Although I spend most of my time making investments in frontier markets, I’ve also taken steps to diversify the rest of my life internationally. One way I’ve done this is through applying for residency in the Republic of Georgia (not to be confused with the US state) earlier this year. I hope to invest in Georgia soon and eventually become a citizen of the country.
Why would I want residency in another country? First of all, tax reasons. I’m a US citizen and unlike almost every other country in the world, I’m taxed based on citizenship and not residency.
If a German is living in Singapore, for example, he no longer pays tax to Germany and instead pays it to Singapore. After all, he’s no longer living in Germany – why should he pay taxes to a country when he’s not living there to use the services his taxes go toward?
As an American, I’m not so fortunate. The IRS wants a cut no matter where I am in the world. The only respite I have is the “Foreign Earned Income Exclusion”. This allows me to deduct around $100,000 of my taxable income if I live abroad, and having official residency helps a lot.
Second, the citizenship I can eventually get once I’m a resident opens up investment opportunities. For example, I’m also working toward citizenship in Cambodia and citizens of the country are allowed to own land. Cambodian farmland and other types of property investments are otherwise closed to foreigners.
The Best Government in Eastern Europe?
Most governments are not looking out for their citizen’s best interest, but some are no doubt better than others. Getting residency is a bureaucratic process practically everywhere in the world yet Georgia makes it easier than most.
Filing for residency itself took less than a week, and it took the government a month more for the residency to be approved. After that, I flew back to Georgia to file for the ID card which was issued one week later.
The “Public Service Hall” in Tbilisi where all of this happened is a massive, newly built, dome-like structure. The building has banks, cafes, and dozens of sections with queues taking care of everything from residency to pension applications.
Although the mere thought of so much government in one place might give some people a headache), the complex is clean, well-organized, and my queue came up quickly.
Despite all of that, I would not recommend going through Georgia’s residency process by yourself. A good lawyer is a must. Not only is English not spoken by most government workers, but I was unexpectedly called in for an “interview” a week before my residency was approved. I wasn’t in Georgia at the time, but my lawyer was able to complete the interview for me. This saved me the time and cost of an extra flight back.
Something else went wrong too. For the first time in my life, I lost my passport. While this story could be an entire article in and of itself, the short version is that I was able to track down my passport three days later through the help of my lawyer.
Why Invest in Georgia? Efficient Government, More Prosperity
Georgia’s simple residency process is a good representation of the country as a whole. Banks in Tbilisi are open until 8PM on weekdays, while online wire transfers are a breeze. A company can be opened in about a day and Georgia has jumped to 15th place on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index in just a few years’ time.
Needless to say, these things that lure entrepreneurs and FDI. Georgia’s inward foreign direct investment increased by 8.9% last year – over three times the world average of 2.7%. New businesses are opening all over the city as a result. Property values are on the uptrend.
In some ways, Georgia’s economic growth and government policies are similar to the early days of Singapore. Most of us are already familiar with the story of how a malaria infested swamp turned into one of the most important financial centers in Asia.
Nowadays, Singapore is still very efficient. But good luck getting permanent residency unless you’re either willing to put in many years’ worth of on the ground effort, or have a net worth into the tens of millions of dollars. Singapore is rich and desirable enough to where it can be very selective about its immigrants.
Overall, I’m very happy to have received residency in Georgia. I look forward to seeing the country’s future and involving myself more in it. Will Georgia go the same way as Singapore? Only time will tell, but I’m personally betting my money on it. One thing is almost certain: if it does, things won’t be as easy as they are now.
These have been my experiences applying for residency in Georgia, using the services of Nomad Capitalist. My opinions are genuine and I’ve received no compensation for this post.
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