The concept of digital nomadism, where location-independent professionals work remotely while traveling, represents an often overlooked national asset for many countries. Globally, millions of individuals and families alike have adopted this lifestyle.
An estimated 35 million digital nomads currently roam the globe, a population more than ten times that of Armenia. Among them, American digital nomads lead the pack with 17.3 million, and an additional 70 million people are considering adopting digital nomadism in the next 2-3 years.
The number of digital nomads worldwide has seen a remarkable 131% increase since 2019. In response to this growth, international companies are increasingly catering to their needs, offering services like legal assistance, insurance policies, and financial solutions. Moreover, many countries are recognizing this potential and are developing customized visa programs at both government and semi-government levels to attract digital nomads.
There are good reasons for the interest in digital nomadism. According to a March 2023 study, 36% of surveyed digital nomads worldwide reported an annual income between $100,000 and $250,000. In contrast, only 6% indicated earning less than $25,000 per year. Additionally, recent statistics show the majority of digital nomads prefer self-employment, with most women working in marketing and creative fields and men in software development.
Given these facts, which country wouldn’t want the economic and cultural benefits of attracting and retaining these high-income professionals? We’ll explore three main questions about digital nomadism in Armenia:
- What is Armenia’s position on the digital nomads’ map?
- How can Armenia compete with popular digital nomad destinations in the region?
- What is the capacity of Armenian regions to attract digital nomads?
Let’s start by highlighting two countries that have recently joined the digital nomad scene and have seen remarkable success in a short period: Croatia, with its landscapes and cultural heritage similar to Armenia, and Georgia, Armenia’s neighbor, known for its charm. These two examples will provide a better understanding on what a digital nomad visa program could contribute to Armenia.
Croatia, a recent leader in digital nomadism, launched its digital nomad residence permit in January 2021. The country defines a digital nomad as a third-country national (non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizen) who works remotely for a company, or their own company, that is not registered in Croatia and does not provide services to Croatian employers.
This definition indicates Croatia’s desire to attract international income. Eligible digital nomads must also earn a minimum monthly income of almost $2,700, with a 10% increase for each additional family member. As stated by Jan de Jong, founder of the Digital Nomads Croatia Association, approximately 5,000 digital nomads arrive in the country each month.
Georgia introduced a one-year visa program for digital nomads from 95 countries in 2022. Ditching red tape and embracing affordability, they crafted a seamless application process and only proof of income exceeding $2,000 per month. Their goal was to attract 30,000 remote workers within a few years. And it’s working. The program, “Remotely from Georgia“, has been successful, catapulting the country to the top of online digital nomad lists and international directories.
According to Visa Guide, digital nomads residing in Georgia are tax-exempt until their stay surpasses 183 days. After this point, they become tax residents and are subject to an income tax rate of around 20%. Moreover, Georgia offers an individual entrepreneur program, enabling digital nomads to pay only 1% on their first $155,000 of income.
What Is Armenia’s Position on the Digital Nomads’ Map?
Armenia’s tourism industry has flourished in recent years thanks to targeted efforts of the Armenian Tourism Committee to attract global visitors from new destinations. However, there is a crucial distinction between tourists and digital nomads. While tourists travel for leisure and recreation, digital nomads seamlessly blend work and travel, immersing themselves in local communities for months or even years. They also prioritize understanding tax regulations in their chosen destinations.
Armenia offers visa-on-arrival privileges to citizens of over 60 countries, permitting them to stay for up to 180 days. This flexibility allows digital nomads to explore Armenia and decide if it meets their needs. It’s also worth mentioning that Armenia does not impose income limits before welcoming individuals into the country.
In Armenia, digital nomads are exempt from taxation on their worldwide income, provided they stay in the country for less than 183 days in a calendar year. Additionally, Armenia has established dozens of double taxation treaties with over 40 countries, eliminating double taxation on income earned by digital nomads who work remotely in Armenia and may consider a longer stay. Notably, digital nomads from various countries can take advantage of the relatively affordable Armenian tax regulations by becoming tax residents or even obtaining a residency permit.
Armenia has a significant potential to become an international hub for digital nomads and remote workers, given its strategic location. It’s just a two-hour flight from key destinations in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, providing the country with a considerable advantage. Armenia’s diverse environment caters to remote workers, offering them the choice of working in a dynamic city like the capital, Yerevan, or in the pristine landscapes of the Armenian regions. Despite its small size, the country encapsulates a microcosm where one can encounter a diverse range of experiences.
