On March the 5th 2014 the Parliament of Georgia adopted the new law on the Legal Status of Aliens and Stateless Persons. Amendments were made to number of secondary legal acts. After the new law went into force increasing number of foreign citizens effected by the amendments started to highlight the gaps in the legislation and emphasize the problems that the law faced during the phase of its implementation. In the month of October 2014 IDFI has also been calling upon the Government of Georgia to set up the immigration policy which would not be seen as stricter regime but rather develop a well organized migration policy, where in and outflows of aliens across Georgian borders would be well managed and administrated. It should be emphasized that the recent amendment to the law, which entered into force on the 26th of November partially succeeds to address the concerns highlighted by different stakeholders.
The recently adopted amendments to the law sets new regulations linked with the issue of immigration visa as well as residence permit. It should me mentioned here that immigration visa is inter alia issued to the individuals arriving in Georgia with the purpose of work or studying in one of the authorized educational institutions. Overall the most important amendments concern foreigners who lawfully entered Georgia before the 17th of March 2014 and are still staying within the borders of Georgia.
One of the important changes for the persons interested in obtaining an immigration visa in order to lengthen the period of their stay in Georgia is that they will not be obliged to go back to the countries of their citizenship and apply for the visa in Georgian consulates there. Instead based on the new amendments applications for immigration visas shall be filed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. An alien shall apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia with an appropriate application not later than 45 days before his/her lawful stay in Georgia expires. As for the foreigners who entered Georgia before March 17th 2014 they can apply for immigration visas, even after the period of their lawful stay in Georgia expires but no later than March the 1st 2015. If an alien obtains an immigration visa under this paragraph, the period of his/her unlawful stay in Georgia shall be deemed valid and he/she shall be exempted from the penalty prescribed by the legislation of Georgia. An alien shall not be subject to removal from Georgia until the final decision on the issuance of an immigration visa has been made.
The recently adopted amendment also concerns the aliens interested to get residence permit in Georgia. Similarly, to the persons applying for immigration visas, in this case as well applications for obtaining residence permit should be filed before March the 1st 2015. In addition, before the given date foreigners are exempt to submit a document evidencing his/her lawful stay in Georgia. In case if an alien wants to stay in Georgia after the given date, he/she should apply to the Public Service Development Agency for obtaining residence permit. In this case an alien, can not be deported from the country until the final decision is made regarding his application even in the case if he/she has no document evidencing his/her lawful stay in Georgia. Nevertheless it is problematic that according to the law the aliens who have already been denied residence permit can not benefit from the above described simplified procedures. Especially, this is of concern when taking into consideration that many foreigners have been highlighting their concern that they were denied the residence permit without any substantiation. The denial was usually explained by the fact that an alien constituted danger for the security of Georgia, without giving any evidence that would prove this concern.
Moreover it should be highlighted that the issue of the aliens who are exempt from the scope of the new amendments (i.e. who have entered territory of Georgia after the new regulation went into force) is still of concern. Another problematic issue is that the society still has no information on the basis for the adoption of the Ordinance of the Government of Georgia on Approving the List of Countries Whose Citizens May Enter Georgia without a Visa.
Overall we find that the new amendments to the law should be assessed positively. Moreover the fact that the Government of Georgia has reacted to the concerns highlighted by the aliens as well as by the CSOs should also be welcomed.
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