How to get Georgian citizenship
The question of how to obtain citizenship of Georgia has recently acquired particular relevance.
Several thousand people live in Georgia who were born and raised in this country but do not have Georgian citizenship. Most of them have at different times left to live or work in another country, mainly in Russia. There are many in the region of Javakheti, southern Georgia, where ethnic Armenians live. In six out of ten families in Javakheti, men spend the period from spring to autumn in Russia doing seasonal work. Most of them have Russian or Armenian citizenship, because with Georgian citizenship they could not travel to Russia without a visa.
Many internally displaced people also do not have Georgian citizenship, in particular those from Abkhazia, who in the 1990s, after the Georgian-Abkhazian war, left to live and work in Russia.
The war in Ukraine has changed a lot and made life difficult for holders of Russian passports. It has become more difficult for them to travel to Europe, and the announced mobilization in Russia has put many people, including ethnic Georgians, at risk of being on the front lines. And it is quite understandable that many of them now want to regain their Georgian citizenship.
However, this is not an easy task.
Georgia has long voiced a demand to simplify the procedure for obtaining citizenship for ethnic Georgians. This issue is also lobbied by Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, who often touches on this topic in her public speeches.
In one of her latest, Zurabishvili criticized the Georgian government, which welcomed the restoration of direct air links with Russia and the introduction of a visa-free regime, allegedly out of concern for Georgians living in Russia. Zurabishvili said that if the government really cares about the fate of compatriots, then it should simplify the procedures for restoring citizenship for them:
“If we are so interested in the fate of our compatriots of Georgian origin, then I wonder why I could not achieve any results in four years of negotiations with the judiciary, that is, to simplify the granting of citizenship.”
On June 5 the Minister of Justice of Georgia announced that the procedures for obtaining citizenship for ethnic Georgians would still be simplified. First, the required duration of uninterrupted life in Georgia will decrease from 10 to 5 years; the second is that candidates will first pass exams, and only then the procedure will be initiated, which will avoid unnecessary costs and bureaucracy if they fail the exam.
So what is happening at the moment? What path do you need to go through to get Georgian citizenship? JAMnews, together with Nino Khetsadze, a lawyer from the Rights of Georgia organization, studied all the laws and regulations and explains in detail what the procedure for obtaining citizenship is today.
What forms of granting citizenship exist:
Citizenship implies a legal relationship between a person and the state.
This union gives the citizen the right to personal freedom, a decent life, education, participation in elections, and minimum income. But, at the same time, it imposes certain obligations, for example compliance with the laws of the country.
Georgian citizenship can be obtained in two ways: by birth or by naturalization.
Obtaining citizenship by birth is the easiest way. A person is considered a citizen of Georgia from birth if:
- they were born in Georgia and at least one of their parents is a citizen of Georgia;
- born in Georgia as a result of surrogacy, and their legal parents do not recognize them as a citizen of their country;
- was born on the territory of Georgia, and both of his parents are NOT citizens of Georgia (this status must be officially granted to parents);
- was born in Georgia, one of the parents is stateless and the identity of the other parent is unknown.
Granting citizenship by naturalization means that a state grants its citizenship to an alien or stateless person. Such a person must express a desire to obtain citizenship and apply for this to the state.
What does naturalization mean? How can one obtain citizenship without having it by birth?
There are five rules according to which a foreigner can obtain Georgian citizenship:
- Appointment in the usual way
- Simplified appointment
- Assignment by special rule
- Provision in order of recovery
- Providing on an exceptional basis
*in the usual way
In order to obtain citizenship in the ordinary way, a person must meet four conditions:
- Permanently reside in Georgia for the last ten years. This means that he did not leave the territory of Georgia for one year (i.e. 365 days) for more than 90 days. The exception is when a person goes to study or treatment. The maximum allowable period for such a departure is two years. That is, if two years out of ten years he was abroad for treatment or study and proves this, he will be considered to have lived in the country for ten years continuously.
- Pass the Georgian language exam. That is, the second condition is knowledge of the state language at a minimum level. This knowledge is tested through interviews or tests. The person himself chooses in what form he will take the exam.
- Pass an exam in the history and fundamentals of Georgian law. The principle is the same as with the language: you can choose whether you want to go through an interview or a test. The first is to pass the exam in history, and if the candidate copes with it, you can proceed to the exam in the foundations of law.
