Remote working while traveling

HI everyone,

Is it legally possible for companies to allow you to work remotely anywhere in the world?
I was told that companies can only let you work remotely in states/countries where they have offices. Is this true?

I was thinking in the future, how awesome it would be if I could just travel around the world and just work remotely in hotels.

Legally? No.

You can legally work anywhere in the US (gotta still report for state income tax, but it’s less trackable). Once you’re out of the country, tax becomes a big issue.

Do people still do it? Absolutely.

My company had to send out a lengthy email asking people not to WFH from Mexico a few months into COVID

I work remotely in a state my company does not have offices. It is my home state, so that might make a difference

Coworkers have spent months in other states, but one has a 2nd home, other long term rental, but kids enrolled in school.

As a supervisor I would have issue with work/ vacation balance, and possible IT issues, if not establishing a residence for a period.

Inside of the US you’d have possibly file income taxes in the states you worked in, based on how long you worked there. You’d need to ask an accountant because I think this might vary by state.

Outside of the US you run into more issues. There’s tax stuff, but also your company’s IT might block certain countries. I knew someone who would try to do this often. He went to Australia for a month and had to go through a lot of hoops to be able to log into work from there, because apparently it was on the blacklist of countries.

So, my company’s RTO plans include an allowance for everyone who wants to WFH, when WFH is compatible with duties/team function, to do so.

In the discussion around this, the question came up: can an employee live abroad and WFH. The answer was a fairly hard “no” – the implications for taxes and benefits across international borders are complicated, and a greater burden than HR can justify supporting.

(The only reason it’s not an absolute “no” is that we do have divisions abroad, but even that is a little messy. I functionally work for a team in a different country where I live, but to make it work, I’m formally employed by the division of my company in my home country, and that division contracts my services to the division of the company in the other country. Throw in the implications of differing data security laws on network/file access… It’s a bureaucratic headache.)

That being said, I am aware of a significant number of folks who do work while traveling abroad. While a few of them may be employed by multinational companies that have that sort of capability, I think most of the folks who make it work are formally independent contractors, rather than conventional employees. The tax and benefit headaches get shifted to the employee/independent contractor.

Pretty sure you still need a work visa to work abroad, at least for most countries. And if you’re permanently employed by a company, your employer would need to sponsor you. People lie about that, naturally, and claim to be there for only tourism. That can get you in pretty big trouble if caught.

Then there’s the security issue. Your employer will probably be able to figure out if you’re connecting abroad from a company owned laptop.

Anyway, I wouldn’t take the risk.

if you work in another state for a few months, how would the IRS even know about it?

another country sounds trickier.

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While it varies from country to country (and there are definitely some weird variations), there is latitude in several (many) countries’ laws/regs when it comes to international telecommuting.

For example, in Canada work eligibility requirements only come into play when looking at “Canadian work”, the definition of which is probably best left at the hands of a lawyer, but which seems to be driven by the fundamental question of “are you trying to take a job away from a Canadian citizen or permanent resident”.

An American citizen, living in Canada, telecommuting to an American job generally won’t fail this test. In the eyes of the Canadian government, they’re free to live in Canada without need of a work permit or residency status, as long as they flagpole the border every six months.

There are a few countries that, particularly in light of the rise of telecommuting, that are now granting longer-term visas to digital nomads.

But I think that generally, as long as you aren’t trying to work a conventional domestic job, establish residency, or join domestic social benefit programs, most first-world countries tolerate long-term visitors being physically present in within their borders while telecommuting back “home”.

abroad brings out work visa related concerns. company is invested in you providing work - and the host country telling you to stop immediately for working illegally is a risk your company might not want to endure.

state by state - the vagabond life sounds great but I think actually working in various states means you are earning in them all and you as a taxpayer might have tax burdens in various states. company shouldn’t be as worried about that, unless they somehow owe tax for an employee earning state by state.

The IRS doesn’t really care what state you live in. From the IRS’s viewpoint, if you work in the US or if you’re a US citizen (regardless of where in the world you live), you pay US taxes. Easy-peasy.

The real headache when it comes to state of residence is the conflicting state rules on the subject.

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if you live in one state that has state income taxes but go to another state to work for a while that doesn’t, you could possibly be overpaying taxes if you don’t bother accounting for this.

Yeah, but all states still have a federal income tax, which is all the IRS cares about. The state income taxes are different, and the individual states’ problem to deal with (and yours).

In the Before Times, my travel patterns were such that I spent a material amount of time in a no-income-tax state. I looked into whether I could use that to reduce my tax burden.

I came down on the side that the headache of documenting days worked by state, the potential exposure to taxation by other states I visited, and the likelihood I’d have to waste time arguing this with at least one set of state tax people would more than offset any tax savings I might be able to claim.

(I also became acquainted with the “convenience rule”, the concept that if you’re working in a particular state is for the employee’s convenience, rather than an actual geographic requirement of the employer, that work is exposed to your home state’s taxes. But not every state subscribes to the “convenience rule”, further complicating matters. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some combinations that might expose workers to double-state taxation.)

VISA is not an issue if you’re there for a couple weeks to a month. You’re basically using a travel visa.

What if I book a vacation for a month somewhere in South America but work 2 weeks and spend 1 week as part of PTO?
This shouldn’t be an issue as long as this is not abused right?

Personally, I wouldn’t even care about the legality of something like that. 2 weeks of work while on a rather lengthy vacation? No government is going to care as long as you’re paying US taxes (The US is one of the only countries in the world that taxes it’s citizens no matter what they do, who they do it for or where they do it).

Like others have said, company IT is probably the biggest issue you’ll face. They might not have a VPN set up for working from that country/region or some of their software might not support connections from that region. Ultimately, you probably want to follow company rules. And yes, they can track from where you’re connecting.


The IRS generally doesn’t care because your federal taxes are generally the same in all states. The states and municipality care because they may collect certain state/municipality employment/income taxes from you and your employer as well as being subject to various employment laws that differ from state to state. This is also why your company likely cares within the US, because they are subject to the employment laws which may vary, and be more restrictive, than your “official” state of employment.

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100% against my company’s policy and not allowed.
You have to take all of the time as PTO.

but if the company allows flexible/WFH, would they know you were abroad?

IT would almost certainly know unless you took measures like connecting to the corporate VPN through a private VPN with domestic outlet.

(Given how locked down my work computer is, I’m not certain that would even be possible for me.)

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Have you ever received an email from a streaming service or financial company, or gmail saying “A new device from ‘insert region here’ just accessed your account, was this you?”

They can trace where you are when you access their network. In fact, they can even trace what type of device you used (laptop vs. mobile device; Android vs. Apple, etc.) If you’re taking the extra steps necessary to trick your company into thinking you’re connecting from home, then you’re obviously braking some rules they don’t want you to break, and additionally risk getting locked out by IT if your connection looks suspicious.