Hawaii offers free airfare to lucky few wanting to work remotely from the state

A paddle-boarder on Ala Moana Beach, Oahu
A paddle-boarder on Ala Moana Beach, Oahu (Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority [HTA]/Ben Ono)
The state of Hawaii has recently launched an innovative temporary residency program to bring talent and potential income to the islands.

Its new ‘Movers and Shakas’ program will cover the roundtrip airfare and offer discounted accommodation deals for those seeking to work remotely from the islands.

Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii
Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii (Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority [HTA]/Vincent Lim)
Given how 2020 has forced so many of us to work from home, Hawaii is not the first location to target remote workers in this way. However, it’s the first to offer to free airfare.

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Sounds too good to be true? Well, there are a few catches.

The offer will only initially be open to 50 people. The program was launched at the end of November and applications need to be submitted by December 15. The lucky 50 will then be chosen. Further applicants will be accepted on a rolling basis afterward.

Those selected will need to commit to spending at least 30 continuous days in Hawaii, although those behind the program hope they may stay longer. You must already have a job and not traveling to find work.

Those chosen must agree to an environmental pledge (Hawaii is rightly very eco-conscious when it comes to preserving its unique environment), and commit to spending a few hours a week taking part in non-profit, community-building initiatives.

Napali coast of Kauai, Hawaii
(Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority [HTA]/Ben Ono)
In the program’s own words, “we require that M&S participants volunteer to share their expertise and professional connections among the local community so that Hawaiʻi’s children and emerging technical talent can benefit from opportunities in the global job market. M&S seeks to build a reciprocal relationship between newcomers and the community such that Hawaiʻi is enriched by the trend towards remote work.”

So, they’re looking for talented professionals that will be able to give something back. There are more details at the Movers and Shakas website.

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In case you’re wondering, you don’t have to be a single applicant: couples and families can also apply (you just have to be over 18 and a U.S. resident). You can also apply if you’re originally from Hawaii and want to spend some time back there.

A couple explore Holoholokai Beach Park, Hawaii
A couple explore Holoholokai Beach Park (Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority [HTA]/John Hook)
“M&S is intended for individuals who reside outside of Hawaiʻi at the time of application. However, former Hawaiʻi residents who fit the M&S criteria are strongly encouraged to apply,” says the website.

Jason Higa, founder of overs and Shakas, told CNN, “The pandemic has normalized remote work for the foreseeable future, so we believe this situation presents an opportunity for local residents to return home, and for out of state professionals to experience Hawaii, not as tourists, but as contributing members of our community.”

Wanting to travel further afield? Countries currently offering temporary residency or extended work visas to U.S. residents include Aruba, Barbados and Estonia.

Related: The countries welcoming US travelers on remote work visas