single, compliant EU country.
But when it comes to your own location, the rules vary wherever you go. Depending on the power of your passport, it might not be as simple as landing in a new country and working in your business from there — at least, that was the case before digital nomad visas came along.
Historically, digital nomads often moved in a legal limbo, operating in a gray area where they weren't technically allowed to work in a foreign country, but they weren’t employed locally either. Even though an industry of supporting services often arose in global digital nomad hotspots, many stayed under the radar of immigration officers, by taking ‘extended holidays,’ and hiding their laptops at checkpoints.
The advent of digital nomad visas has provided a more stable foundation, and gives remote workers peace of mind to settle, sometimes for a number of years, in their chosen location. Indeed, many may arguably be better described as ‘remote work visas’, specifically encouraging longer stays, even a route to permanent residency in some cases.
Terms and conditions vary greatly from one country to another, with a certain amount of digital arbitrage now in play — for the first time, different nations can compete to attract immigrants with professional incomes, to spend locally. The common idea is that they provide a legal means for foreigners to live somewhere new, if they bring the work and income with them, for a longer period than a typical vacation.
The benefits to countries issuing digital nomad visas are great. To bring wealth into their settlements, cities and states would previously have had to offer tax breaks to attract businesses to invest in commercial or manufacturing premises. Today, many low GDP locations are rich in terms of natural beauty and resources, and now they can develop their economies sustainably and creatively, welcoming a new kind of long-term guest to stay.
That means you, the digital nomad.
Digital nomad visas present a unique opportunity for freelance remote workers to live and work legally in different countries, opening up a world of possibilities in terms of cultural experiences, lifestyle choices and professional networking.
While the specifics of each country's digital nomad visa can vary, they generally allow for an extended stay, ranging from six months to two years, and provide legal status to work remotely for overseas employers or operate an online business.
These visas offer digital nomads stability and the chance to become "slow-mads," long-stay nomads who spend more time learning about the local culture, "instead of treating host countries as temporary distractions" (as one Julien Tremblay put it). It's a symbiotic relationship that sees countries attracting new ideas and talent, and nomads enjoying the benefits of a regulated status, offering them more security and peace of mind.
There are also frequently attractive tax breaks and statuses on offer to attract the most sought after remote workers, as countries seek to leverage their best assets and policies.
In return, there are of course typical conditions on the visa applicants, such as having no criminal record, and often requiring proof of quite high income or investment up front — as these programs are often specifically designed to avoid the visitor either taking work from a local person, or becoming a financial burden to the hosting country,
As the trend of remote work continues to rise, the number of countries offering digital nomad visas is also expected to increase, presenting even more options for freelance remote workers to choose from. But in the rest of this article, we’ll explore some of the main and most interesting offers, to tempt you to toss your laptop into a carry-on bag and spin the globe under your fingertips…
While citizens of the EU already enjoy the right to live and work across 27 countries, there are now a huge range of options for those further afield, to enjoy the diverse cultures, cuisines and landscapes of the European continent, both within and outside the EU-Schengen zone.
Of course, we have to start where it all began:
While digital nomad visas are completely different from e-Residency, there’s one significant common factor: Estonia leads the way, and others follow!
Estonia's pioneering Digital Nomad Visa (DNV), introduced in August 2020, marked a significant evolution in global work mobility with Europe’s first-ever visa of this kind. Designed for freelancers and remote workers worldwide, it allows them to live in Estonia and legally work for a foreign employer or as a freelancer (for non-Estonian clients) for up to a year under the Type D Visa.
The eligibility criteria include having an active employment contract with a company registered outside Estonia, conducting business through a foreign-registered company, or working mainly as a freelancer for clients mostly outside of Estonia. Applicants must also demonstrate they have the financial means to support their stay — at least €3,504 gross income per month for the six months preceding the application.
As with similar programs, applicants must provide proof of income/employment (including remote status), health insurance and a criminal record check. After 183 days, you will become a tax resident in Estonia (though the country has extensive double taxation agreements worldwide).
The DNV has seen a considerable uptake, aligning with the growing remote work trend. Freelancers, entrepreneurs and tech professionals from across the globe have been attracted by Estonia's digital infrastructure, ease of doing business and unique blend of Nordic, Russian and European cultures. Furthermore as digital nomads are (most unusually) allowed to work locally, this truly promotes integration and professional growth.
