PM Irakli Garibashvili said on October 8 that the government will fix “very soon” problems related to new, tightened visa rules, which went into force from September 1.
“All the shortcomings that have been observed will be eradicated,” he told journalists. “I want to apologize before all the foreign citizens, who have encountered problems in connection to new visa rules; this is not done deliberately, this is just a working process and all the shortcomings will be rectified; we will do it very soon.”
“All the procedures and everything that we do are directed towards better protection of our citizens, and in order to efficiently manage migration processes in Georgia and in this regard I want note that the border guard police works very efficiently in this respect,” PM Garibashvili said and praised Interior Minister Alexandre Tchikaidze, including for, as he put it, development of border infrastructure. “All these will help to create a very positive picture to increase reliability of our country for Europe and to have more security and to better protect our citizens.”
He made the remarks after opening ceremony of a newly built temporary accommodation center for irregular migrants in Tbilisi outskirts. The new law on aliens, which was adopted earlier this year and enforced from September 1, has also tightened migration controls.
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Georgia keeps short-term visa-free rules for citizens of about 104 countries and territories. Citizens of those countries can stay in Georgia without visa for maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period, instead of previous 360 days.
Before the new rules went into force, Georgian visas were available either upon entry into the country on the border or at the Georgian diplomatic missions abroad. But under the new rules visa can only be obtained at the diplomatic missions. After the new rules went into force, there have also been complaints about burdensome procedures for obtaining residence permits.
The issue was raised when members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia met President Giorgi Margvelashvili on October 7. Another business lobby group, International Chamber of Commerce Georgia, also raised the issue when its consultative body met Economy Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili on October 2; the group said that new visa policy has “extremely negative consequences.”
Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani told Tbilisi-based Imedi TV on October 7 that new regulations are “directly related” to Georgia’s Visa Liberalisation Action Plan with the EU and its “principles” will not be revised, but some aspects of the law can be amended.
She said that before enforcement of new rules foreign citizens residing in Georgia had five months for “sorting out their documents” required for obtaining residence permits. Many of them, Tsulukiani said, did so and obtained their residence permits without problems.
“A small part of foreigners, residing here, remain, who for some reasons could not believe that the law is a law – and in our country law is a law – and they faced problems, because they did not took into consideration that prior to that they had five months to sort out their documents,” Tsulukiani said. “We are a responsible government; we discussed this issue with the Prime Minister. I had statistics, which show that nothing alarming is going on – simply there is a group of foreigners who could not or did not meet deadline for sorting out their documents and I promise that we will find a solution for them… We have already found solution for some of them. All the cases are studied separately, case-by-case... There are from 300 to 400 such cases.”