Better Visa System for More Visitors
30 May, 2013
Better Visa System for More Visitors
Exclusive Interview with Federica Favi, Ambassador of Italy to Georgia

Last week, the Ambassador of Italy to Georgia, H.E. Mrs. Federica Favi held a press conference regarding Embassy’s new visa issuing service. Ambassador Favi spoke to journalists from the offices of Visa Management Service. Due to the deadline, we could not publish it immediately. However, Georgian Journal decided to visit the embassy to conduct a face-to-face interview with Federica Favi, recipient of the prize in the nomination of “the best
respondent” at Georgian Journal’s Diplomat Party a month ago at Tbilisi Marriott.
Q: What changes have you introduced in visa system that made you call it ‘a new visa issuing service’?
A: Between 2006 and 2013, the Embassy of Italy faced a huge increase in the number of visa applications. For example, in 2006 we issued 3500 visas. Later they increased to 4900 and in 2011, they became 5400. Last year, they were about 8000, and the latest figures show that in the first five months of 2013, visa requests from Georgian citizens increased by 106,7%. And this constant increase has been dealt with without any corresponding adjustment in Embassy personnel. Therefore, we arrived at the point where the two employees who received people were simply not enough. This was the reason why the application process was very long. This is not good with respect to Georgian people but also with respect to the visa facilitation agreement that Schengen countries signed with Georgia in March 2011. We want to comply with the rules and to have a shorter waiting list for appointments. So we asked a private company to help us. We made an official tender and in the end only one company remained as a possible candidate to deal with this extremely important task. Visa Management Service (VMS), located on Rustaveli 27, is a renowned Italian company, legally registered in Georgia. It works also in Russia and Ukraine for all the Italian Consulates. They manage a huge amount of Italian visas. They take care of all the procedures, but the decision to issue the visa remains a prerogative of the Italian Embassy. They have a lot of personnel so they can fix appointments in very short time (currently, it takes only one day). Then, within a maximum of ten days the applicant can obtain a visa. The call centre is free and anyone who wishes to go to Italy as a tourist, on a business trip or to study is eligible to call at the following number: (+995 32) 2-43-00-59; applicants can also obtain appointments online by visiting the website: www.italy-vms.ge In this way, we can issue many more visas than before. Of course, VMS charges a fee for its services (i.e. information, appointments, collecting documentation, to give passports back, etc..), but it is not a large one – just 63 GEL – very affordable for travellers . The price of a short term visa does not change: it is always 77 GEL.
Q: You mentioned at the press conference on May 22, that it was necessary to acquaint Georgians with the fact that the new company is the only authorized operator in Georgia for processing Italian visa applications, since there could be crooks fraudulently advertising fake and illegal services for obtaining visas in exchange for thousands of Euros. Were there many such cases?
A: I have to say clearly that the price is as I mentioned – GEL 77 to the Embassy for the visa itself; GEL 63 - to VMS for their services ; that is the only price Georgians have to pay to obtain a visa. If somebody asks for a higher amount of money, it is illegal and dangerous. Nobody has to pay extra fees. In this case, I advise to go to the police. We are not informed about registered cases of such fraud , but it is always better to be over-careful.
Q: How will these changes boost the links between the two countries?
A: The main idea of this system, by means of which we are issuing more visas, is that it should help business as well as tourists. This will be of mutual benefit for our two countries; it also facilitates activities in other areas: cultural exchanges, for example, since a lot of artists, musicians and theatre people apply for visa. We are happy, when foreigners arrive in our country. Number of visas is increasing and it is good. However, it is also important to keep migration within the bounds of the law; otherwise it may create problems for both sides. Georgia is engaged in fighting illegal migration, and it is endeavoring to reach a visa liberalization agreement with the EU.
Q: What do you expect, when Georgia can get visa liberalization?
A: I don’t take part in the negotiations but I am informed by the EU and also by the Georgian authorities that the negotiations are going very smoothly. I expect Georgia will get visa liberalization as soon as possible.
Q: Are there any changes in in the sphere of direct flights?
A: As I’ve said, the exchange is growing and to prove this, it is also enough to mention that ALITALIA came to Georgia to have direct flights and since July of 2012, it performs flights on the Rome-Tbilisi route. They started last year with two flights per week. Now, as of April of 2013, they perform three flights. From the second half of this May, they will have four flights per week until October. The season now is profitable. Not only Georgians go to Italy but many Italians are arriving in Georgia as tourists or for business trips. This will develop further our bilateral relations. In addition, Georgian Embassy in Rome contributes to it by its work though Italians don’t need visas for Georgia.

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