A 2022 survey found that digital nomads are drawn to countries with low living costs and fast, accessible internet connections. This affordability enhances Armenia’s appeal, particularly outside the capital city. Compared to living costs in countries which most digital nomads often come from, Armenia offers a cost-effective alternative. Moreover, with an average internet speed of 73.55 Mbps, the country offers a relatively fast internet service to remote workers at affordable rates.
While Armenia doesn’t have an official digital nomad visa, the country offers a highly effective and powerful alternative—the residency permit. This permit grants digital nomads the same advantages without imposing income limits or restricting their access to local working opportunities. In fact, Armenia’s residency permit program is more competitive than many popular digital nomad visa programs worldwide.
Given the aforementioned factors, the country should have been bustling with digital nomads from around the world. However, to date, Armenia remains largely undiscovered within the global digital nomad scene and is noticeably absent from international directories of digital nomad destinations.
The missing piece in Armenia’s digital nomad puzzle is a government-supported program specifically designed for remote workers. While the current residency permit is excellent and internationally competitive, it falls short in targeting this specific group. Essentially, it’s a question of visibility and communication.
Digital nomads in Armenia are currently classified as tourists due to the lack of a specific digital nomad visa. Having a visa specifically tailored for digital nomads would signal Armenia’s recognition of this increasingly popular lifestyle and its commitment on the governmental level to accommodating their needs. This would elevate Armenia’s status in this niche market and provide a unique marketing opportunity for Armenia to promote itself as a destination for remote workers.
Armenia has all the potential to become a digital nomad haven. Formalizing digital nomadism and remote work either through existing laws or a dedicated program is crucial for unlocking this potential and attracting this thriving community.
How Can Armenia Compete With Popular Digital Nomad Destinations in the Region?
For digital nomads, the appeal of location independence lies in the freedom to immerse themselves in new cultures and diverse environments. Nomading involves moving from one place to another. It aims to allow individuals or families to enjoy the best aspects of each location rather than being tied to just one. Therefore, being a small country doesn’t necessarily mean being less attractive to digital nomads.
While Georgia, Armenia’s larger neighbor, may be ahead in terms of established digital nomadism infrastructure, Armenia’s distinctive cultural richness, affordability, and robust tech ecosystem make it an upcoming contender in the digital nomad landscape. For example, Armenia is the first in the region to host venture cafes. This unique combination makes it an appealing destination for remote workers seeking a fulfilling and enriching experience.
The Georgian digital nomad visa requires proof of income of at least $2,000 per month or $24,000 in savings, in addition to proof of remote work, such as an employment contract or business license. In contrast, the Armenian residency permit has no income restrictions. Taxation for digital nomads in Georgia and Armenian residents with established businesses is roughly the same, but with minor differences. However, Georgia’s application process is more streamlined. Overall, Armenia has a competitive edge but needs to adapt its existing residency permit program to attract digital nomads and publicize it.
While Yerevan’s cost of living has increased in recent years due to various temporary factors influencing price fluctuations, many other cities in Armenia’s regions still present a mix of affordability and engaging lifestyle for international travelers.
What Is the Capacity of Armenian Regions to Attract Digital Nomads?
Once a tranquil village nestled in the mountains of Bulgaria, Bansko has transformed into a popular spot for digital nomads. Remote workers from all over the world flock to Bansko to enjoy the low cost of living, fast internet, and beautiful scenery.
The cost of living is significantly lower than in most other parts of Europe. A one-bedroom apartment in Bansko is priced at approximately €300 per month, and a restaurant meal costs around €5. As Bansko’s charm and suitability for remote work became more widely recognized, its reputation grew through positive word-of-mouth in online communities, social media groups, and travel forums.
Does Bulgaria offer a digital nomad visa program? Currently, it does not. However, it does provide a freelance permit, which allows you to work as a freelancer in Bulgaria for a year. This permit can be used to obtain a long-term type D visa. To apply, a detailed plan of your freelancing activity and its potential benefits to the Bulgarian economy must be submitted. Recent estimates suggest that hundreds of digital nomads reside in Bansko. In 2023, the Bansko Nomad Fest attracted over 700 digital nomads from around the world to this small rural Bulgarian town.