Estonia’s digital nomad visa, and e-Residency programs, have set a standard that numerous countries are now seeking to replicate worldwide.
The visa fees for Malta’s Nomad Residence Permit are €300 for the main applicant and an additional €300 for each family member.
To be eligible, there is a minimum income threshold of €2,700 per month, with additional sums for dependents.
Income tax and social security contributions for digital nomad/remote work visa holders in Malta depend on individual circumstances. Extensive Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) relief is available.
The digital nomad resident permit in Malta is valid for one year. Applicants must pass a background verification check and meet requirements, including having a work contract or offering freelance/consulting services to clients in a foreign country, holding a valid travel document, having health insurance coverage for risks in Malta, and submitting a valid rental/purchase agreement.
While there are no specific work restraints or limitations, the applicant must have a work contract with a foreign employer, be a partner/shareholder in a foreign-registered company, or offer freelance services to clients with permanent establishments overseas. The permit can be renewed twice, allowing for a maximum stay of three years, at the discretion of the authorities.
Croatia’ Temporary Stay visa was another early starter, opening its borders to digital nomads at the start of 2021. It is very affordable to apply for, starting from €80, though there are typical minimum income thresholds.
One big advantage is that digital nomad/remote work visa holders in Croatia are not subject to income tax or social security contributions on income earned through employment or work conducted for a party not registered in Croatia, based on the acquired status of a digital nomad. However, the digital nomad/remote work visa in Croatia is valid for a maximum of one year.
It allows digital nomads, remote workers, and freelancers to stay in the country. The applicant must be a third-country national working for a company registered abroad. Standard requirements include a completed application form, proof of travel purpose, a valid passport (notarized and translated if not in English), health insurance coverage for the entire stay, marriage certificate if applicable, address of stay in Croatia, and proof of sufficient funds to support themselves.
Note: a lot of digital nomads without the right paperwork used to hop over the border from the EU when their Schengen days ran out - but this no longer works, as Croatia joined the free travel zone (and the euro) in January 2023. So, you’ll need a visa, if your passport is non-EU.
Let’s remember that not all of Europe is in the EU, and indeed outside of Schengen the costs of living might well be more affordable as a base.
To qualify for the brand new digital nomad/remote work visa, you must demonstrate income of at least three times the minimum wages in Montenegro, which is approximately €1,350. However, digital nomad/remote work visa holders in Montenegro are exempt from paying personal income tax if they earn as freelancers serving abroad, and social security contributions are also not applicable, under recent changes in the Montenegrin Personal Income Tax Law.
Applicants for the digital nomad resident permit are required to have a clean criminal record and must submit a police clearance or non-conviction proof from their native country.
The digital nomad/remote work visa in Montenegro is valid for two years, with the possibility of renewal for an additional two years. The applicant is bound to reside in Montenegro according to the basis for which the temporary residence was granted — in other words, you remain with your agreed foreign work, you cannot take a local job.
Standard requirements for the digital nomad/remote work visa include a valid passport or travel document, proof of purpose of stay, proof of payment of consular fee, a colored photo, income documentation, valid medical insurance, proof of accommodation, and proof of employment with a foreign company or one's own company not registered in Montenegro. The temporary residence permit is open to applicants of all nationalities.
Spain’s long-awaited digital nomad visa remains very new and untested, with costs varying depending on the starting point of application.
Despite considerable hype to the contrary, most visa holders will be subject to standard Spanish tax resident rates. Few applicants will be eligible for the Special Tax Regime (colloquially called Beckham’s Law, after terms negotiated on behalf of a certain footballer.) The usual qualifier for this is that you must be hired by a Spanish employer (like Real Madrid!), which legally contradicts some terms of the digital nomad visa itself…
Confused? Welcome to Spain!
Further complications arise around social security coverage, with US and UK applicants in particular so far hitting brick walls when it comes to avoiding paying twice, due to document incompatibility. For employees in particular, while a boss might give the required written permission to work remotely, they probably won’t want to pay more every month to support that.
