Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union approved visa-free travel for Georgia
The Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union
(COREPER) approved on February 22 a regulation granting visa-free entry to the Schengen zone countries for Georgia nationals, Radio Liberty reported.
The Committee also upheld the suspension mechanism, a scheme that allows re-introduction of visas should such a need emerge.
There are still three procedures to be cleared before Georgians can actually start travelling to the EU without visas.
The EU Foreign Affairs Council will have to approve the regulation on February 27. President of the European parliament and chairman of the EU Council will then sign it, before it is published in an official magazine, signaling the beginning of a 20-day countdown to when it finally comes into effect – most likely in late March or early April.
The EU parliament approved the visa waiver for Georgia by a vote of 553 to 66 on February 2.
Who can benefit from the visa waiver and how?
• Any Georgia citizen who holds a biometric passport is entitled to benefit from the visa exemption. They will be able to enter the Schengen zone visa-free for 90 days in any 180-day period. The exemption also extends to the four countries that are now seeking to join the zone – Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Croatia. They will also be free to move from one Schengen country to another.
• Travellers who stay in the Schengen zone even a minute longer than the allowed 90 days will be deported to Georgia and put on a ‘black list’ with a five-year ban on visiting the zone.
• Apart from the biometric passport, a traveller from Georgia may, when crossing the border, also be asked to present a travel insurance, a proof of financial solvency, a return ticket and a hotel booking confirmation. Having the documents when crossing over into the Schengen zone is not a requirement, however border control agents still retain the right to ask to see them. The difference against the previous regulations is that no visits to consulates will now be necessary. Bank statements and pay slips from an employer and some other documents a person used to have to submit to a consulate to support their visa application have now been scrapped too. Instead, a valid credit card may have to be shown to border control services as proof of one’s financial eligibility.
• The visa waiver does not apply if a Georgia citizen travels to Europe to work or study for long periods of time. In such cases, a visit to a consulate and a clearance of relevant application procedures will be necessary.
What is the suspension mechanism?
Put simply, the suspension means not all bridges have been burnt for Europe and it can discontinue the visa-free regime for Georgians any time once it finds they deserve it. So, this can happen if:
1) there is an increase in the number of illegal immigrants from Georgia;
2) the number of Georgians applying for refuge grows;
3) the Georgian authorities don’t cooperate with the EU to bring illegal migrants back home;
4) Georgian citizens create risk to public security and order in European countries they visit.