Admit it. You’ve had it with America. In the last six months, you’ve watched COVID kill 183,000 people and sicken millions more. You’ve watched police murder unarmed civilians and SWAT teams assail peaceful protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas. You’ve watched poverty soar, school shootings continue, the wealth gap widen, and unemployment skyrocket—while our leaders throw up their hands or, worse, congratulate themselves while gaslighting us with conspiracy theories.
If there were ever a time to bounce, it’s now. And the Eastern European/Eurasian country of Georgia—which has registered a total of just 19 COVID-related deaths since April—is suddenly a contender for a top spot to relocate to, thanks to a new immigration regimen.
On Aug. 27, the Georgian government rolled out a visa-free entry program called Remotely From Georgia that grants year-long stays to nationals of 95 countries including the United States. In other words, you could conceivably ride out: a hypertension-inducing presidential election; an inevitably lonely, socially distanced holiday season; and a potential second wave of COVID infection from a blissfully removed distance of 6,000 miles. Zoom is free; your mental wellbeing is priceless.
After all, if you’re going to be working from home anyway, you might as well do it in a country that boasts three of Europe’s six highest peaks, outstanding food (think burst-in-your-mouth soup dumplings, spicy walnutty stews, and flame-kissed kebabs), a hauntingly beautiful polyphonic singing tradition, and enough orange kvevri wine to make you forget the year 2020 altogether.
To get a sense of expat life in Georgia, I asked Paul Rimple, an American guide with Culinary Backstreets who’s been living in Tbilisi since 2002, what he’d tell those considering the move. “Tbilisi is certainly more affordable than other [European] cities, especially if you are earning a Western salary. A kilo of tomatoes is about 50 cents, and you can get a liter of decent table wine for a buck,” he said. “There are drawbacks, for sure, but Georgia is on a forward trajectory, unlike the USA. Seriously, here I am in Tbilisi calling my family in California to ask, ‘Hey, are you guys okay over there?’”
Of course, not everyone is welcome under the new regimen. Pesky requirements include bagging a monthly salary of at least $2,000, having health insurance, and being willing to quarantine for 12 days upon arrival at your expense. One can glean from these specifications that the program is geared toward established creatives and “digital nomad” types as opposed to, say, refugees or the unemployed. Its raison d’être is to stimulate the lagging COVID economy by incentivizing rich (or rich-ish) people to stay in Georgia longer, putting their euros or dollars or yen in locals’ pockets in the process (so the government doesn’t have to).
Georgia, after all, is desperate for cash. For over a decade, the engine of its economy has been tourism, and nowadays almost every Georgian has some connection to the sector—an uncle who runs a guesthouse, perhaps, or a sister who bartends at a Black Sea resort. But then COVID struck, and the house of cards came tumbling down. There was a 69 percent drop in visitors in the first seven months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, a gut punch to a country whose median household income was a mere $380 even before the pandemic set in.
Will a sudden influx of Airpod-wearing, matcha-sipping creatives save Georgia’s economy? Of course not. But at a time when many Georgians are out of work and spending less in their communities, the foreign cash might be a temporary salve.
How do I apply?
Citizens of the U.S. and 94 other countries are eligible (the full list can be found here). Complete the short online form, which asks for basic identification data plus your business activity profile (e.g., marketing, sales, design, architecture) and proof of financial solvency and health insurance.
When will I receive a response?
Within 10 days, according to the Georgian National Tourism Administration.
How much does it cost?
What is the duration of the visa?
One year, with the possibility of renewal.
What health and safety measures are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Applicants who are accepted are required to provide travel history documentation and quarantine upon arrival for 12 days, followed by a PCR test.
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