In the past, many foreign individuals relocating to Georgia seldom considered the need for a residence permit. Surprisingly, the scope of the Georgian law "On the Legal Status of Foreigners" permits them to engage in almost every facet of life within the country, barring political involvement and participation in elections. Remarkably, all other activities are permissible. Foreign nationals can readily partake in labour, entrepreneurship, investment endeavours, academic pursuits, establishment of public associations, enrollment in trade unions, and engagement in scientific, cultural, and athletic organisations. The right to engage in these activities is extended to all legally residing foreign nationals within the borders of Georgia.
The concept of legal residence in Georgia encompasses a remarkably broad scope. Currently, individuals hailing from 98 different countries enjoy the privilege of entering Georgia without the need for a visa, granting them a one-year stay period. Upon the expiration of this duration, individuals can conveniently exit and re-enter the country on the same day, subsequently commencing another year of continuous residency. This process of "visa runs" can be repeated indefinitely, providing an adequate means of sustaining one's stay. Furthermore, an additional list comprising 50 states exists in conjunction with the aforementioned 98 countries. Even if an individual does not hold citizenship within this secondary list, possessing a valid visa or residence permit from these states affords them the liberty to enter Georgia and establish a free and unrestrained residency.
Tbilisi. Photo: Mahmoud Sayed (Unsplash)
The leniency of Georgia's policies has led many foreign nationals to overlook the bureaucratic procedures and opt to reside within the country without acquiring a formal residence permit. However, the advent of the pandemic instigated a significant shift in this landscape. As the pandemic unfolded, individuals whose 365-day legal stay period was nearing its conclusion encountered a daunting predicament: the ability to exit and re-enter the republic became untenable due to the imposed restrictions on foreign entry. Only citizens of Georgia and their immediate family members were granted entry during this period. Furthermore, even holders of Georgian temporary and permanent residencies encountered unexpected barriers to entry, a scenario that included individuals with property, business interests, or work engagements within the country. Eventually, as border restrictions began to ease, the year 2022 witnessed an unprecedented surge in both applications for Georgian residence permits and the subsequent issuance of such permits.
In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the various rights bestowed by permanent residency in Georgia, shedding light on its advantageous features. Additionally, we will provide detailed insights into the intricacies of Georgia's permanent residency program, including the notable option of its "Golden Visas."
- Benefits of Obtaining a Residence Permit in Georgia
- Acquiring a Georgia Permanent Residence Permit Through Investment
- Work Residence Permit
- Business Residence Permit
- Residence Permit for Owning Property
- Study Residence Permit
- Residence Permit for Family Reunification
- Other Types of Residence Permits
Benefits of Obtaining a Residence Permit in Georgia
Entry into the Country
In 2023, a growing number of foreign individuals are being rejected entry into Georgia, ostensibly due to national security considerations. The specific rationales behind these decisions are often withheld, leaving individuals in the dark. Reports of such incidents are increasingly prevalent in the daily news cycle, fostering a sense of unease among foreign residents within the country. The act of border crossing has, for many, become a source of anxiety.
One of the notable advantages of possessing a Georgia residence permit is the streamlined border control process, which significantly reduces associated risks. While exceptions do exist, instances of individuals with even a permanent residence permit being denied entry into the country are relatively infrequent and uncommon.
Jvari Monastery of Mtskheta. Photo: Patrick Keller (Unsplash)
Visa Application Process in Georgia
Another noteworthy advantage pertains to visa applications within Georgia. The embassies and consulates of third countries located in Georgia exclusively entertain visa requests from foreign nationals holding either permanent or temporary Georgian residence permits. Absent these permits, individuals are obligated to initiate their visa application process in their country of citizenship.
It's important to underscore that possessing a Georgian residence permit does not automatically grant foreigners visa-free access to the Schengen Zone; this privilege is exclusive to Georgian citizens.
Acquisition of Georgian Citizenship
A residence permit is a crucial prerequisite for those aspiring to attain Georgian citizenship in the future. Pursuant to the requirements for Georgian citizenship through naturalisation, an individual must have resided in the country for a period of 10 years, alongside a valid residence permit. Any time spent in Georgia without this essential documentation will not be considered in the calculation of the required duration. It is worth noting that the avenue of acquiring Georgian citizenship through this process is not widely pursued, primarily due to the stipulation that one must renounce their existing citizenship.
