Parliament Passes Amendments to Visa and Migration Rules

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The FINANCIAL — Parliament passed with its first and second readings on May 1 package of legislative amendments aimed at easing visa and migration regulations, which were tightened eight months ago.

Among the changes, proposed in bill drafted by the Ministry of Economy, is a provision making it possible to increase visa-free stay in Georgia for citizens of some countries from current 90 to 360 days.

According to the bill it will be up to the government to adopt a decree listing those countries whose citizens will be eligible to 360-day visa-free stay in Georgia.

The government has to compile the list within 30 days after these legislative amendments go into force.

Deputy chairman of parliamentary committee for foreign affairs GD MP Zviad Kvatchantiradze said that the list will most likely include EU-member states, the U.S. and some other countries.

These rules will also apply to those foreign nationals, who hold residence permits in those countries, which will be listed in a government’s decree of countries whose citizens will be eligible for 360-day visa-free stay in Georgia.

After the regulations were tightened starting from September 1, 2014, Georgia scrapped visa waiver for more than a dozen of countries and retained visa free rules with more than hundred of countries and territories, but citizens of those countries can stay in Georgia without visa for maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period instead of 360 days as it was before tightening of rules.

In other changes, the bill envisages granting residence permit or one-year visa to a foreign national, who already owns or buys real estate, except of agricultural land, worth at least USD 35,000; this category of residence permit or visa will be canceled as soon as a foreign national sells or otherwise relinquishes this property.

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The bill also envisages number of other amendments, which simplify procedures for applying and obtaining Georgian visa.

It also envisages cutting of visa fee from GEL 100 to GEL 40 for those foreign nationals, who are already in Georgia and apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) for its extension (visa can also be issued by Justice Ministry’s Public Service Development Agency). Visa fee for applications filed through online system on website will be reduced from current USD 50 to USD 20.

The bill lists circumstances in which the relevant authorities will not be obliged to justify their decision not to grant a visa to foreign national; among them, according to the bill, is: “if presence of a foreign national in Georgia poses threat to the state security of Georgia or/and to the public order and protection of lawful interests of health and rights of other residents of Georgia” or when “presence of a foreign national is unacceptable because of external political” reasons.

The bill has to be passed with its third reading by the Parliament and then signed into law by the President before it goes into force.

Source: Civil Georgia


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