The Rationale Behind Stricter Visa Regulations in Georgia

News | Research | Analysis | Article 7 October 2014



Until recently Georgia has exercised one of the most liberal migration policies in the world (visa free stay for up to 360 days, the possibility to apply for the visa on the border and etc), nevertheless it will not come as a surprise to state that the country has gradually started to adopt restrictive immigration policy. Based on the policy number of legal acts have been adopted. Inter alia the law on the Legal Status of Aliens and Stateless Persons (in force from March 2014), the secondary legislation adopted on the bases of the new law i.e. the Ordinance of the Government of Georgia on Approving the List of the Countries Whose Citizens May Enter Georgia Without a Visa (in force from September the 1st, 2014) and the amended ordnance of the Government of Georgia on Adopting the Migration Strategy in the country should be emphasized. The new regulations, linked with restrictive visa policy has been assessed negatively by many stakeholders. One of the main reasons for criticism was the amendment according to which the citizens of 118 states, which previously were allowed to enter the territory of Georgia visa free, would as a result of the reform be taken away this possibility. Reducing the short stay period from 360 to 90/180 days was another ground for criticism.


IDFI decided to look into the rationale of amending the migration policy, and on September 12th reffered to the government of Georgia with the FOI request to indicate the international agreements, as well as the research conducted and/or statistical data obtained based on which the reform was conducted. This article based on the official documents received from the government of Georgia, sums up the arguments of adopting a restrictive visa regime in Georgia and informs the reader on the process of adopting the applicable legislation.


First of all it should be highlighted that, as a result of closer relations with the EU, liberalization of the Visa regime and the signature of the Association Agreement the Government of Georgia faces/will face the obligation to reform certain fields of governance, inter alia in the direction of migration policy. Nevertheless, it should be made clear, that the Association Agreement does not include any provision directly imposing an obligation on the government of Georgia to adopt restrictive visa regime. This the decision can only be made by a sovereign state itself. No doubt along with the liberalized visa regime between the EU and Georgia taking steps to avoid illegal immigration and generally adopting well-regulated migration policy is on the agenda. Hence the association agreement composes provisions highlighting the need to fight against illegal migration, art.16 reminds the government of Georgia its obligation to insure that the EU-Georgia Readmission Agreement is fully implemented.


According to the Readmission Agreement Georgia shall have the responsibility to readmit not only its own citizens residing illegally on the territory of the EU, but also third country nationals and statles persons, in case when they hold a valid Visa or residence permit issues by Georgia or when there is prima facie evidence that the persons illegally entered the territory of the EU by transiting through the territory of Georgia.

It should be emphasized that in recent years Georgia has been attracting increasing number of foreigners in the country. As a result, the number of the refugee seekers, as well as citizenship and residence permit application has drastically raised. (You can find our article on the topic here).



The increased number of foreign country nationals added by the deepening relations between the EU and Georgia materializes itself in the situation when necessary steps are to be taken in order to avoid the concentration of large number of illegal immigrants in the country. Nevertheless the stated does not a priory highlight the need of adopting strict migration policy. The Association Agreement itself does not include any statement imposing an obligation on Georgia to adopt strict visa regulations. Nevertheless the agreement does imply the need of adopting a well-regulated migration policy.

Based on the above mentioned, it is clear that the attempt of the government of Georgia to bring the national legislation in line with the Europeans standards should be assessed positively. The expert assessment forwarded to IDFI by the chancellery of the government (prepared by Targeted Initiative Georgia in July 2013, with the financial support of the EU) highlights that that the short and long-stay provisions adopted by the law on the Legal Status of Aliens and Stateless Persons are in line with the EU legislation. The stated refers to reducing the short stay period from 360 to 90-180 days as well as to the new long-stay provisions.

At the same time the legislations in force has loopholes which has not been addresses regardless of the criticism by the international organizations and experts. Precisely the concern of International Organization of Migration and other experts regarding the provision on fining the aliens illegally residing on the territory of Georgia has not been taken into consideration. Precisely the provisions of the law according to which the aliens voluntarily leaving the territory of Georgia can still be imposed the obligation to pay a fine.

The provision of the law according to which an alien is denied the possibility to leave the territory of Georgia in the case when he/she has not met the obligation to pay the fine has also been assessed negatively by the experts.


The issue of clearer definition of competences between state agencies has also been criticized. Regardless of the fact that visa issuance and border checks are not implemented at the same time or by the same authorities the given topics are still regulated in one article, hence failing to duly define the competences of the state agencies involved.

It should be highlighted, that even though IDFi has referred to the government of Georgia with the request to provide us with the information/documentation which served as a ground for adopting the list of the countries whose citizens may enter the territory of Georgia visa free, the Chancellery of the Government has not provided us with any such rationale. Hence we were not able to determine the reasons why the citizens of certain countries, who prior to the reform exercised the right to enter Georgia visa free, are now taken away the possibility.


In addition the expert assessment highlights that there were important loopholes in the process of adopting the new legislation. Precisely, the assessment emphasizes that NGOs and well as experts in the field were invited to contribute to the legislative process at a later stage. Due to the time concerns experts delivered only the most important general remarks regarding the draft, underlining though some of the specific provisions of the draft. We find, that the controversy faced by the new legislation, was partially the result of the failure to guarantee the involve every stakeholder in the process of drafting the law.



The attempt of the government of Georgia to harmonize national legislation with the EU standards and implement a well regulated migration policy should be assessed positively. Nevertheless important loopholes were found in the process of adopting the legislation, when public is not duly informed on the reforms underway. It is crucial for the government of Georgia to send clear and unambiguous messages to the international organizations as well as to every other stake-holder, highlighting that the process of adopting a well-regulated migration policy, instead of adopting stricter rules is under way in the country.

The Migration Strategy adopted by the government of Georgia in July 2013 unambiguously states that due attention shall be paid to insuring that the positive impacts of migration are taken into consideration when drafting the new policy. Hence it is important for the adopted legislation to be implemented in the way when certain individual which by their presence contribute to the development of the Georgian economy are not denied the possibility to enter or reside in Georgia. The mentioned refers not only to the investors, but every single national of a foreign country, which by their presence do not constitute threat to public order and security in the country. It is crucial, for the Government of Georgia to implement a well regulated migration policy, without adopting strict rules.





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