Best South American Countries for Freelancers (TAX, VISAS, & more)


Disclaimer: Please note that this article contains general legal information and doesn’t contain legal or tax advice, and isn’t intended to constitute legal or tax advice.


Wondering how it would be to freelance in South America and dive into a mix of interesting and authentic cultural experiences, coupled with a warm climate and cheaper living costs?

I’ve found the 3 best South American countries for freelancers and digital nomads with some great benefits, including low costs of living, new, unique visa programs, low taxes, and more. Discover the right South American freelance-friendly country for you!

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The 3 Best Freelancing Countries in South America

Argentina – Latin American Cultural Powerhouse

Buenos Aires, Argentina
CapitalBuenos Aires
CurrencyArgentine peso (AR$)
Tax Rate For Freelancersfrom 5% up to 35%
Capital Gains Tax Rate15%
Cost of Living$700~/month
HDI 202247th/186
Doing Business 2020126th/190

Argentina is the second-largest country in South America after Brazil. It borders Chile to the south and west, Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, and Brazil, Uruguay, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east with a coastline stretching for 4,700 km (2,900 miles).

Argentina’s official language is Spanish. According to the English Proficiency Index (EPI) 2021, Argentina ranked 30th (out of 112 countries surveyed) and 1st out of the 20 Latin American countries with a general ‘high proficiency’ score. English still isn’t widely spoken in Argentina, especially outside large urban and tourist centers. However, there are much more English speakers in Argentina than in other Latin American countries.

In 2022, Argentina ranked 47th on the Human Development Index (HDI) out of 191 countries included on the list. HDI ranks countries by summarising average achievements in three key components: a long and healthy life (longevity), access to knowledge (education), and a decent standard of living (income per capita). Argentina rates 40 positions higher than Brazil and Colombia.

The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report ranks Argentina 126th in terms of “Ease of doing business”, 141st in the “Starting a business”, and 170th in the “Paying Taxes” category out of 190 countries. Argentina has a complex tax system with overlapping taxes, however, it still places higher than Brazil when it comes to the ranking’s Paying Taxes category.

Note that in 2021, World Bank Group management announced the discontinuation of the Doing Business report following accusations of data manipulation among others as a result of pressure from Chinese government figures. While this isn’t believed to have affected all listed countries, it’s worth mentioning.

If you’ll operate your freelance business as a sole proprietor registered in Argentina, your income will be taxed at a progressive rate, ranging from 5% to 35% (as a tax resident). When operating a freelance business as a company formed in Argentina, the corporate tax rate ranges from 25% to 35%.

Learn about sole proprietorship vs LLC and find out which business structure to adopt as a freelancer.

If you’re a short-term visitor who wants to work remotely from Argentina, there’s another newly-introduced option for you to consider. Argentina is the second country in South America to create a new type of residency visa for digital nomads (regulations available in Spanish). 

The digital nomad visa offers a specific residency status for individuals who are:

To apply, you have to submit the following to the National Immigration Office:

  • Your resume documenting your work, educational experience, and qualifications,
  • A document proving your work relationship (i.e. your freelance contract, non-Argentine employment contract, etc.),
  • Proof of income earned from, or fees charged to, non-Argentine sources,
  • A reference from at least one non-Argentine employer or client.

If you’re a national who requires a tourist visa to enter Argentina, you aren’t eligible to apply for a digital nomad visa. Here you can find more information and apply for a new visa for digital nomads in Argentina.

Digital nomads visa can be issued for an initial period of up to 180 days, i.e. half a year. It’s possible to extend the visa once for the same duration, provided that you’re physically present in Argentina for at least 50% of the validity period of your initial visa.

IMPORTANT: Generally, in the case of staying in any other country on this list for more than 183 days in a year, all your income may be subject to that country’s taxation. It’s crucial to verify with a tax specialist whether you can make use of an existing bilateral agreement with your home country to avoid double taxation or whether other regula­tions apply. Argentina has entered into double taxation treaties with 20 countries/territories (currently a few treaties are pending ratification) to prevent double taxation.