For freelancers it may be more straightforward, however there is a stated requirement to prove professional qualifications in your field of expertise, and to earn at least 80% of your income from non-Spanish sources. The income threshold is set at 200% of the country's monthly minimum wage and proof must be provided. Currently, this amounts to €2,334 per month or €28,000 per year, but this is under review.
Digital nomads may also be able to come to Spain under the self-employment visa (with a strong business plan required), and in the past some have used the non-lucrative visa - however a requirement for this is that all income is passive, and you do not need to work at all.
All in all, Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa still feels like a work in progress. Some people have definitely obtained it, since applications opened in March 2023, but many others remain frustrated. Whatever happens, you will probably need professional support to apply, and it might be worth waiting a little longer.
If you love the Iberian climate but can’t face the Spanish application process, Portugal offers two types of digital nomad resident permits: the Residency Nomad Visa and the Temporary Nomad Visa. The visa fees for these permits are €90 and €75 respectively.
To qualify for the digital nomad/remote work visa, the applicant is required to have a monthly income equivalent to at least four times the Portuguese minimum wage, which is approximately €2,820 or US$2,750 per month.
If a digital nomad/remote work visa holder stays in Portugal for more than 183 days in a year, they may be considered a tax resident and subject to income tax. The country has Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) relief available, which can provide tax benefits based on individual circumstances.
Criminal checks are required for the visa application, including a criminal record from the applicant's country of residence and any country where they have resided for over a year. Minors under 16 years of age are exempt from providing these documents.
The Residency Nomad Visa is initially issued for a period of 120 days and is then converted into a residence permit. On the other hand, the Temporary Nomad Visa is issued for a duration of 91 to 356 days, but it cannot be extended or converted into a residence permit.
It’s worth mentioning that Lisbon in particular has seen some pushback against digital nomads, in a similar way to Mexico above. With visitors of all durations pushing accommodation prices through the roof. It’s easier to blame the cohort who were not visibly there pre-pandemic, rather than greedy landlords or happy holidaymakers.
In addition to those explored above, there are further digital nomad visas available through the EU in Cyprus, Greece, Germany, Denmark, Hungary, Latvia and Romania. They all offer variations on the theme, of demonstrable foreign income at a minimum level, and proof of working and earning online.
Italy and Latvia also have different kinds of visas in the pipeline, to attract remote workers and digital nomads, and Albania’s is launching as we go to publication.
Because some attractive tax breaks are on offer, this has created some geoarbitrage within the union itself, and potential applicants need to bear in mind that a visa is a travel entitlement document first and foremost. EU citizens cannot get a digital nomad visa to another EU country for more favourable tax status, because they are already entitled via their passport, to live and work there.
Remember also that not all EU countries are within Schengen, and there are other options - such as the Bulgarian Freelance Visa, and Iceland’s Long Term Remote Work Visa.
Are you tempted by the stock photography of digital nomads working on gorgeous white sandy shores, while waves lap softly at their feet? Be careful, as sand in the keyboard can invalidate your manufacturer's warranty, and you might be a long way from the nearest Apple Store!
Accommodation costs can be of great value away from tourist hotspots, though you will want to carefully check vital factors like broadband speeds. Things are changing fast, as these former resorts wake up to the benefits of a different kind of traveler, and many of these small countries are keen to entice working visitors to enjoy all their natural beauty, and lifestyle can be as attractive as the palm-fringed beaches.
Many Caribbean nations are now offering digital nomad visas, including Aruba, Curaçao, Bermuda and Saint Lucia.
Let’s take a look at…
Anguilla offers a digital nomad visa called the Remote Work Program. The visa fees are $2,000 for individuals and students, and $3,000 for a family of four. There is no minimum income threshold or income tax for digital nomad visa holders. They are also exempt from social security contributions.
The visa is valid for 3 to 12 months, and applicants must be self-employed or have employment outside of Anguilla. Requirements include a completed application form, proof of employment or business incorporation, police record, proof of relationship to dependents, vaccination and COVID-19 test records, medical insurance, and customs compliance.
Barbados offers the Welcome Stamp Visa for digital nomads, and this was one of the first such schemes created in 2020. It has been hailed by the government as a resounding success, and many applicants have been very impressed with turnaround times of 7 days (not guaranteed.)