Navigating Everyday Scenarios with Ease
A Georgian residence permit proves advantageous for various facets of daily life. Holders of a residence permit are assigned a personalised identity number and are issued a residence card. This identification plays a pivotal role in numerous spheres, facilitating the acquisition of documents, enabling seamless bank transactions, facilitating the collection of prescribed medications from pharmacies, and much more.
Trinity Gergeti Church, Kazbegi. Photo: Iman Gozal (Unsplash)
Residency Requirements in Georgia
Georgian permanent residence permit is issued only in three cases:
- To the spouse and minor child of a Georgian citizen, or to a parent of an underage Georgian citizen.
- To a foreign national who, possessing a temporary residence permit, has resided in Georgia for the preceding 10 years. However, time spent in Georgia for educational pursuits, medical treatment, or diplomatic mission assignments cannot be included in the calculation of the required ten-year period.
- Through investment – Individuals can acquire a residence permit for indefinite stay by contributing to the country's economy, often referred to as the Georgian “Golden Visa."
Acquiring a Georgia Permanent Residence Permit Through Investment
Securing a Georgia permanent residence permit through the "Golden Visa" route necessitates an investment of a minimum of $300,000 into the Georgian economy or the purchase of immovable property (excluding agricultural land) within the country, valued above $300,000 in the market. The property's market worth must be verified by an authorised assessor affiliated with an organisation accredited by the Unified National Accrediting Agency.
Residence permits are also extended to the investor's family members, encompassing spouses, minor children, as well as individuals declared legally incapacitated in their home country who are fully dependent on the investor.
The initial Georgia residence permit obtained through investment is valid for a duration of five years. Annually, the permit holder is required to furnish the Public Services Development Agency with details concerning the annual turnover generated from entrepreneurial undertakings conducted within Georgia. Failure to substantiate an annual turnover of no less than $50,000 in the first year, $100,000 in the second year, and $120,000 in the subsequent third, fourth, and fifth years results in the termination of the residence permit.
Kartlis Deda, Tbilisi. Photo: mostafa meraji (Unsplash)
Individuals who acquire a Georgian "Golden Visa" through the purchase of property valued at $300,000 or more are required to maintain ownership of the said property for the entire duration of their residence permit.
After the initial five-year period, you become eligible to apply for an indefinite residence permit. To initiate this process, you are required to furnish the Public Services Development Agency with a comprehensive record of your turnover spanning the preceding five years. For those who acquired a "Golden Visa" by purchasing property, it is imperative to procure a property ownership certificate from the National Public Registry Agency, which substantiates the basis of the residence permit's acquisition. Throughout this transition, both the investor and their family members maintain their existing residence permit until the point of issuance of the indefinite stay residence permit.
In addition to the "Golden Visa" option, Georgia offers the possibility of obtaining a permanent residence permit after living 10 years with a temporary residence permit within the country.
Work Residence Permit
If you found a job in Georgia you can get a residence permit provided you comply with the following conditions:
- Possessing an official employment contract with a company.
- Earning a salary exceeding the Georgian subsistence rate by a minimum of fivefold. The subsistence rate, recalibrated each month by the National Statistics Service based on the cost of a standardised food basket, fluctuated between 220 and 260 GEL ($88–104) for various consumer categories at the start of 2023. To qualify for a Georgia residence permit, a monthly income of 1500 GEL ($600) or higher is typically required.
- The employing company must register an annual turnover surpassing 50,000 GEL ($20,000) per foreign employee. In cases where a company employs two foreign nationals, the turnover requirement stands at a minimum of $100,000, even if the second non-citizen is not seeking a residence permit. For educational and medical institutions, the turnover prerequisite per employed foreigner is set at a lower threshold of 35,000 GEL ($14,000) annually.
Ananuri. Photo: Nikita Mishin (Unsplash)
When seeking a work residence permit, you are required to present the following documents at the House of Justice:
- A copy of your ID, along with a notarized translation into the Georgian language.
- Documentation verifying your legal status in Georgia, which can entail your previous residence permit or visa. If unavailable, an entry stamp within your passport will suffice.
- A valid work contract.
- An official salary statement issued by your employer.
- A statement of the company's turnover from the tax office.
- A declaration from the company detailing the count of employed foreign nationals.
- Photographs adhering to the prescribed format (you can have them taken at the House of Justice during your application submission).
- Proof of payment for the requisite state duty (payment can be made on-site, facilitated by major bank branches situated within the House of Justice premises).
The initial residence permit is typically granted for a duration ranging from six to twelve months. Subsequent permits may extend beyond this timeframe, although they must not exceed the length of your employment contract..
