Lockdowns and border closures in the midst of the coronavirus crisis have us rethinking the way that we work and travel. The small nation of Georgia hopes to capitalize on the new normal by welcoming foreign citizens to work remotely from the country. 

Pre-pandemic, Georgia was emerging as both a digital nomad hotspot and a growing tourist destination. Georgia’s rapid response to the coronavirus crisis has ensured the country has reported only 1000 infections. The Georgian government wants to attract freelancers and the self-employed to live and work there as a way to stimulate the economy and slowly re-open the borders, in a safe and controlled way. Georgia’s economy minister Natia Turnava announced last week a new visa policy that would allow foreigners to work remotely from the country.  

Tbilisi at dusk, Georgia ©Heorhiy Manukian/500px

Turnava stated that: “we’re inviting this targeted audience in Georgia and offering them to live in our country. Georgia has an image of a safe country in terms of epidemiological standpoint and we want to use this chance. We’re talking about opening the border in a manner which will let us protect the health of our citizens and … let every foreign citizen who falls in this category enter Georgia”.

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Remote workers will be allowed to live and work from Georgia, provided they are staying for six months or longer and can afford to quarantine at their own expense for 14 days on arrival. 

The old town in Tbilisi. ©eFesenko/Shutterstock

The new policy isn’t aimed at short-term travelers, but it could be an attractive option for long-term digital nomads who’ve been looking for a safe haven during the crisis, as the policy won’t discriminate against citizens of countries that have been hit hard by COVID-19. More specific details and requirements are still set to be announced, but the scheme is already being welcomed positively by those involved in Tbilisi’s digital nomad scene. 

Elene Javania and Ketevan Ebanoidze started the co-working space Impact Hub Tbilisi in 2016 when the concept of remote working was only just taking off in Tbilisi. They hope the new visa scheme will create a good atmosphere for locals and foreign digital nomads in what have been testing times: “the business-friendly environment and low-cost living conditions are the key to welcoming digital nomads and freelancers. International startups will positively impact the economic growth in Georgia, which our country is very in need of”.

After seeing Tbilisi’s popularity as a digital nomad destination grow, Candy Treft opened a co-working space, LOKAL, in December 2019 - just before coronavirus hit. She’s confident though, that remote workers will still be keen to travel to Georgia: “in the past few days since the announcement of the initiative here’s been a substantial uptick in chatter about and interest in Georgia - digital nomads are excited about the opportunity to work and live here”.  

Candy also tells Lonely Planet why she thinks remote workers could be the key to Georgia’s continued success as a tourist destination: “freelancers and remote workers generally stay longer, and engage in the community and culture on a deeper level. They also have a stronger impact on the Georgian economy, helping local families by supporting their shops, restaurants, and rental properties”. 

Khachapuri served with red wine in a restaurant
Enjoy local treats while you're there ©Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Tom Williams of Expat Hub Georgia relocated permanently to Tbilisi in 2019, after several years spent visiting Georgia as a tourist. He compares Tbilisi favorably to another popular digital nomad hub (minus the tropical weather): “the cost of living is similar to Thailand. So the bang for your buck here makes life very comfortable. Unlike Thailand though, remote workers are actively encouraged to be here. Georgia has a very positive attitude towards those sorts of mid- to long-term visitors with a stable income. This means you don’t live in constant uncertainty about breaking rules”. 

The Georgian government will shortly be releasing details of the online platform where remote workers can lodge their applications for the new visa.

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