TBILISI, DFWatch–The criticism of the new immigration law in Georgia seems to have yielded some results: lawmakers are contemplating amendments to existing legislation concerning visa and residency permit.
The parliament of Georgia has already received the proposed amendment package from the government. According to the head of parliament’s public relations department, Nino Baradze, the parliament’s bureau will decide whether to officially register this bill on Monday.
However, it might take more than a month for the amendments to enter into force. “It generally takes up to a month or a month and a half until a draft law or amendment to a law goes before a final vote and this largely depends on the complexity of the draft law amendment, and if additional consultations with interest groups are required,” Baradze explained.
DF Watch was told by the Public Service Development Agency (SDA) that the suggested changes will mean that it will be easier for foreigners who came to Georgia between March 17 and September 1, 2014, or have a visa or residency permit that needs to be renewed, to get their new visa or residency permit. The government proposed to have a transition period until March 1, 2015, during which foreigners can file their applications to the Public Service Hall or territorial SDA offices without having to leave the country.
The amendments suggest that those foreign citizens who qualify as outlined above would be able to apply for a visa or residency permit even if they have overstayed their period in Georgia. In that case, they would be allowed to apply without any proof of their legal stay in Georgia (e.g. a stamp in the passport), will not be expelled from the country during the application period and if they get their residency permit or long term visa, they will be exempted from paying fines for having overstayed.
“6,000 foreigners who had active temporary residency permits as of September 1 shall be granted additional term to be able to get a new residence permit without having to leave the country,” director of Marketing Communications, Public Relations and Sales department at SDA Zura Sukhishvili told DF Watch.
He added that those foreigners who had studied and graduated from a Georgian university and want to stay in the country will be able to replace their student visa with work visa without going abroad.
There will be changes in short-term visas as well. Five-day transit visa will be extended to ten days for international carriers, as drivers have been complaining that the visa period is too short and if the vehicle breaks down in Georgia they will get penalties.
Also, native Georgians from Azerbaijan (Ingilos), or other native Georgians who are citizens of other countries, but reside in Georgia and have so-called compatriot status, will be able to get their residency permits from SDA without having to go back to their respective home countries. At the moment, there are about 200 people with such status.
As DF Watch reported before, complicated procedures and the need to go back to one’s home country in order to get a long term visa or a residency permit was one of the main complaints raised by foreigners already living in Georgia. In addition, there were complaints about unclear criteria for rejecting an application.