Government Speaks on Safeguards against Visa-Waiver Abuse

Speaking at his special news briefing on March 27, Interior Minister Giorgi Mghebrishvili said that the Georgian border guards will start interviewing “in detail” all travelers heading to the Schengen countries, in an apparent effort to avoid triggering the so called "suspension mechanism,” that would temporarily suspend the visa-free regime if Georgians try to abuse the system.

Mghebrishvili explained that the border guards will inform the travelers of the visa-free regime requirements and also check the validity of their travel documents against Schengen regulations. “If they fail to meet the required standards, they will be informed on possible consequences.”

The Interior Minister also stated that the Georgian border guards will be alerted if a Georgian citizen overstays the 90-day limit established for visa-free travel within any 180-day period. In such cases, Georgia will pro-actively inform the EU member states, the Minister said.

Mghebrishvili stated that in the last six years the country has received 7300 re-admission applications from the European Union member states, of which 95% was fulfilled. “This speaks to the close cooperation with the law enforcement agencies of the European Union member states, be it at the level of bilateral agreements or the police attachés.”

At his news briefing, Mghebrishvili also noted that the Interior Ministry will sign the partnership agreement with EUROPOL on April 4, “after which Georgia will become a part of the European Union in the law enforcement field.”

The EU will enforce the nine-month visa suspension mechanism with the possibility of its further extension based on “relevant and objective data”. Under the new rules, third countries’ visa waiver deals with the EU may be suspended, in which case their citizens would again need a visa to enter the EU, in one or more of the following cases:

– a substantial increase in the number of nationals of that country are refused entry to or stay irregularly in EU territory,

– a substantial increase in unfounded asylum applications,

– a decrease in cooperation on readmissions (returns of migrants), or

– an increase in risks or imminent threats to public policy or internal security related to nationals of the third country concerned.

The visa suspension mechanism was adopted simultaneously with the regulation on visa liberalization for Georgia.