Visa fees are $1,500 for individuals and $2,250 for families. There is a minimum income threshold of $50,000 per year for visa applicants.
There are some tax and social security requirements to satisfy, but digital nomad visa holders are exempt from personal income tax and social security contributions, and there are double tax agreements in play.
Background checks are required for the visa application. The visa is valid for 1 year and is limited to remote work for companies and individuals outside of Barbados — you must bring your work with you, and provide proof of that income. Requirements include photographs, passport documents, proof of relationship, and healthcare insurance coverage.
The digital nomad/remote work visa in Cayman has a visa fee of US$112.20 or CI$92, payable to the Cayman Islands Government. There are minimum income thresholds based on the number of dependents.
Digital nomad visa holders are not subject to income tax or social security contributions. However, there is no Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) relief available in the country.
Criminal checks are required, and applicants must provide a clean Federal criminal record within the past 6 months. The visa is valid for 2 years and applicants must provide proof of employment with an entity outside of Cayman. Standard requirements include a passport copy, bank reference and statement, health insurance coverage, and evidence of marital status or civil partnership.
Costa Rica’s visa is unusually affordable, costing only US$100. To be eligible, applicants must meet a minimum income threshold of US$3,000 per month. If traveling with dependents, the requirement increases to US$4,000 per month.
One advantage of the digital nomad/remote work visa is that it exempts holders from income tax in Costa Rica. Additionally, there are no social security contributions required for foreigners under this visa category. However, applicants must provide proof of a medical services policy that covers them and their family members for the duration of their stay, with minimum coverage of US$50,000 for in-country medical expenses.
The digital nomad/remote work visa is valid for one year and can be renewed for an additional year. While holding this visa, individuals are not allowed to work for a Costa Rican employer or contractor. Standard requirements for the visa application include a completed request form, payment receipt, passport information, bank statements and proof of income. Dependents' documentation, such as marriage or union certificates and birth certificates, may also be required, and there is a criminal record check.
Dominica’s WIN (‘work in nature’) Extended Stay Visa allows individuals and families to live and work remotely in Dominica for up to 18 months. The visa fees for individuals are US$800, while families are charged US$1,200. If a business applies for the visa for four or more employees, the fees are US$800 plus US$500 for each additional employee.
To be eligible for the digital nomad visa, applicants must have a minimum income threshold of US$50,000 per annum. While holders of this visa are not subject to income tax in Dominica, there are some tax requirements in the country. Similarly, there is a social security requirement in Dominica.
Applicants are required to obtain and present police records from all jurisdictions they and their dependents have lived in the past five years. Individuals holding this visa can only work and earn income from outside countries.
Standard requirements for the digital nomad visa include being at least 18 years old, having no criminal record, and providing proof of income. Additional documentation such as passports, proof of relationship with dependents, a letter of employment, reference letter from the bank, bank statements and a credit report may be required. Health insurance coverage for the duration of stay is also necessary.
Proof of employment is required for those applying as employees, while non-employed travelers need to present up-to-date bank statements and a credit report.
While the Caribbean is part of the American region, there are so many countries and conditions there that we thought it deserved its own section. Much of the Americas (with the notable exception of the USA) welcome foreign remote workers.
In addition to those detailed below, remote working visas of various kinds are on offer by Argentina, Ecuador, Belize, Colombia and Panama.
Canada does not have a specific digital nomad visa, but individuals can work remotely in Canada using a visitor visa or an electronic travel authorization (eTA) for up to 6 months. The visa fees for these options are CA$100. While there is no minimum income threshold for the digital nomad/remote work visa, it is generally advised to have a minimum of $7,000 to $10,000 available in bank statements.
Remote workers in Canada may be subject to income tax obligations. Non-resident employees performing their duties remotely in Canada may trigger Canadian withholding, remitting and reporting obligations for their non-resident employers. However, foreign employers can apply for non-resident employer certification to be exempt from withholding and remitting tax if workers are exempt from tax in Canada under a tax treaty.
Social security contributions may be exempted for foreign workers from countries with social security agreements with Canada. Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) relief is available in the country. Criminal checks are required, and applicants must not be involved in criminal activities, organized crimes or human rights violations.