Argentina also provides remarkable biodiversity. Apart from thousands of miles of shoreline, the country offers vast plains, deserts, tundra, forests, as well as high mountains, and rivers. Its diverse geography is often grouped into four major regions: the Andes, the North, the Pampas, and Patagonia.

This also means that Argentina stretches across many different latitudes and offers significant climate variations within its borders. Its diverse range of climates transitions from the almost tropical north to the temperate climate of Argentina’s capital city Buenos Aires, and the Pampas.

If you’re into hiking, Patagonia will be a welcome destination, with jaw-dropping sites such as jagged glaciers, frosted snowy peaks, and glittering turquoise waters.

Brazil – Mega-diverse Nomad Wonderland

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
CapitalBrasília
CurrencyReal (R$)
Tax Rate For Freelancersfrom 0% up to 27.5%
Capital Gains Tax Ratefrom 15% up to 22.5%
Cost of Living$800~/month
HDI 202287th/186
Doing Business 2020124th/190

Brazil borders Uruguay to the south, Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia to the southwest, Peru to the west, Colombia to the northwest, and Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana to the north. This means that Brazil shares a border with every South American country except Ecuador and Chile.

According to the English Proficiency Index 2021, Brazil ranked 60th (out of 112 countries surveyed) and 12th out of the 20 Latin American countries with a general ‘low proficiency’ score. English isn’t widely spoken outside of bigger cities, although Portuguese can supposedly be learned quite quickly!

In 2022, Brazil ranked 87th on the Human Development Index (HDI) out of 191 countries included on the list, which is 40 positions lower than Argentina.

The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report ranks Brazil 124 in terms of “Ease of doing business”, 138 in the “Starting a business” and 184 (!) in the “Paying Taxes” category out of 190 countries. Brazil’s poor ranking comes in particular from acute bureaucracy, political uncertainty, a complex tax and legal system, including both tax collection and reporting, and high levels of corruption.

As a freelancer thinking about being based in Brazil, you should know that the Brazilian bureaucratic environment, including the legal and regulatory system, is considered one of the most overtly complex in the world. This can make running and operating a freelance business in Brazil challenging.

On the one hand, there has been some progress in digitalization caused mainly by the Covid pandemic, although it has also resulted in more legal changes and less predictability.

As a self-employed tax resident in Brazil, you will be taxed on your income at progressive rates varying from 0% to 27.5%. If you decide to operate as a company incorporated in Brazil, you may consider forming a Limited Liability Company (Sociedade Limitadas, LTDA). Corporate income tax for domestic companies in Brazil is assessed at the fixed rate of 15% on annual taxable income.

To start your freelance business in Brazil, you’ll have to choose between the available tax regimes, depending on your business revenue, size, and business activity. One of the tax regimes is Simples Nacional, which is applicable to Micro and Small Companies. Its biggest benefit is grouping together a series of complex municipal, state, and federal taxes and lowering their rates compared to paying them separately.

However, if you’re more interested in short-stay options (without forming your business in Brazil), you can apply for a visa for digital nomads to work remotely in Brazil.

On January 2022, Brazil introduced new temporary visas and residence permits for digital nomads who are employed or provide services outside Brazil and want to reside in and work remotely from Brazil (Resolution No. 45 available in Portuguese). The new regulation aims to encourage digital nomads to work from Brazil through more flexible rules and easier entry and stay conditions.

It means that to be eligible for this type of temporary visa/residence permit you have to perform your work activities for a foreign company digitally from Brazil. In the case of working or rendering services for an employer or a company in Brazil, you won’t be considered a digital nomad, and as a result, won’t be eligible for this visa.