Why are we discussing Bansko instead of focusing on Armenian regions? That’s because Bansko serves as a comparative example to many small Armenian cities, in terms of monthly rent, cost of living, internet infrastructure, and co-working spaces. So, the question could be rephrased: Why Bansko and not Armenian cities such as Ijevan in Tavush region or Stepanavan in Lori region? In short the answer is “awareness and communication.”
It is crucial to promote Armenian regions as tech hubs for international remote workers and digital nomads. Enhancing visibility and engagement on social media can help reach a wider audience, enticing more people to consider Armenia. The Armenian diaspora can be pivotal in this initiative by leveraging their international networks to advocate for Armenian regions as ideal remote working destinations. Simultaneously, local authorities in the Armenian regions should take proactive steps and dedicate resources to promote the unique advantages they offer to remote workers.
Currently, Dilijan in Tavush region has emerged as a popular destination for digital nomads, particularly attracting remote workers, many of whom are Russians. The city’s popularity dates back to the Soviet era, which contributes to its fame.
Following the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, thousands of Russians relocated to Armenia, a significant portion of them being remote-working professionals. As Yerevan could not accommodate all these newcomers due to its size and escalating costs, many began moving in groups to other Armenian cities. Dilijan, already popular, became a sought-after location after Yerevan and Gyumri. As a result, many digital nomads relocated to the city, transforming the cultural scene and driving its development. Today, Russian professionals in Dilijan host movie nights, book events, and cultural gatherings while also contributing significantly to the Armenian tech and startup ecosystem in the city and the entire region.
As highly paid remote workers increasingly choose to relocate to Dilijan, contemporary residential complexes featuring co-working spaces are being developed to meet their needs, be it for a temporary or permanent relocation. It’s an example of the importance of awareness and communication in promoting a destination. It also demonstrates that Armenian regions are just as appealing as other international destinations.
When discussing Armenian regions, concerns often arise about their capacity to attract and accommodate digital nomads from the United States, Europe and Canada. However, it’s essential to understand digital nomads’ diverse needs and preferences. While some are drawn to the vibrant energy of city life, others prefer the tranquility of rural areas. Some digital nomads might be interested in living affordably in a small city surrounded by mountains and landscapes while working on a certain project, whereas another might want to experience a simpler lifestyle with their family in a welcoming and affordable locale for a few months.
While some may question the appeal of Armenia’s regions for international travelers, I argue that their simplicity is a distinctive strength. In our interconnected world, ideas and activities are swiftly replicated from one city to another, often leading to a lack of uniqueness. In such a context, simplicity — with fewer details and distractions can become intriguing as people seek authenticity. This authentic experience is precisely what Armenian regions offer.
Another big advantage for many Armenian regions is their clustering. The country’s geographical proximity to Georgia presents an exciting opportunity for digital nomads to explore both countries effortlessly. The distance between Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, and Ijevan is approximately 250 kilometers (155 miles), making it a convenient drive for digital nomads seeking a change of scenery. This proximity is further enhanced by the fact that the distance from Ijevan to Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, is almost equal, creating a seamless transition between the two countries.
Armenia’s geographical advantage positions regions like Tavush and Lori as potential clusters for digital nomads visiting Georgia and seeking to explore additional destinations. These regions can leverage their unique cultural attractions, natural beauty, and proximity to Georgia to draw a wider range of digital nomads. This can prolong their stay in Armenia and contribute to its growing appeal as a hub for nomads.
Promoting Armenia as a digital nomad destination requires significant efforts aimed at attracting international travelers to relocate to Armenian regions. While surrounding countries have already begun embracing the digital nomad lifestyle, Armenia possesses the necessary attributes to establish itself as a prominent destination. All that’s needed is to invest resources and unite public and private efforts to promote the country and its regions to this specific target audience.
- The number of digital nomads worldwide is on the rise, projected to reach one billion by 2035.
- Digital nomadism has the potential to contribute to national income and boost local economies.
- Despite lacking a dedicated digital nomad visa program, Armenia’s competitive residency permit program can attract digital nomads.
- Limited awareness about Armenia and its potential for digital nomadism keeps it off the radar for many Western remote workers.
- Armenia’s neighbor, Georgia, has successfully launched a digital nomad program, aiming to attract tens of thousands of remote workers. Armenia, with its unique offerings, is no less competitive.
- Armenian regions can attract and retain digital nomads by showcasing their unique characteristics and charm.
- With sufficient investment from both public and private sectors, Armenia could become an international tech hub for remote workers.
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