Although the initial duration is quite short at 6 months, applicants can apply to extend their visitor status from within Canada. Work restraints/limitations specify that individuals must work for a foreign entity, be paid and managed by that entity, and not provide services to a Canadian entity.
Standard requirements for the digital nomad/remote work visa include a clear copy of a valid passport, bank account statements for at least 6 months, documents showing the intended duration of stay, proof of vaccination, sufficient funds for the duration of stay, and the potential need for a temporary resident visa or an electronic travel authorization based on nationality. Processing times for a visitor application may also impact the right to remain, as some travelers have noted.
The Brazil digital nomad visa (sometimes called RN 45 locally due to the regulation number) allows immigrants to work remotely for a foreign employer while staying in Brazil for up to a year. The visa fees for this category are €110. To be eligible, there is a minimum income threshold of US$1,500 per month or a bank balance of US$18,000.
Digital nomad visa holders in Brazil are subject to income tax. Once a foreigner holding a temporary visa spends 184 consecutive or non-consecutive days within any 12-month period in Brazil, they are considered a tax resident and liable for worldwide taxation. Tax residency triggers the collection of income taxes, and a Tax ID (CPF number) is required for tax purposes.
Social security contributions are not mandatory for temporary visa holders without a labor contract or visitors in Brazil, even if they become tax residents. Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) relief is available, but specific limits and requirements must be met.
Criminal background checks issued within 90 days are required for the visa application. The digital nomad visa is valid for one year and can be renewed for an additional year. Applicants must be immigrants who can work remotely for a foreign employer while in Brazil.
Standard requirements for the digital nomad visa include passport-sized photographs, recent criminal records, a birth certificate, proof of financial independence, medical and travel insurance, a declaration to perform professional activities remotely, and employment documentation from the foreign employer.
Availability is not universal either, and there are country restrictions. However, Brazil does have agreements with many other countries — including all EU countries — to stay for up to 90 days visa-free.
Mexico offers two visa categories for digital nomads: the FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple) permit and the Temporary Resident Visa. The FMM permit is valid for 180 days, while the Temporary Resident Visa is valid for 1 year and can be renewed annually for up to 4 years. After 4 years, individuals can apply for a permanent resident visa.
The visa fees for the Temporary Resident Visa include a US$48 interview fee and government fees for the Residency Permit card, which is updated each year and currently amounts to MXN$4,735.
To meet the minimum income threshold for the Temporary Resident Visa, individuals must either have investments or bank accounts with an average monthly balance equivalent to 5,000 days of the general minimum wage (approximately $864,350 MXN for 2022) or a monthly income free of liens greater than the equivalent of 300 days of the general minimum wage (approximately MXN$51,861 for 2022).
The tax liability for digital nomad/remote work visa holders in Mexico depends on their tax residency status. Tax residency is triggered when an individual has a place of abode (home) in Mexico or their main center of professional activities is located in Mexico. Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) relief is available in the country.
Digital nomad/remote work visa holders in Mexico are not subject to social security contributions, assuming they do not have a labor relationship with a Mexican entity. Criminal checks are not required for this visa category.
Note: Parts of Mexico have become so popular with digital nomads, especially from the US, that there is evidence of a local backlash against the impact on the cost of living and potential exploitation. Solopreneurial nomads are reminded to be culturally sensitive and polite visitors, wherever they go.
Once your feet have developed the itch, and perhaps once you have cut your remote working teeth on somewhere familiar, you might want to plan a trip further afield.
Now we’ll tour across Africa to see what many of their countries have to offer in newly-developed nomad permits:
Off the coast of Senegal, the archipelago nation of Cabo Verde offers a vibrant digital nomad culture blended with the laid-back vibe of island life.
To qualify for the Cabo Verde digital nomad/remote work visa, there is no specific minimum income threshold. Instead, the applicant must demonstrate an average bank balance for the last six months of €1500 for individuals and €2700 for families. Fees include a processing fee of €27.8 and an additional airport tax fee of €30.88, totaling €58.76.
Digital nomad/remote work visa holders in Cabo Verde are not subject to income tax or social security contributions. The country has Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) relief available, which can provide tax benefits based on individual circumstances.
