Tbilisi, DFWatch – Criticism of Georgia's new immigration law appears to have produced some results: lawmakers are considering changes to existing legislation on visas and residence permits.
The Georgian Parliament has already received the government's proposed package of changes. According to the head of the parliament's public relations department, Nino Baradze, the parliament's presidium will decide on Monday whether to officially register this bill.
However, it may take more than a month for the changes to take effect. “It usually takes up to a month or a month and a half for a bill or amendment to the law to reach a final vote. This largely depends on the complexity of the draft law amendment and whether additional consultations with stakeholders are required,” Baradze explained.
DF Watch was told by the Public Service Development Agency (SDA) that the proposed changes will result in foreigners who arrived in Georgia between March 17 and September 1, 2014 or have a visa or residence permit will be easier to obtain your new visa or residence permit. The government proposed a transition period until March 1, 2015, during which foreigners could submit their applications to the Public Service Hall or regional SDA offices without having to leave the country.
The changes suggest that foreign citizens who meet the above requirements can apply for a visa or residence permit even if they have overstayed in Georgia. In this case, they would be able to apply without proof of their legal residence in Georgia (e.g. a stamp in the passport) and will not be expelled from the country during the application period and when they receive their residence permit or long-term visa, they will be deported by the Exempt from paying fines for exceeding the permitted length of stay.
“6,000 foreigners who had an active temporary residence permit as of September 1 will be given an additional period to obtain a new residence permit without having to leave the country,” said Zura Sukhishvili, head of marketing communications, public relations and sales at SDA DF Watch.
He added that foreigners who have studied and graduated from a Georgian university and wish to remain in the country can replace their student visa with a work visa without going abroad.
There will also be changes to short-term visas. The five-day transit visa will be extended to ten days for international transport companies as motorists have complained that the visa period is too short and they face penalties if their vehicle breaks down in Georgia.
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 can obtain their residence permit from the SDA without having to return to their respective home countries. There are currently about 200 people with this status.
As DF Watch previously reported, one of the main complaints of foreigners already living in Georgia was complicated procedures and the need to return to their home country to obtain a long-term visa or residence permit. In addition, there were complaints about unclear criteria for rejecting an application.