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What is a virtual phone number – and should you get one?

From globalisation to the increase in remote working, we look at why virtual phone numbers are on the rise, and how they can improve the way you live and work today.

What is a virtual phone number – and should you get one?
More people are realising the benefits of having a virtual phone number. Photo: Getty Images

One of the great benefits of the world’s technological advances that we enjoy today is communication. No, not TikTok – though it has its place – but the improved cost, convenience and flexibility of phone calls and messaging. 

The days of baulking at the cost of making an international call from your work phone, or paying for an expensive public payphone card to call home while travelling are long gone. 

More and more people – from those living abroad to travellers to business owners to workers – are using virtual phone numbers to save money, work remotely, run businesses and communicate across the globe in ways that were simply not possible in decades past. 

Together with telecommunication provider Zadarma and its nomadic entrepreneur and co-founder Dmytro Tokar, The Local fills you in on what a virtual phone number is and why this easy and inexpensive piece of tech is worth adopting. 

So, what is a virtual phone number anyway?

Instead of needing a fixed and physical connection, a virtual phone number is cloud based and uses the internet. This means you can use the number for calls and messaging from any device that has internet access. 

Calls can be redirected or routed from the one number to another device, IP address or number. So the same number could be seamlessly carried from the phone in your office across to your mobile phone if you are out and about, for example.

“You can think of it as a regular phone number with additional perks. It is easy to connect a number from another country, calls will be coming in via the internet and the caller will never feel the difference,” explains Zadarma’s Dmytro.

Whether for work, life or travel, learn more about virtual phone number services from Europe’s leader in business phone systems, Zadarma

Why get a virtual phone number?

For travellers and people living internationally, avoiding roaming charges and enjoying cheaper call rates is a big bonus. 

Using a company like Zadarma, for example, setting up a virtual phone number takes just five minutes – so it is very easy to be up and running quickly and from almost any country in the world. 

“At Zadarma, we take safety and security of our services and clients very seriously, so there are no risks associated with virtual number connection. Having a number in a different country can be beneficial for a variety of reasons from bureaucracy and banking to getting a call from your food delivery service,” says Dmytro.

Remote worker benefits

At Zadarma, many staff members work “nomadically”, something that Dmytro is very familiar with himself. It’s a set-up that suits the business and employees and hasn’t changed their performance, he says.

“We do not see the reason to limit our employees in any way. Some currently live and work from other parts of the planet.”

The key to making it work? Communication. “Communication cannot be overrated when it comes to remote employees. There can be months before meeting a new employee, but making the effort to establish a connection can ensure that everyone on the team is working towards advancing the company.”

For entrepreneurs like Dmytro, using Zadarma’s own communication tool and virtual phone numbers means he can connect all his employees to the one network, no matter where he or or his workers are based. 

And Zadarma is obviously not alone in this way of working – 69 percent of 1,300 CEOs surveyed in 2021 are moving toward a virtual workforce, according to KPMG.

Virtual phone numbers are particularly well-suited to remote workers, startups, remote companies, and people, whether working or not, who are regularly travelling. 

Click here to set up your virtual office in five minutes

Business benefits

In today’s modern world, where people are often not working from a fixed office, it is important for companies to adapt and use the tools available to them. 

“Work processes will never be the same. For most companies, the lockdown has proven that having all employees working from the same space is not a key to success,” says Dmytro.

“I believe the most important tool of all is a communication tool. Finding the one that can both accommodate the changing lifestyle of a firm’s employees and maintain quality communication standards within the company and with clients can be challenging, but it truly makes all the difference. That is why for the past several years we have been focusing on making Zadarma’s offering ideal for companies with all types of needs.”

Using a virtual phone number for your business means you can assign the number to a specific region, which is beneficial if you are running your business across more than one location but still want to establish a local or regional presence. There is flexibility but customers feel reassurance and trust in calling you. Professionalism is established and exorbitant long distance phone call costs are non-existent. 

Zadarma’s flexible business solutions mean connecting yourself or your team, with easy integration to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and messenger programs. 

Safety and security

Working and living across borders, accessing devices in different locations using free wi-fi and the onslaught of people using digital tools with malicious intent can all lead to data and security breaches. 

Having a virtual phone number is an extra level of security to put your mind at ease. It means you can still be reached on your personal device, but without potential mobile hackers seeing your private number. 

“Being cautious can go a long way in protecting one’s privacy and securing the data. The internet can be a wonderful place with a variety of free tools but you always have to note how your information is handled,” cautions Dmytro.