Business Residence Permit
A Georgia residence permit can be acquired for entrepreneurial activities. To initiate this process, you are required to establish a company under any legal structure or declare your self-employed status through the House of Justice. This entails providing the company's official address, along with obtaining permission from the premises' owner at that designated address. Once your company is registered, it is imperative to procure a record from the tax office and subsequently establish a business bank account.
Nevertheless, these steps alone do not suffice to secure a residence permit. The permit is exclusively granted on the condition that your company is actively operational and yielding profits. It is imperative that your company achieves an annual turnover of at least 50,000 GEL ($20,000) per each foreign employee in order to qualify.
Tbilisi. Photo: mostafa meraji (Unsplash)
You will be required to provide the following documentations:
- A copy of your identification document, along with its notarized translation into the Georgian language.
- Verification of your legal status in Georgia.
- Documentation attesting to your income, such as a statement from the tax office or your business bank account.
- A statement from your personal bank account in a Georgian bank, confirming the availability of ample funds to sustain your stay in Georgia (the specific amount required can vary and is not rigidly defined).
- A declaration from your company, detailing the count of employed foreign nationals.
- Photographs adhering to the stipulated format.
- Proof of payment for the requisite state duty.
The initial business residence permit is typically granted for a duration ranging from six to 12 months. Subsequent permits can be extended for more extended periods, potentially up to five years.
Residence Permit for Owning Property
This short-term residence permit is granted to foreign nationals who possess property within the borders of Georgia. The property's market value must exceed $100,000, a figure validated by an authorised assessor affiliated with an organisation accredited by the Unified National Accrediting Agency. Notably, the property in question must exclude agricultural land, in accordance with the law which prohibits foreigners from its acquisition.
The residence permit for property ownership is granted to the owner of the property as well as their immediate family members (spouses and minor children) for a duration of one year, with the possibility of consecutive renewals. Once the property is sold, the residence permit becomes void and is subsequently terminated.
To acquire this category of residence permit, you must begin by registering your real estate purchase agreement at the House of Justice. Following this step, it becomes necessary to engage an authorised assessor who will evaluate your property. Subsequently, you can proceed to submit your application for the residence permit. It's important to note, however, that the track record for issuing this particular type of permit is not consistently favourable. Notably, approximately one third of all applications are declined, often without providing any explanation.
Batumi. Photo: Max Slch (Unsplash)
Study Residence Permit
A study residence permit is granted to individuals who intend to pursue education at authorised educational institutions in Georgia. These institutions encompass schools, colleges, or universities.
In addition to the standard documentation, you will also require a letter from the educational institution confirming the anticipated duration of your upcoming studies. Furthermore, a document detailing either the student's income or the income of a relative with legal status in Georgia is essential. Alternatively, a bank account statement may be submitted in lieu of an income certificate.
The initial study residence permit is typically granted for a duration ranging from six to 12 months.
Please note: the duration spent in Georgia under a study residence permit does not contribute towards the requisite 10-year stay period necessary for applying for a permanent residence permit.
Residence Permit for Family Reunification
This type of permit is issued to family members of a foreigner holding a residence permit. According to the law of Georgia, family members include a spouse, an underage child, and a parent of an underage child holding a residence permit.
To obtain a residence permit for family reunification you will need a document certifying kinship and an income statement. The first residence permit of this type is issued for the period from six to 12 months. Further permits can be for longer periods. As a rule, it will correspond to the duration of the residence permit of the family member you are reuniting with.
Sighnaghi. Photo: Nikolay Werner (Unsplash)
Other Types of Residence Permits
- Former citizens of Georgia whose citizenship has been terminated can get a residence permit for six years.
- A stateless person whose status of stateless person has been established in Georgia can obtain a residence permit for three years.
- A foreign citizen who has a written endorsement from a member of the government of Georgia can get a special residence permit for up to five years.
- A Special residence permit is issued to a foreign citizen who, based on a reasonable belief, might be a victim of human trafficking or to a foreigner who has the status of a victim under the Law of Georgia on Prevention of Violence against Women and/or Domestic Violence and Protection of Violence Victims.
In a Nutshell
Acquiring a Georgia residence permit for an indefinite stay can be achieved through a $300,000 investment and a minimum of five years of residency in the country. Additional pathways include obtaining a permanent residence permit as a family member of a Georgian citizen, or by residing in Georgia for a consecutive 10-year period under a temporary residence permit.
Cover photo: Patrick Schneider (Unsplash)