Does PayPal work in Armenia?

“This job is such a great fit for me,” I thought to myself when I came across the job listing several years ago. Many of the remote work opportunities I saw offered much better benefits than the job offers I had received in Armenia. Providing location independence, reduced commuting time, improved time management and higher pay, remote work seemed to encompass what I had always looked for in the past. But when I came across the mentioned job listing, it best aligned with my financial and time-management goals and my professional passions and interests. As I prepared to proceed to the application form, I noticed one of the last sentences of the job description that changed my happy facial expression into one of disappointment. It stated that payments would be made only via Paypal and two other virtual platforms whose names I can no longer remember, none of which were functional in Armenia. 

This was my first but not last experience in which I was unable to apply for a position simply because it required a PayPal account. The unavailability of PayPal in Armenia has affected not only me but also many of my friends who have a perfect command of the English language and have both the ability and the willingness to work remotely but cannot do so because of the lack of an internationally recognized and accepted payment method. I have heard of cases in which employers agreed to make exceptions and pay salaries in methods different from PayPal, giving preference to wire and bank transfers. Yet they often regretted their decision, since the fees associated with wire and bank transfers sometimes constitute a significant cost. As a result, the employer has to choose between transferring the payment only once a month or every two months (instead of regular weekly or biweekly payments), continuing with weekly/biweekly payments while wasting too much money on transfers or firing the employee. 

I was fortunate enough to have an academic semester in New York sponsored by New York University, during which I managed to get an American bank card, which played a huge role in facilitating my job search with international employers. Unsurprisingly, I found a remote work opportunity in Norway only a few weeks after obtaining my American bank account. However, seeing the struggle of my Armenian friends to get their desired remote positions and their financial losses (associated with transfer fees, withdrawal costs, bureaucracy and unnecessarily long wait times), I decided to do more research about the reasons why PayPal was and still is not functional in Armenia. Soon, I came across a report by CivilNetCheck that provided intriguing details about the situation. 

According to the fact-checking report, in August 2018, only a few months after there was a change in power as a result of the “Velvet Revolution,” the post-revolution government announced, as an indicator of 100 days of its activity, that negotiations were underway with the PayPal company regarding the full launch of the payment system in Armenia. In September 2018, then-Minister of Transport, Communication and Information Technologies Hakob Arshakyan announced that the government would continue to work for the full launch of PayPal in Armenia. In 2019 and 2020, Arshakyan continued to talk about serious negotiations with PayPal. In December 2020, Minister of Economy Vahan Kerobyan spoke with the United States Ambassador to Armenia about the issue. However, in response to CivilNet’s inquiries in October 2022, the Armenian Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of High-Tech Industry stated that issues related to the full operation of PayPal are beyond the ministries’ jurisdiction. But only months before that answer, it was the leaders of those exact ministries who negotiated and spoke about PayPal’s launch. When asked, Arshakyan responded that negotiations with PayPal had stopped, and he was no longer aware of the problem. Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Armenia claimed that the negotiations were still ongoing. 

Against the backdrop of these contradictory statements and the perplexity revolving around the issue of PayPal, only one thing is certain: we are now in 2024, and it is still not possible to receive payments and transfers in Armenia from abroad via PayPal, which is a huge obstacle both for individuals and businesses, Armenian and non-Armenian, operating in Armenia. Regardless of the amount of research I did on this subject, I still could not find any substantial information about the potential reasons behind the issue. In the Armenian podcast “ԼուրջCast” with then-Minister of Economy Kerobyan that was released in February 2024, one of the hosts mentioned that he had some “inside information” from PayPal that the issue is due to the unwillingness of the banking system of Armenia. The other host added that this explanation is logical, since the banks benefit significantly from the bank transfer fees while also having full control over financial flows, and the full functionality of the PayPal system would deprive the banks of such benefits. 

Kerobyan, however, mentioned that in March 2024, a meeting in Washington was planned to figure out issues related to YouTube monetization and PayPal services in Armenia. However, only a few days after the “ԼուրջCast” podcast episode, Kerobyan was dismissed, and, according to Hetq investigative journalists, “was charged with ‘abuse of official powers’ and placed under two months’ house arrest.” Since then, no further information has been available regarding either the March meeting in Washington or the broader PayPal issue in Armenia. Whether the problem is caused by the Armenian banking system or by PayPal itself requires much more “inside information” that I do not have access to yet. But it is worth noting that PayPal is fully functional in our neighboring country Georgia, facilitating the reception of international payments both for individuals and businesses. For Armenia, however, PayPal is something very desirable to have but still out of our reach for an indefinite time. 

Milena Baghdasaryan

Milena Baghdasaryan

Milena Baghdasaryan is a graduate from UWC Changshu China. Since the age of 11, she has been writing articles for a local newspaper named Kanch ('Call'). At the age of 18, she published her first novel on Granish.org and created her own blog, Taghandi Hetqerov ('In the Pursuit of Talent')—a portal devoted to interviewing young and talented Armenians all around the world. Baghdasaryan considers storytelling, traveling and learning new languages to be critical in helping one explore the world, connect with others, and discover oneself. After completing her bachelor's degree in Film and New Media at New York University in Abu Dhabi, Milena is currently enrolled in an advanced Master of Arts program in European Interdisciplinary Studies at the College of Europe in Natolin.

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