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Georgian Parliament easies visa regulations

By Tatia Megeneishvili
Monday, May 11
The Georgian Parliament adopted legislative amendments to simplify visa and migration regulations with a third and final hearing on May 8. Georgia tightened its visa regime on September 1, 2014 and ended the open-door policy initiated by the previous President Mikheil Saakashvili.

87 members of parliament voted for changes and only one was against it. The bill will go into force after the President signs it into law. According to the amendments, 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 30 days to list the countries. The list is likely to include European Union (EU) member states, the United States (U.S) and several other countries.

The bill adds the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the visa issuing institutions. The MFA is authorized to issue electronic visas.

The draft law has also established preferential terms for foreigners living in Georgia to gain a residence permit, which already own or buys real estate, except of agricultural land, worth at least USD 35,000. A residence permit or visa will be revoked immediately if an expat sells or otherwise relinquishes this property.

The new draft is also cutting the 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). The visa fee for applications filed through the online system on website will be reduced from current USD 50 to USD 20.

After Georgia tightened the visa regime for more than a dozen countries, it also retained visa-free rules with others; however, citizens of those countries can now stay in Georgia without a visa for a maximum of 90 days in any 180 day period instead of the 360 days as it was before the tightening of the regulations.