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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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VISAS

EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

Navigating the French visa process can be tricky, but the key thing is to make sure that you're applying for the correct visa type for your situation - here are the 5 key questions that will decide which visa is right for you.

EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

If you’re planning on moving to France or spending long periods of time here and you’re not an EU citizen then you’re likely to need a visa – but understanding which type of visa to get can be complicated

From working visas to 6-month visas, visitor visas to talent passports, France offers a plethora of different visas, all of which give you different rights and involve a slightly different process.

But people applying for the first time often end up baffled by the choice on offer – so here’s how to decide which visa is right for you. 

How long do you want to spend in France?

This is the first question that you need to consider. If you intend to move to France and make it your home then this is fairly simple and you can move on to the next question.

If, however, you are a second-home owner or someone wanting to simply pay long visits to France (ie more than 90 days in every 180 in accordance with the 90-day rule), then it can be a little more complicated.

First, you need to decide whether you want to make France your main residence, or keep your residence in another country (say, the UK or US) and simply be a visitor when you come to France.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both options.

Making France your main residence – if this is the case, you can apply for a 12-month visa and won’t be limited in how long you can spend in France.

However, as a resident in France you will need to complete the annual tax declaration (even if all your income comes from outside France) and you may also need to register with the French healthcare system. If you are resident in France then you are no longer a resident of your home country, and this may affect things like your tax status and access to healthcare.

Your questions answered: Second-home owners and French residency

Keeping your main residence elsewhere – if you do not intend to live in France then you are limited to the six-month visitor visa. This limits the amount of time you can spend in France, but means that you are not affected by the responsibilities of French residents such as the annual tax declaration. You cannot register in the French health system and a visitor and you have no automatic right to enter France if the borders are closed (as they were during the pandemic).

Slightly confusingly, there are two types of visa that are popularly known as a ‘visitor visa’ – a 6-month one and a 12-month one – we explain the difference HERE.

What do you intend to do in France?

Assuming that you want to move full-time to France, the next question is what you intend to do here – maybe you’re moving for a job, you have plans to set up your own business or you want to retire here. How you intend to fill your days is important, because it affects the type of visa you will apply for.

Study – perhaps the simplest visa option is for those who intend to study in France as the student visa generally has the simplest application process. You must, however, already be accepted by a French educational establishment before you apply for the visa. All French universities are accepted for this, but not all French language schools are accredited for visa purposes, so if this is what you intend to do you need to check in advance if you will be able to get a visa.

How to get a French student visa

If you complete masters level degree studies in France, you get some extra advantages, including the right to stay for an extra year while you hunt for a job and a fast-track to French citizenship.

Ask the expert: How students can remain in France after their studies

Retire – retiring to France is a perennially popular option, and most people who do not intend to work in France come on the long-stay visitor visa. This has a fairly simple application process but requires financial proof that you can support yourself while in France and won’t become a burden on the French state. This can be either in the form of proof of regular income such as a pension or a lump sum in savings. The general guidelines figure is that you must have more than the French SMIC (minimum wage) which is currently at €1,300 per month or €15,600 per year. 

As part of the process, you will also have to give undertakings that you will not work in France – so this isn’t suitable for people who, for example, want to retire from their main job and move to France to open a gîte or B&B. If you intend to work remotely while in France – click HERE

Checklist: How to retire to France

Work – if you intend to work in France there are two routes – become a salaried employee or work for yourself, either as a freelancer or contractor or set up your own business. 

Salaried employee – this is the simplest route in visa terms because once you have a job offer your employer sponsors your visa and you don’t need to provide proof of your financial means or a business plan.

However getting a job can be harder because employers are often reluctant to take on the extra paperwork of sponsoring visas and the associated work permits that certain types of employees need – you may even see job adverts stating that the company will not sponsor visas. It’s not impossible, you just need to be an especially good candidate because employing you is more complicated for a company than employing someone who either already has a visa, or somebody who doesn’t need one (ie an EU citizen). 

Three things to know about work permits in France

Self-employed – being self-employed (auto-entrepreneur in French) covers everything from people working on a freelance or contractor basis to people setting up a small business like running a B&B or selling artisan products right up to people who want to set up a big business. Keep in mind, however, that France does not yet have a dedicated digital nomad visa

In order to get this type of visa you need to be able to show firstly that you can support yourself initially – that you have somewhere to stay (this can be as simple as a 3-month Airbnb booking) and some savings or income, and that you have a detailed business plan for the type of work that you intend to do. 

‘Not too complicated but quite expensive’ – getting a French work visa

Au pair – a popular option for young people is to come to France to work as an au pair while learning French, and there is a specific visa for this. You need to find a family before you apply and you also need to give undertakings that you will take formal French classes while you are here. Full details HERE

Seasonal worker – another popular option for young people is to move to France for a short period and take on seasonal work, such as working the ski season. This has its own process – full details here.

Do you have a French spouse?

If you are married to a French person or have a close relative who is French, you could benefit from a family visa. This has the advantage of allowing you to come to France without a job, but you are not permitted to work on a spouse visa so it’s not suitable for those who intend to seek work.

It’s important to point out that being married to a French person isn’t quite the ‘get out of jail free card’ that some people think – you still need to go through the visa process and also have to fulfil certain financial requirements, so depending on your situation the family visa might not be the significantly easier or better route. 

How to get a French spouse visa

Could you benefit from the Talent Passport?

This is a relatively new visa type that offers a four-year visa and the opportunity to bring family members. It is, however, only available to certain groups – essentially you need to be either working in a specific area like tech or you need to have an international reputation or expertise. Full details here.

Do you intend to apply for asylum?

If you are a refugee or intend to apply for asylum in France then there is a different route to follow – click here for details

What next?

Once you have decided which visa you need, then you are ready to start collecting documents and starting on the application process – you can find a complete guide to applying HERE.

And don’t forget that the paperwork continues even after your visa is granted – once you are in France there are some important admin tasks to complete in order to keep your legal status – full details HERE

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