Tamta Tvalavadze

He returned to Georgia for school on August 23, a week before Georgia’s new visa regulations took effect. However, 90 days after this last arrival, the new visa rules will apply to him. He has delivered documents and applied for an educational visa to the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He have been waiting for the visa for one month.

Starting September 1,  "the legal status of foreigners and stateless persons in the power of the new law came into force. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the new law brings Georgia more in line with European Union visa policies. 

However, these changes have created a lot of problems.

Even Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili has apologized to foreign visitors. “All those foreign citizens who face some inconvenience or a problem with the enactment of the new visa policy, I would like to apologize to them, but it was not deliberate or intentional,” said Gharibashvili.

Sungurov is one of thousands of students with educational visa problems. According to the National Statistical Service, there are 3,420 foreign students.  Before the new visa regulations were imposed, Sungurov could simply leave the country every 90 days and quickly return, even the same day.  Now there are several procedures in order to get an educational visa.

“First I went to the Ministry of Justice. I asked what documents are needed,” said Sungurov. “After that I was sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I was told there that I was only required to fill out their online application  .“But after I filled it out, I needed more documents. Each time they asked me for a different document.”

Sungurov asked a Georgian friend to help. “They explained procedures much better to my friend,” he said. “But the staff did not know the answers, and each time it seemed they tried to get rid of me. There were always long lines. Moreover, the Consular Department works only until 1 pm, which makes bringing the documents more difficult.”

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “The Consular Department, after the enactment of the new visa regulations, specially trained the  central staff, as well as representatives at consular offices abroad. The training was conducted with the assistance of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development.”The Consular Department denies there were serious problems with poor service and long lines. The said that during working hours they work as productively as possible, and that people did not complain about them.

Students who arrived in Georgia after September 1 must follow new regulations. They should return to their home countries and apply for a study visa application at the Georgian Consulate there.

Salim Sungurv, 22, arrived in Georgia on September 12. He is also in the Caucasian Studies program at Tbilisi State University. Because Sungurv lives in Dagestan and is a Russian citizen, he must apply for a visa at the Georgian Consulate in Moscow.

“I have to go to Moscow, where I have neither a flat nor a relative to stay with,”he said. “I have to start collecting documents, and then I must wait  at least one month for a visa. During this time I will miss the lectures, plus I have extra expenses.  If I leave for a semester, they will fine me. But I would rather pay that money than the wasted amount of money and resources this will cost.”

 According to the Foreign Ministry: “This new law was published in March and came into effect on the first of September. We believed that this was sufficient time for students to resolve the issues.”

Sungurv was going to stay in Georgia and get a masters degree, but he says that because of the complicated visa regime, he changed his mind and will not stay in Georgia. Sungurov will know in one month whether he can stay in the country  and continues his studies.