Expats and Immigrants
02 April, 2015
Who is an expat and who is an immigrant in Georgia? My impression is that it has a great deal to do with skin color and to a smaller degree the wealth of the country of origin. And what’s the difference? Immigrants you are suspicious of and treat badly. Expats are fine and are treated hospitably. There are plenty of young people from the EU in Georgia who love Georgia and are trying to live in Georgia because they love
it. But they are certainly aware that it is more difficult to get a job in the EU now than it was ten years ago.

Historically, in Georgia, anybody who spoke Georgian was considered Georgian. Tbilisi was a city of every type of person. Georgia at its best and strongest has always welcomed anybody and everybody.

But what about Africans or Asians, or people from the Muslim world? As you may have heard, there are many many people in China. In fact there are approximately as many millionaires in China as there are people in Georgia. Hong Kong and Singapore are among the richest places in the world. But are Chinese from those places expats or immigrants? A few years ago, there were many Iranians and others from the region who would come and go, spent time and money in Georgia, they would often invest. Were they expats or immigrants? One of the best things about Georgia for them was that it was so close to their home and they could easily fly back and forth.
Recent labor and residence legislation written for Georgia has tried to protect Georgian workers from masses of foreigners coming in and taking their jobs. This was a non existent problem. What it did was eject people from Georgia that were considered immigrants. For the countries that send “expats” to Georgia, bureaucratic barriers were set up along with a great deal of disorganization and uncertainty, but in general they were allowed to stay. Why?
There is a narrative about Georgian history that “originally” (whatever that means) Georgia was “Georgian” (whatever that means) and then others were imported somehow. Take Kipchaks, Persians into Kakheti for example. Now nobody cares because they are all Georgian. And we have all heard about idiotic racist stories about kings importing Armenians and Abkhaz coming down from the mountains. As for who is Georgian, most Georgians now believe the Soviet definition that it is by paternal blood. If your father is Georgian, you are. That is a quite new Soviet definition. Historically, in Georgia, anybody who spoke Georgian was considered Georgian. Tbilisi was a city of every type of person. Georgia at its best and strongest has always welcomed anybody and everybody. It is only at its worst and weakest moments, for example when it as a Soviet colony, that Georgia has been suspicious of foreigners and tried to limit them.
A discussion has begun about which type of foreign residents are good for Georgia. Which is better, a Nigerian who speaks Georgian and makes a living transporting used German cars from Georgia to Kazakstan? An American who works for a USAID contractor and lives in the American compound near Dighomi for two years? An unemployed twenty-four-year-old Norwegian who lives inexpensively in a group house and just has a fun time? A fairly wealthy Iranian family who buys an apartment, with the mother and kids staying are mainly in Tbilisi and the father mainly work in Tehran but traveling back and forth? A Chinese trader who brings in cheap clothes and sells them in a regional market and is in Georgia for about four months a year? An Egyptian who opens a restaurant? The Colombian girlfriend of a Georgian guy, who is looking for work? A Russian journalist who was fired by his media outlet and is tired of the worsening situation in Moscow?
Can we rank them in terms of how good they are for Georgia? What a pointless discussion! They are all great for Georgia, they bring new ideas, money, connections to the rest of the world, their friends and family end up knowing and and respecting Georgia. They are all immigrants, they are all emigrants, they are all expats and they are all good for Georgia. Opening Georgia to the world has huge benefits, and doing it in such a way that it is well organized, that the EU is satisfied in terms of the visa negotiations is very easy compared to other goals Georgia has to deal with. Let’s do it.