Gia Giudice Says Her Dad Joe Has 'Grown So Much' amid Bahamas Exile: 'Can't Really Be That Mad' (Exclusive)

Italian-born Joe Giudice now lives in the Bahamas after being deported in 2019 following a 41-month prison stint for fraud

<p>Gia Giudice/Instagram</p> Gia and Joe Giudice

Gia Giudice/Instagram

Gia and Joe Giudice

Gia Giudice has nothing but pride for her dad Joe Giudice.

Chatting with PEOPLE about navigating growing up in the spotlight, Gia also offers an update on her father, who was deported in 2019 following a 41-month prison stint for fraud. Though he initially returned to his native Italy, the 51-year-old now lives in The Bahamas.

"WhatsApp is our best friend. FaceTime is, too. But we honestly see him as often as we can," The Real Housewives of New Jersey star, 22, tells PEOPLE, referring to her three younger sisters, Gabriella, 19, Milania, 17, and Audriana, 14. "We do our best, and he's doing amazing."

Related: Gia Giudice on How She Managed to Stay 'True to Myself' While Growing Up in the Spotlight (Exclusive)

Gia — who is currently working a day job in marketing, pursuing a career in influencing and studying for her LSATs after graduating with a criminal justice degree — says she's "so happy" her dad has found his own passions in the Bahamas.

Gia Giudice/Instagram Gia Giudice and her dad Joe Giudice
Gia Giudice/Instagram Gia Giudice and her dad Joe Giudice

Related: 'RHONJ' : Teresa Prays 'Every Day' for Ex Joe's Return to the U.S. and Knows He Will 'Always Be in My Life'

"He loves The Bahamas. It's honestly so much more Americanized than people think. It really is the closest you could get to the U.S.," she explains, noting her father works for a construction company and oversees the jobs. "He makes sure all the workers are doing what they're supposed to be doing, corrects them if they're doing something wrong. So he's basically back in doing what he loves to be doing and what he's so good at."

"He also has a chartering company that he does on the side," she explains. "I'm so happy that he was able to find his niche again because it's definitely not easy. And just being deported somewhere and having to start from scratch, it's definitely not easy on anybody. But he's really grown so much and he's really happy. So I think that's the most a daughter could ask of her dad. As long as he's happy, I'm happy."

Related: Joe Giudice Starts Legal Process to Return to U.S., 'Won't Stop' Trying to Reunite with Daughters

That happiness also extends to Joe's personal life, which Gia says includes a new girlfriend.

"He's been with this girl for a pretty long time," she shares. "They seem really happy and she's awesome. I really like her a lot. So yeah, I would love to start meeting her family and seeing what happens... I'm sure at one point my mom [Teresa Giudice] and Louie [Ruelas] will meet my dad's girlfriend and we'll have a huge blended family."

Related: Joe Giudice Is 'Very Happy' for Ex-Wife Teresa's New Marriage: 'Wish Everyone the Best!'

And while Gia would love to have her dad living closer, she admits she's also found the silver lining in his current residence.

"The Bahamas is a beautiful place," she notes. "You can't really be that mad that that is our second home! ... But yeah, he's doing really good. So we're happy."

<p>kyle braylen photography/@kylebraylen</p> Gia Giudice

kyle braylen photography/@kylebraylen

Gia Giudice

Joe and ex-wife Teresa both took turns serving time in prison after they were indicted on federal fraud charges in 2013. After serving 41 months in prison, Joe was deported to his native Italy in 2019, even though he lived his whole life in the United States.

The couple subsequently split and have been divorced since 2020. Joe then moved to the Bahamas, where his daughters take turns visiting him.

Gia goes often, with her last visit there taking place late last month. She tells PEOPLE she intends on visiting Joe again at Thanksgiving with her sisters. She also often posts about her father on social media.

Related: Teresa Giudice Says Co-Parenting with Ex Joe Giudice Has Been 'Great': 'My Kids Are Really Happy'

In May, during another visit, she celebrated Joe's birthday with a sweet tribute post on Instagram.

"happy birthday to the best dad and Bahamas king 👑 I’m so grateful to be able to spend your birthday with you!" she wrote. "thank you for always showing your girls endless love and support! you never fail to make me laugh and put the biggest smile on my face! cheers to another year of health and happiness I love you with all my heart❤️❤️"

Teresa has also been open about her relationship with Joe, revealing on a previous episode of RHONJ that she's "gonna keep praying every day that I hope one day you can come back here."

"Thank you, Tre," Joe said over the phone. "I'm glad that you's are happy, and that things are going the way they are, and I appreciate everything that you're doing over there for my kids because, you know, I can't be there, and everybody deserves to be happy and as long as you's are happy, that's all that matters."

"Joe wishing me happiness just shows how far we've come," Teresa later explained. "I'm so proud of how we've continued our relationship, stayed connected. And I know that makes our daughters happy. He's always gonna be in my life."

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