Learn more about Zadarma’s affordable and easy virtual phone numbers – 30,000 numbers are available in 150 major cities worldwide, and they offer 24/7 support in seven languages

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WORKING IN ITALY

Digital nomad: What are the rules on working remotely from Italy?

Many jobs can now be done from anywhere with only a laptop and a decent wifi connection - but what are the rules if you want to work remotely in Italy for a company back in your home country?

Digital nomad: What are the rules on working remotely from Italy?

Remote work, or even just working from home, was almost unheard of in Italy just a few years ago but that’s all changed since the pandemic.

These days it’s perfectly possible to be physically located in Italy while working remotely for a company based in the UK, the USA or elsewhere. More companies worldwide are open to the idea of remote working, and Italy’s internet connections are (gradually) improving.

So it seems easier than ever before to move abroad and take your existing job or freelance business with you.

But anyone considering doing this will also have to factor in paperwork: namely residency and work permits, and tax status.

What are the rules?

What you need to do depends on where you’re from and how long you intend to be in Italy for. 

If you want to live in Italy longer term, rather than just passing through for a short while, you’ll need to get some paperwork in order.

If you are an EU national, there will be no requirement to obtain a visa or work permit.

However, if you belong in this category you will need an Italian residence permit for stays longer than three months.

READ ALSO: Remote workers: What are your visa options when moving to Italy?

Person working on their laptop in a cafe

The rise in remote working means more people are looking to work temporarily in different countries. Photo: Alizée Baudez, Unsplash

If you’re from a country that doesn’t benefit from EU freedom of movement, you can take advantage of the 90-day rule, which means you can travel to Italy visa-free for up to 90 days in every 180.

See more details on these rules in a separate article here.

This may be enough if you only want to spend a short time in Italy before returning home. However, if you want to stay longer, you’ll most likely need a visa.

What type of visa will you need?

You might have heard the term Digital Nomad, which is usually used to describe someone spending a short time in a country, or moving between various countries while doing some short-term tech-based work – for example bloggers or Instagram influencers.

Italy doesn’t have a specific Digital Nomad visa – at least, not yet. One has been promised in Italy for some time, and was even approved earlier this year – but the process has now stalled and there’s no sign of it becoming available any time soon.

And unfortunately the options available at the moment are not always viable for self-employed freelancers and remote workers, immigration law experts say.

The self-employment visa, or visto per lavoro autonomo, is the permit that most non-EU freelancers would probably expect to apply for when seeking to move to Italy for work. 

But successful applications are rare. So rare, in fact, that Costanza Petreni, a senior immigration consultant at specialist law firm Mazzeschi, says she actively discourages clients from taking this route.

READ ALSO: How many people does Italy grant work permits to every year?

“We have so many clients asking for this type of application, because in the absence of a digital nomad visa there’s almost no other option. But what we tell them is it’s extremely hard and uncertain,” Petreni says.

As well as a low number of work permits available via this route (the limit has been set at 500 per year for the past few years) experts say another problem is the absence of clear guidance from consulates as to exactly what documentation applicants will need.

Here’s a breakdown of the visa options available at the moment for those hoping to work in Italy.

Find more information on the Italian Foreign Ministry’s visa website here, which details the visa requirements that may apply in your circumstances.

Will you need to pay Italian taxes?

This is often an area that trips people up if they work for international clients but live in Italy. Where do the taxes get paid to?

“If you live in Italy, you pay taxes in Italy,” clarifies tax expert Nicolò Bolla who runs Accounting Bolla.

If you’re a resident in Italy, your income will be subject to tax known as ‘Irpef’.

For employees, the employer is also required to pay the social security contributions to Italian Social Security Authority (INPS) – even if the employer is based outside Italy.

Different tax rates apply for freelancers with tax breaks available to new residents – and of course, you’re responsible for paying social security contributions too. 

You’ll need to file an annual tax return in Italy as stipulated by the worldwide taxation principle, which dictates that you must report your worldwide income and therefore file your taxes in the country where you reside.

You shouldn’t be paying your taxes twice, however, according to Italy’s Inland Revenue or tax office (Agenzie delle Entrate).

“Italy has bilateral agreements with many foreign countries to avoid double taxation on income and capital. These agreements establish the range of the power of the two states to set taxes,” to the Italian tax authority’s website says.

Please note that The Local is unable to advise on individual cases. For more information on visa applications, consult the Italian embassy or consulate in your country or an immigration law professional.

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