To apply for the digital nomad visa in Brazil you must prove and present in particular:

  • A declaration that you will continue your economic activities digitally from Brazil,
  • A work or service contract, among other documents outlining work relations with the foreign company,
  • A minimum monthly income of USD 1,500, or at least USD 18,000 as an available balance in your bank account at the time of applying for the visa,
  • Private medical insurance,
  • A criminal clearance certificate. 

The new temporary visas and residence permits can be granted up to an initial one-year period of residence, which may be renewed for another year if you continue to meet eligibility criteria.

Note that in the case of staying in Brazil for more than 183 days, all your income can be subject to Brazil’s taxation. Verify with a tax specialist if you can make use of an existing bilateral agreement with your home country to avoid double taxation or whether other relevant regula­tions apply. Brazil has entered into double taxation treaties with approximately 29 countries or territories to prevent double taxation.

Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world. With over 11,000 km (7,000 miles) of coastline, the country offers some of the world’s most gorgeous tropical beaches with year-round sunshine. In general, most of Brazil’s climate is tropical. The daytime temperatures range between 20°C and 30°C throughout the year with more variable night temperatures.

Brazil encompasses one of the greatest wonders of nature: the Amazon River and the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon rainforest comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the whole world. As a whole, Brazil’s landscape is “mega-diverse” while Brazil itself is regarded as the most biodiverse country on Earth. Doesn’t it sound like the trip of a lifetime?

Colombia – Buzzing Gateway to South America

Bogotá, Colombia
CapitalBogotá
CurrencyColumbian Peso (COP)
Tax Rate For Freelancersfrom 0% up to 39%
Capital Gains Tax Rate10%
Cost of Living$600~/month
HDI 202288th/186
Doing Business 202067th/190

Colombia is situated at the Northwestern tip of South America. It borders the Caribbean Sea to the north, Venezuela to the east, Brazil to the southeast, Peru and Ecuador to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and Panama to the northwest.

In accordance with the English Proficiency Index 2021, Colombia ranked only 81st (out of 112 countries surveyed) and 17th out of the 20 Latin American countries with a low proficiency score. Speaking at least some Spanish will instantly improve the ease of your interactions with local people and institutions. However, given its proximity to the US, pop culture in Colombia is deeply saturated with American influences.

In 2022, Colombia ranked 88th on the Human Development Index out of 191 countries included on the list, which is one position behind Brazil. In the past few years, Colombia has changed its reputation from being a hotspot for danger to becoming one of the most visited spots in South America. Nevertheless, you should still exercise caution.

The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report ranks Colombia 67th in terms of “Ease of doing business”, 95th in the “Starting a business” and 148th in the “Paying Taxes” category out of 190 countries. This means that Colombia is rated twice as high as Brazil and Argentina in the Starting a business category.

As an individual tax resident in Colombia, your personal income will be taxed at a progressive rate, ranging from 0% to 39%. The corporate income tax rate for companies based in Colombia is 35% for 2022. You can find more information about Colombia including taxes on the official tourism website of Colombia.

Currently, one of the most common corporate structures in Colombia is the simplified share company (sociedad por acciones simplificada, SAS), due to its simplicity. SAS is very flexible compared to other business structures available in Colombia, easy to incorporate, and can be held by one single shareholder.

However, if you’re into a shorter stay as a digital nomad, you might consider applying for a newly available visitor visa. In July 2022, Colombia joined Argentina and Brazil in offering a visitor visa for digital nomads (resolution 5477 available in Spanish).

To be eligible to obtain a visa for digital nomads you have to provide services digitally from Colombia, exclusively for foreign companies without a presence in Colombia. You won’t be eligible for the visa if you receive any type of remuneration from any company with a presence in Colombia. Health insurance coverage is also one of the requirements for the visa.

The digital nomad visa will be issued for a period of up to two years. The visa application processing time amounts to up to 30 days.

Colombia’s location near the Equator creates an extraordinary diversity of climates. However, about 80% of the country’s total area still lies in the warm altitudinal zone. Additionally, Colombia offers a convenient time zone, which it shares with cities of the eastern United States and Canada.

