Trip to New River Gorge
I visited New River Gorge in West Virginia for the fourth summer in a row last week. Mark Caudill/News Journal
Attention, digital nomads: Love the outdoors? How does free access to world-class rafting, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, skiing and other activities sound? Could you use $12,000 for a down payment on a house or to put a dent in your student loans? Have a soft spot for the John Denver song, “Take Me Home, Country Roads?”
West Virginia is encouraging you to consider packing up and heading to the Mountain State. While work permit offers from places like Barbados and Croatia may sound more exotic and romantic, in terms of tangible benefits, the Ascend West Virginia program offers some pretty enticing incentives.
Ascend West Virginia is billed as a “long-term talent attraction program” and is the brainchild of former Intuit CEO Brad Smith, who grew up in Kenova, and his wife, attorney and philanthropist Alys.
If selected for the program, during your first year, you’ll get $10,000 cash in monthly payments. Then you’ll receive an additional $2,000 at the end of your second year. The state is also offering a year’s worth of free outdoor recreation and two years of free outdoor gear rentals.
“Money goes further in the mountains,” the Ascend West Virginia website says. There’s even a cost-of-living calculator that lets users see how much further their income would go in West Virginia.
If you’re feeling a little isolated working from home all the time, there’s also a co-working space available to participants, and there are social activities to help acquaint you with your new surroundings.
So what’s the catch, you ask? Here are the eligibility requirements:
- The first 50 selectees must live full-time in Morgantown, the college town that’s home to West Virginia University and located about an hour from Pittsburgh and 2.5 hours from Washington, D.C. (Next year, the program will expand to Lewisburg and Shepherdstown.)
- You must remain in West Virginia for two consecutive years to get the full $12,000.
- You must also provide proof of full-time employment and your ability to work remotely. (The program will not assist with finding jobs for candidates or their partners.)
- You must also already be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who is eligible to work in the U.S.; the program will not help arrange visas for overseas applicants.
- You must be from out of state to apply.
- A background check may be required.
West Virginia remote worker program application
“The ideal candidate is someone who can work from anywhere and is looking to find a better work/life balance,” the website says. “We’re looking for folks who long for a sense of community, thrive with new adventure, and enjoy the great outdoors.”