In a July 9-15 edition of Alia newspaper, the Leader of Freedom Party, Konstantine Gamsakhurdia stated that the majority of the residential buildings under construction belong to Iranians, as well as the individuals from Arab countries and that any individual who makes a USD 35,000 investment, is granted a residence permit in Georgia.
Konstantine Gamsakhurdia: “Residential buildings are being constructed and most of the apartments there belong to the individuals from Iran, as well as people from Arab countries who arrived in Georgia for a relatively longer term. All of them have either the residence permit or the citizenship of Georgia. What is the matter? The truth is that the rule allows anyone who makes a USD 35,000 investment in Georgia to be granted the residence permit in Georgia. Citizens of the aforementioned countries keep such amounts of money in their pockets. For instance, what kind of regulation does Germany have regarding foreigners? They require from you to make a USD 35,000 investment, in order to be granted the residence permit. In addition, as a foreign investor, you have to employ at least ten German citizens. In Georgia, such foreigners mostly invest in night club, hotel and exotic restaurant businesses (USD 35,000 and more) and do not even employ Georgians – they bring their own staff instead.”
1. The statement that the majority of the apartments in the residential buildings that are under construction belong to Iranians and people from Arab countries, is misleading, as according to the public register data, in 2012-2016, the largest share of apartments were sold to the citizens of Russia (51%), with the share of the citizens of Iran being equal to 2.6%, and 1.5% for Iraqi citizens.
The Migration Profile 2017, formulated by the Georgian Governmental Commission on Migration Issues, provides the information about the foreigners buying real estate in Georgia. The Profile is based on 2012-2016 data of the Public Register of Georgia.
According to the given data, in 2012-2016, foreign nationals registered 15,317 apartments/houses in Georgia. In total, 2,691,313pieces of real estate were registered in the given period. The number of the real estate (flats/houses, agricultural and non-agricultural lands) bought by the foreign nationals in the given period is 34,024, which does not exceed 1.3% of the total amount of the real estate sold in Georgia.
In 2012-2016, among all foreigners, Russian citizens bought the most apartments/houses in Georgia (51%). In the given period, Iranian (2.6%) and Iraqi (1.5%) citizens bought 399 and 236 pieces of real estate, respectively and hold 9th and 10th positions among the foreigners that registered real estate in Georgia. The amount of apartments/houses bought by the citizens of other Arab countries is so low that they did not even appear in the top 10.
In 2012-2016, the citizens of foreign countries bought 15,317 apartments/houses in Georgia.
2. The statement that the USD 35,000 gives the Georgian residence permit to anyone is also manipulative. According to a resolution by the Government of Georgia, a foreign national can receive an investment residence permit if the investment equals at least GEL 300,000. Purchasing real estate worth USD 35,000 (except for the agricultural land) only grants a temporary, one-year residence permit.
According to the Article 11 of the Resolution №520 of the Government of Georgia, a foreigner is allowed to live in Georgia on the basis of the investment residence permit, however, the given Resolution holds that it is necessary to invest at least GEL 300,000 to this end, not USD 35,000.
According to the 2014 Resolution №520 by the Government of Georgia, there are various grounds for assigning the Georgian residence permit to the foreign nationals: residence permit for employment purposes; student residence permit; family reunion residence permit; residence permit of the former citizens of Georgia; residence permit of non-citizens; special residence permit; permanent residence permit; investment residence permit; temporary residence permit; short-term residence permit.
It is noteworthy that apart from the investment residence permit, financial criterium is also required in the process of granting the short-term residence permit. Since 2015, the short-term residence permit has been issued only to those foreign citizens that have property rights (except for the agricultural land) on the real estate, the market value of which is higher than USD 35,000, equivalent in GEL. The given residence permit is issued only for a year.
There is a big difference between the investment residence permit and the short-term residence permit. Apart from the fact that the first one involves an investment, while the second – property ownership, the short-term residence permit is issued with a validity of 6-12 months, whereas the investment residence permit has an indefinite term and allows its owner to live in Georgia indefinitely.
In addition, the number of foreign citizens that own short-term or investment residence permits is quite small.
According to the Public Service Development Agency, in 2012-2016, the short-term residence permit was issued to 690 individuals, whereas the investment residence permit – to 363 people. The short-term and the investment residence permits constitute only 1.5% of all the residence permits issued in Georgia.
3. It is also noteworthy that in the last six years, the citizenship of Georgia has been given to such as small number of Iranians or Arab country representative (265 in total) that even if each of them had bought a flat/house, the real estate purchased by them would not have been important for the Georgian market anyway.
According to the 2012-2017 data, the most of the granted citizenships fell on former Russian citizens. The statistics of Iranian and Arab foreigners’ successful applications in 2012-2017 are much smaller and constitutes 265 cases in total: Iran – 192; Egypt – 18; Iraq – 3; Yemen – 4; Jordan – 21; Lebanon – 8; Morocco – 3; Syria – 14; Tunisia – 2.
As we have seen, the share of the apartments/houses purchased in Georgia by Iranians and the representatives of Arab countries is much lower than 1%, which is reflected in the statistics of the real estate purchase by foreigners. It should be noted that the cases of granting Georgian citizenship to the citizens of Iran and Arab countries are very scarce as well, which exclude the possibility of them purchasing a significant part of the real estate as Georgian citizens. Therefore, Konstantine Gamsakhurdia’s claim that the majority of apartments in the residential buildings under construction belong to the individuals from Iran and Arab countries, is groundless.