TBILISI, DFWatch – Georgians living abroad will get the right to visit their home country without a visa, get a grant to study in their homeland and to represent Georgia at sports events.

A person gets the new rights after receiving a special status, which means they will become equal with Georgian citizens in some regards, mainly to do with education and culture.

Parliament is about to adopt the new law on ‘Compatriots Living Abroad and Diaspora Organizations.’

This is a government initiative, and author of the bill is the Georgian State Ministry Office for Diaspora Affairs.

According to the bill, a compatriot living abroad can receive the new status if he or she is a Georgian citizen and has been living abroad for a long time. But the new status is also open to citizens of other countries who have their roots in Georgia or her/his native language belongs to the Georgian-Caucasian language group.

In addition, the status can be granted to underage persons on the basis of an appeal from the parents, if one of the parents is a compatriot living abroad.

The civil registry will review all applications from persons seeking the status of overseas compatriots. The decision to grant status is made by the Office of Georgian State Minister for Diaspora Affairs and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but the certificate itself is issued by the civil registry.

Another beneficiary of the new law is diaspora organizations, which will get certain privileges after getting a special legal status as such.

When it comes to visa free travel home, the way the new rules work is that a compatriot living abroad with citizenship of another country which normally would have needed a visa because of their citizenship, will have the right to cross the Georgian border visa free, and stay for not more than 30 days.

Another benefit of the new status is that overseas compatriot get the opportunity to receive state grant for secondary and higher education to study in Georgia. That way they can come and study in Georgia like Georgian citizens.

In addition, people with this status will have an opportunity to enter national sports teams and will be allowed to compete on behalf of Georgia.

The government’s reasoning behind giving these new rights is that nowadays the legislation does not define a legal status for overseas compatriot and diaspora organizations. Legal relations with the compatriots living abroad and diaspora organizations are not regulated on a legal level.

In a situation when Georgia is facing numerous challenges, it is crucial to support compatriots living abroad, and the government takes responsibility for them.

If passed, the law will come into force from March 1, 2012.