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Parliament approves visa amendments

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, November 14
During its first reading parliament approved changes to the Law of Legal Status of Foreigners and Stateless Persons on November 12. Three readings are necessary for approving several amendments in the law that will ease the procedure for obtaining visas for foreigners living in Georgia.

The amendment will allow foreigners who currently lawfully lived in Georgia to obtain immigrant visas within Georgia. For the aim, foreigners should address Georgia’s Foreign Ministry no later than 45 days before the expiry of their lawful stay.

Initially it was stressed that foreigners could only obtain a relevant visa from a Georgian diplomatic mission abroad. Thus, the foreigners had to leave the country, causing great inconvenience and additional expenses for them. The new changes will come into effect after the amendments are approved.

Only after, Georgia’s Foreign Ministry will be able to issue immigrant visas to foreigners living in Georgia at a cost of 100 GEL. Foreigners who had been issued with a residency permit or who entered Georgia after March 17, 2014, will be exempted from the liability to present a document certifying they adhered to Georgian laws until March 1, 2015.

The new law on "Legal Status of Foreigners and Stateless Persons" came into effect on September 1, 2014. Visa free travel with Georgia was abolished for 24 countries, however citizens from 94 countries were eligible to enter Georgia without a visa for a 90 day period.

Under the old rules, citizens from 118 countries were able to enter Georgia without a visa and stay for a maximum of 360 days. But from September, citizens from 94 countries were now able to enter Georgia without a visa for a maximum of 90 days in a 180 day period.

Current government members stated that the issue was not regulated under the previous government and Georgia might have been used as a transit route to Europe. However, later they admitted that to avoid some problems, certain amendments would be introduced into the law. The reason of such a solution was complaints from foreigners and criticism from the opposition who believe that the government created artificial obstacles for foreigners and foreign investment in the country.