Georgia Prepares to Tighten Visa Rules

Georgia’s open-door policy for foreigners is being reviewed and amended as the country prepares to implement a migration and visa policy for the first time.

From September 1, 2014, when new visa regulations come into effect, foreigner visitors wanting to spend time in Georgia will need to undergo additional procedures and provide additional documentation in order to enter the country.

Until now, Georgia has had an open-door policy and the Government has decided to tighten visa rules and impose new visa regimes with additional countries.

“Georgia does not have any migration policy and we want to improve this,” said Georgia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Maia Panjikidze.

“Some things may become more strictly regulated but some of them may become even easier,” she added.

The new regulations are coming into play following Georgia’s signature of the Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union (EU). Minister Panjikidze said another reason for its implementation was because of the high numbers of migrants coming into Georgia.

According to existing legislation, citizens of almost every country can freely come to Georgia. Under the new rules, these countries will soon be limited and people who enter the country must apply and be given a pre-determined time period for how long they can stay in the country.

Minister Panjikidze said Georgia would work with several countries and local authorities had started working on the design of the visa, which is expected to look similar to the Schengen visa.

She said introducing a new migration and visa policy would mean there were the same rules for foreigners in Georgia as there were in other countries for Georgian citizens. By implementing the new visa changes, authorities will be able to easier prevent illegal migration into Georgia but also protect their rights appropriately.

Executive Secretary of the Governmental Commission on Migration Issues, Giorgi Jashi said the flow of foreigner to the country would be regulated through the new law, which is part of visa liberalization talks with the EU.

“The law will protect the rights of those people and if there will be decision about deportation of the illegal migrants, this will also happen according to the law,” he said.

The decision to deport illegal migrants from the country will be made by the court after the Ministry of Internal Affairs reveals such instances of possible overstaying. The Ministry will also be responsible for executing the court decision.

An Immigration Service will be created to take control over the time limits of foreigners’ stay in the country. The temporary shelter for foreigners will close. The centre, which has room to house 70 people, will be allocated for people who violate visa requirements and are then deported form the country.

There are no official statistics about the total number of migrants to Georgia but the International Organisation for Migration said the number of migrants from Iraq, China, India and Egypt had increased. The organisation said Georgia was not only a transit country for foreign migrants but also a final destination.


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