The prospect of visa-free travel between EU and Georgia is not a myth; but a tangible benefit for Georgian citizens through the process of European integration.
As a result of visa liberalization, Georgian citizens will be fully exempt from visa fees, as the visa liberalization process implies visa-free travel to EU-member states. Hence, visa-free travel is not a myth, but an activity defined by the specific Action Plan within the framework of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement. Enactment of the visa-free regime depends on the fulfillment of the assigned obligations by the Government of Georgia.
On February 25, 2013, Georgia was granted an Action Plan on Visa Liberalization (VLAP). On May 8, 2015, European Commission issued the third progress report on Georgia’s implementation of the action plan on visa liberalization. According to the report, 7 obligations out of 15 were assessed as fulfilled, while 8 of them were considered nearly or partly fulfilled. Migration, money laundering and fight against financing the terrorism still remain as problematic areas.
As a result of European integration, Georgian citizens have already received certain benefits: due to the “Agreement between the European Union and Georgia on the facilitation of the issuance of visas”, signed on March 1, 2011, reduced visa fees and simplified regime of bureaucratic procedures came into force.
The Agreement provides reduced visa fee of €35 instead of €60 for all Georgian citizens and total exemption from the visa fees for specific category of applicants (e.g. children below the age of 12, pensioners, persons with disabilities, students, and close relatives of EU citizens as well as representatives of civil society organizations).
Documentary evidence for the visa applications are simplified for the following categories of citizens of Georgia: pupils, students, post graduate students, accompanying teachers, persons traveling for medical reasons, journalists, participants of international sport events and persons accompanying them in professional capacity, business people and representatives of business organizations, representatives of civil society organizations traveling for educational training, seminars, conferences, exchange programs.
Decision upon the request to issue a visa is made within 10 calendar days starting from the date of the receipt of the application and documents required for issuing visas. If further review of the application is needed, the period of time for taking a decision on a visa application may be extended up to 30 calendar days. The period of time for taking a decision on a visa application may be reduced to 2 working days or less in urgent cases.
As is widely known, VISA liberalization does not automatically mean exemption from the requirement of work-permit. In this regard, some limitations and regulations are still in place. Nevertheless, the statement that visa liberalization will not bring any benefits – is definitely not true.
Visa liberalization is a complicated process, requiring several reforms and changes which will be reflected on the development of the country and its society as a whole. Successful completion of the Visa liberalization process will open new opportunities to every citizen of Georgia.
Granting a visa free regime to Georgia implies development of tourism, increased cultural and educational exchange programs, new business contacts, new channels for sharing information and expertise, facilitation of people-to-people contacts and development of partnership between civil society organizations. All the above mentioned will eventually benefit Georgia’s economy and sustainable development of human resources. In order to achieve visa liberalization, Georgia is required to implement reforms in several fields and refine legislation which is equally important. This, in its turn, will be an additional catalyst and possibility to create modern and lawful environment in Georgia bringing concrete benefits to every citizen of our country.
Source: Gia Khukhashvili, Expert: “Visa lIberalization is a myth. If you have money you can get a visa. There is no problem. If you don’t’ have money Visa liberalization is useless”.