From 2016, Iran and Georgia signed a visa-free travel agreement. And the Iranians see Georgia as their gateway to Europe.
Due to Iran’s devastating economic climate and the recent agreement between the two countries, Iranians see Georgia as a sort of gateway to a more promising, affordable life and as a gateway to other countries.
Georgia holds many appealing qualities for Iranians. One of them is historical and cultural. Parts of Georgia were once under the control of the Persian Empire until the nineteenth century. And in the sixteenth century the Safavid shah, Tahmasp I, gathered many Georgians and moved them into Iran. These captured Georgians later played important roles in the Persian Empire in the civil respect and military realm. The history between the two nations goes back centuries.
But the main reasons for Iran’s growing interest in Georgia are economic. A major draw is the cost of living. Rent, cost of living, and the inflation rate in Georgia are significantly lower than in Iran. As the Iranian rial continues to lose value, prices in Iran rise, and the citizens are looking elsewhere. Georgia offers a less expensive and more stable lifestyle.
Further, the sanctions imposed by the United States have made life in Iran more difficult financially speaking. In an attempt to live more cost effectively and to avoid Western embargoes, Georgia is becoming a plausible option for Iranians of virtually all walks of life.
What’s more, these economic advantages of Georgia also make the possibility of life in other countries in Europe more attainable. Many Iranians come to settle here, but many come to start here. In addition to a more affordable way of life, as of March 2017, Georgians—citizens and residents—were allowed visa-free travel to Schengen Area states. The Schengen Area states are the twenty six European countries that citizens and residences of Georgia can travel, and this is an enticing fact for Iranians who seek new lives outside of Iran.
With the drive to seek a new life, the numbers are proving that Georgia truly is on the minds’ of Persians. Within the last twelve months, 323,000 Iranians have traveled into the country. And next year, the projected total of Iranian visitors is at one million. Moreover, evidence also proves that the Iranians want to start lives here in Georgia. Companies based in Tehran that aid Iranians in gaining residence permits have reported significant increases in requests for permits.
From the historical ties to the economic and travel benefits, Iranians are flocking to Georgia. Though the road out of life in Iran is not always simple, Georgia is a stepping stone to a different life for Persians.
By Shirin Mahdavi