Applicants are required to provide an official background check from their country of residence. The digital nomad/remote work visa is valid for six months. The applicant is allowed to work and earn income only from outside countries. Business Visa holders have the option to work in the country for up to 90 days.
Standard requirements for the digital nomad/remote work visa include a valid passport, proof of income and means of subsistence, bank statements demonstrating the required average balance, travel and health insurance, and proof of accommodation. Proof of employment is required for employees. The visa is only available for applicants from Europe, North America, the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), and the Economic Community of West African States (CEDEAO).
If mainland Southern Africa entices you, then take a look at what Namibia has to offer. To qualify for the digital nomad/remote work visa, there is a minimum income threshold of US$2,000 — a bit more with family members, but it’s more accessible than many minimums, and the visa itself is only $124.
Furthermore, digital nomad/remote work visa holders in Namibia are not subject to income tax or social security contributions. The country has a Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) relief available, which can provide tax benefits based on individual circumstances.
Applicants are required to provide an original police clearance from their country of origin, translated into English. The digital nomad/remote work visa is valid for up to six months, during which the applicant may not be allowed to work in the local markets of Namibia.
Standard requirements for the digital nomad/remote work visa include a duly filled application form, valid passport or travel document, valid health or travel insurance, proof of required funds, clearance certificate from the country of origin, medical certificate, radiological report, marriage certificate (if accompanied by a spouse), birth certificate (if accompanied by a child), bank statement of the past six months, a motivation letter issued by the employer, copies of qualifications, and police clearance from the country of origin. Proof of employment or source of income from outside Namibia is also required.
Africa offers exciting new horizons for digital nomads, with digital transformation proceeding apace, and many schemes already in hand. Improving internet speeds, a range of living costs and standards, and the ability to work in European timezones are all major advantages.
Mauritius, Morocco and the Seychelles already have programs you can apply for, and South Africa has a digital nomad visa in the works, which may be available later this year.
Digital nomad visa programs of varying flavors can be found in Indonesia, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the UAE and the Kyrgyz Republic. Asia has so long been a destination for Western nomads, that certain parts have reached cliche status in some circles - but their beautiful surroundings have been attractive for good reason.
Furthermore there are many countries where digital nomads are welcome for prolonged stays with few visa requirements at all, so don’t let the absence of a formal programme discourage you.
You may find accessible options simply called something different like ‘Remotely from Georgia’ - with no fees, and no visa required by citizens of 95 countries. The neighboring caucuses of Azerbaijan and Armenia are similarly welcoming, so long as you pick one (as a stamp from the other in your passport is problematic).
In the rapidly evolving landscape of remote work, the rise of digital nomad visas is a game-changer for location-independent professionals. These visas have opened up doors to a world where geographical boundaries no longer limit the ambitions and opportunities of talented individuals. As we conclude our exploration of digital nomad visas, it is time to reflect on the growth and potential of this movement, and the exciting future that awaits borderless business worldwide.
What started as a niche trend has now transformed into a global movement, with countries competing to offer the most favorable conditions for digital nomads — another parallel with the Estonian-inspired growth of e-Residency schemes!
This growth has been fueled by the realization that location-independent workers can provide significant value to both their home countries and the destinations they choose to live and work in. Digital nomads inject fresh perspectives, diverse skill sets and entrepreneurial energy into local communities, driving innovation and economic growth.
Looking forward, we can only anticipate further expansion of digital nomad visas and the proliferation of remote work opportunities. As technology continues to advance and connectivity becomes increasingly seamless, the world will become a truly interconnected network of individuals and businesses.
It all began with Estonian e-Residency, and that’s something to be proud of, wherever your work life takes you tomorrow.
Maya Middlemiss is a freelance journalist and author, excited about the future of work, business, money, and technology. She operates her e-resident business through Xolo Leap, so that she can work frictionlessly with brands and publications all over the world, and she is the host of the Future is Freelance podcast. Exploring the social impact of technology on our changing world, and bringing those stories to life in an accessible and inclusive way, is her passion — because all of this is far too exciting to leave it to the geeks. Maya is a 'digital slowmad', originally from London, presently living with her family in Eastern Spain.
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