Simplified Immigration Procedures: What Foreigners and Businesspeople Should Know
08 May, 2015
Simplified Immigration Procedures: What Foreigners and Businesspeople Should Know
New immigration policies in Georgia, which took effect in September 2014, have instigated significant debate and dissatisfaction not only among foreigners visiting and residing in the country, but also throughout Georgian companies employing expats and persons engaged in the tourism business. Most consider the legislative amendments significantly stricter in their regulations, which create unreasonable complications for foreign citizens wishing to enter Georgia and obtain residence.

When justifying
the new rules, Georgian authorities referred to obligations undertaken in the course of the visa liberalization dialogue with the EU and the necessity to regulate migration through obtaining additional information about why people come to Georgia. Despite this, the government of Georgia has now taken a number of measures to simplify immigration procedures with the goal of finding a better balance between the interests of the state and foreign nationals.
The newly introduced rules primarily concentrate on establishing a facilitated regime for tourists, business visitors and nationals from visa-exempt countries who intend to reside in Georgia.
Therefore, to what should businesses and foreigners direct their attention in this regard? Comments are provided by Sandro Samadbegishvili, a lawyer with Mgaloblishvili Kipiani Dzidziguri (MKD) law firm which employs a staff of professionals with an international outlook and extensive expertise in providing legal services in Georgia.

Obtaining an immigration visa in Tbilisi

Foreign nationals can now apply for and obtain immigration visas for Georgia at the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tbilisi at least 45 days prior to the expiration of any legal stay in Georgia. This change allows foreign nationals, who are presently visa-exempt for visits ugeotv.gep to 90 days, to enter Georgia without a visa and apply for an immigration visa in Tbilisi within 45 days of their arrival. Immigration visas are issued to persons visiting Georgia for employment purposes, commercial activities and family reunification.
Previously, this category of visa was only available in the Georgian consular offices in the countries of nationality or residency of the applicants. Importantly, foreign nationals can gain eligibility for a residence permit only after obtaining an immigration visa from a corresponding sub-category.

Electronic visas now available

The principle concerns regarding changes to the immigration laws relate to the anticipated drop in tourist arrivals from non-beneficiary countries of the visa-exempt regime. Georgian immigration authorities have addressed this concern by launching e-Visa portals, which allow tourists and business visitors to obtain short-term visas in a simplified manner without visiting consular offices. Such a visa is now available through an online application and payment, with the option to print an e-Visa.
Supporting document requirements and duration of e-Visas vary, depending on the applicant’s nationality. For foreign nationals, it is sufficient for certain countries to submit a passport copy and photo of the applicant. Applicants can obtain more information on the e-Visa website or during the online registration process.
E-Visa applications should not be confused with the online application, which is the first step toward obtaining other categories of visas, including immigration visas. According to the regulations enacted in 2014, any visa application shall firstly be submitted by a foreign applicant online. Upon filing, the applicant can schedule a visit to a consular office to submit hard copies of the application and supporting documents.

Working towards a better balance

After introducing rather strict requirements for foreign nationals to arrive and reside in Georgia, immigration authorities are currently making steps towards establishing a better balance between the interests of state security and those of foreign nationals and businessmen.
Since September 2014, they have gradually adopted measures to address concerns of the interested parties by simplifying the bureaucratic obstacles and extending the time-frames for foreigners already residing in Georgia to adapt to the new policy. In addition, Georgia is in negotiations with a number of countries—especially the countries of Central and South America—regarding the adoption of a bilateral visa-free regime. This will enlarge the list of visa-exempt countries, which is currently limited to 94.
The Georgian authorities are considering draft amendments of the respective laws on the liberalization of immigration rules and procedures. Due to the changing legal environment, foreign nationals and business people are highly recommended for the provision of professional legal services in relation to immigration matters.
* * *
As a law firm, Mgaloblishvili Kipiani Dzidziguri (MKD) handles nearly all aspects of Georgian law and advises businesses from various industries. The firm benefits from a large team of expert lawyers and a well-established network of external professionals to provide its international and domestic clients with more specialization and focus. According to international legal directories, MKD’s practice and lawyers have been consistently recognized as one of the leaders in Georgia.
The information provided in this article is general in nature and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact your legal advisor regarding your specific needs and situation.
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