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EU Visa regulations softened for Georgians

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Thursday, January 20
The Council of the European Union approved two agreements concerning Georgia, one on visa facilitation and one on readmission, both of which will come into force on March 1, 2011. Notably The United Kingdom and Ireland are not party to the agreement on visa facilitation; Ireland and Denmark are not taking part in the readmission agreement.

The news released by the Council of the EU on January 18 says that the visa facilitation agreement makes it easier and cheaper for Georgian citizens, in particular those who travel frequently, to acquire short stay visas for travel to and throughout the EU. After the agreement enters into force, certain categories of people including businessmen, scientists, students and journalists as well as those who are close relatives of people who are Georgian citizens residing in the EU will benefit through the simplified visa application documents.

“As a general rule, the agreement stipulates that a decision upon the request to issue a visa must be taken within 10 calendar days. The agreement also reduces the visa handling fee from ˆ60 to ˆ35 for all Georgian citizens and provides a total exemption from the visa fee for certain categories of applicants, e.g. close relatives who are visiting Georgian citizens residing in the EU, pensioners, children below the age of 12, disabled persons, scientists, students and journalists,” the EU statement reads.

The readmission agreement lays out obligations and procedures for the Georgian authorities as to when and how to take back people who are illegally residing in the EU. They cover not only those residing illegally but also third country nationals and stateless persons being in an irregular situation provided they have a clear link with the requested party.

On 28 November 2008, the Council gave the European Commission the mandate to start the negotiations of the readmission agreement as well as the visa facilitation with Georgia. Visa facilitation was concluded in the first half of 2010 and the readmission agreement in the second half of the same year. Both agreements were signed in November 2010. The European Parliament gave its consent in December 2010.