The country is home not only to a wildlife-rich Amazon jungle, but also to dramatic mountains, coral-white beaches, and vast highland coffee plantations, all creating extraordinary natural contrasts. Explore the vibrant and buzzing nature, cities, and culture of Colombia!


Quick Overview of Top Freelance-Friendly South American Countries:

Essential InfoArgentinaBrazilColombia
Tax Rate For Freelancers (%) 5 – 35 0 – 27.50 – 39
Capital Gains Tax Rate (%)1515 – 22.510
Corporate income tax (%)25 – 351535
Cost of Living ($~/month)700800600
HDI* 2022 (/186)478788
Doing Business 2020 (/190)12612467
EPI** 2021 (/112)306081
GPI*** (/163)69130144

* HDI The Human Development Index

** EPI The English Proficiency Index

*** GPI The Global Peace Index


South America Is It Freelance Friendly?

The South American continent is generally considered to include 12 sovereign states: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

The South American continent borders the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Atlantic Ocean on the north and east, and North America and the Caribbean Sea on the northwest.

A satellite image of the South American continent.

South American countries offer freelancers, digital nomads, entrepreneurs, and remote workers a low cost of living, excellent climate, a vibrant and unique mix of cultures, and unparalleled scenic beauty.

The average freelancer based in Western Europe, the US, Australia, etc. can lower their standard monthly costs from more than a couple thousand dollars to $1,000 or less by working remotely from South America or setting up their freelance business there.

On the other hand, for South American countries, the new influx of foreigners with capital should help boost each country’s economy – especially after the Covid-19 tourism decrease.

However, you need to exercise increased caution while in South America due to potential organized criminal activities, especially in certain areas. Most South American countries rank quite low on the Global Peace Index (Brazil – 130th, Argentina – 69th, and Colombia – 144th out of 163 countries included in the ranking).

Here are a few key safety measures to consider while traveling to South America:

  • Find out which areas have an increased risk of crime and avoid them,
  • Avoid protest areas and crowds,
  • Avoid heading out alone at night,
  • Monitor local media for breaking events and adjust your plans based on current local information,
  • Don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself,
  • Keep your valuables hidden (keep your phone out of sight, don’t wear jewelry or watches, and don’t flash your money around),
  • Be aware of your surroundings,
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers and always watch your drink,
  • Enroll in your own national and local alert program or app to receive alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency,
  • Follow your country’s travel advisory alerts or local embassy on social media and check their websites,
  • Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations, i.e. know the local emergency line and your embassy contact.

Here you’ll read more information prepared by the U.S. Department of State on the safety of traveling: Argentina Travel Advisory, Brazil Travel Advisory, Colombia Travel Advisory, and Country Security Reports.


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FAQs – Top South American Countries for Freelancers

Which South American country is best for self-employed?

Argentina is often considered to be one of the best countries for self-employed, freelancers, and digital nomads. English proficiency in Argentina is the highest in Latin America. The country also ranks quite highly on the Human Development Index (HDI). Last but not least, Argentina also ranks higher than most South American countries on the Global Peace Index, leading when it comes to national safety.

Which South American country has the lowest taxes?

Brazil is a country with one of the lowest tax rates for freelancers in South America. As a tax resident, if you choose to operate your freelance business as self-employed in Brazil, your personal income will be taxed at progressive rates varying from 0% to 27.5%. For individuals, the capital gains tax rate amounts from 15% to 22.5%. While corporate income tax for domestic companies registered in Brazil is assessed at a fixed rate of 15% on annual taxable income.

Which South American country is best for freelance business?

Colombia is considered one of the best countries for freelancers and starting and operating a freelance business. Colombia ranks much higher in terms of ease of doing business compared to other South American countries.

In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, Brazil ranks 67th in terms of Ease of Doing Business, 95th in Starting a Business, and 148th in the Paying Taxes category out of 190 countries included on the list.