- Work in the territory of Georgia, own real estate and/or operating enterprise in Georgia and/or share or investment in any company. [However, there are exceptions: for example, if a person is a refugee, he is not required to meet the fourth condition]
A child can also obtain citizenship in the usual way. To do this, they must continuously reside in the country for five years. For example, if a family with refugee status lives in Georgia and a child was born in this family, then after five years the parents can request citizenship for them.
*in simplified order
A person who is married to a citizen of Georgia can apply for citizenship in a simplified manner. The marriage must be registered.
However, even in this case, they are obliged to permanently reside in Georgia for the last five years and pass all exams.
But they do not need to fulfill the last condition of having real estate in Georgia, working or having a share in a Georgian company.
*in special order
Under this procedure, a person who was born in Georgia before March 31, 1993 can obtain citizenship. They still have to pass all three exams.
*as an exception
This is the so-called dual citizenship. Only the President of Georgia has the right to grant it. And for this, a person must have some merit to Georgia.
When granting dual citizenship, it is taken into account what links this person with Georgia, whether he has Georgian roots, whether he has any real estate in this country, etc.
Dual citizenship can be granted, for example, to a person who is an outstanding scientist, public figure and is of great importance for Georgia. Or an athlete playing for Georgia. Or a person who is going to invest heavily in Georgia.
*in order of restoration
Persons who previously had Georgian citizenship, but lost it, can apply for citizenship in this form.
Loss of citizenship can occur as a result of renunciation. For example, in order to obtain citizenship of another country.
Also, a person loses citizenship if he goes to serve in the army, police, law enforcement agencies of another country without the permission of Georgia, and any state body in Georgia finds out about this.
Citizenship is also lost if it was obtained on false documents and this became known, and in case of obtaining citizenship of another country (for example, the case with residents of Javakheti).
In order to restore their Georgian citizenship, such a person is not required to live in Georgia continuously for ten or five years, but must pass exams.
Where should I apply to obtain or restore citizenship?
To obtain citizenship, you need to apply to the Public Services Development Agency of Georgia, also known as the House of Justice. If the candidate is not in Georgia, he can apply to the embassy or consulate of Georgia.
In both cases, he will be given an application form to fill out.
The application can also be filled out electronically. The user chooses in which order to apply. Explanations are given for each case and an electronic application form is attached.
Tariffs are also indicated there – what amount should be paid for consideration of the application in a standard or accelerated manner.
As a rule, the tariff varies from 65 lari [about $25] in the case of a standard three-month period to 390 lari [about $150] if a response is needed within 20 days.
What documents are required?
In all cases, the following documents must be submitted:
- completed application;
- color photograph 3×4 in size;
- a document confirming the payment of the fee for the service;
- copy of ID
The list of other documents depends on the order in which the person requests citizenship.
If, for example, he applies for citizenship in the usual way, he will definitely need a document confirming his ten-year residence in Georgia, as well as a document confirming that he works in Georgia, has real estate here, etc.
To obtain citizenship in a simplified manner, you must submit a marriage certificate and a document confirming the citizenship of the spouse.
Applicants for dual citizenship must submit two references from a Georgian citizen or legal entity registered in Georgia.
If a person asks to restore their citizenship, they need copies of documents confirming that they were a citizen of Georgia. This may be, for example, a document confirming the termination or loss of citizenship.
What happens after filling out the application and submitting documents?
As soon as the applicant fills out the application, his case begins to be studied by a special commission in the House of Justice.
Documents are checked first.
If they are found to be incomplete, the applicant is given an additional period to supplement them. This period is individual and depends on which documents are missing.
If the applicant submits additional documents, the agency proceeds to study his case. If not provided, the agency may refuse to consider his application.
Are the exams difficult?
The three exams that applicants for citizenship must pass at first glance are not so difficult.
There are two forms of their delivery – an interview and a test. The applicant himself chooses the form of the exam and indicates this when filling out the application.
For example, samples of the Georgian language test can be viewed at this link.
And approximately the following questions you will meet in the history test:
In the VI century BC. the founding of cities on the territory of historical Colchis is associated with:
a) the Egyptians
b) the Greeks;
d) the Romans;
Archil Jorjadze was the leader of which political party?
a) Union of Citizens;
c) National Movement;
d) Socialist-Federalist Party;
You can also find samples of history tests on the website of the Agency for the Development of Public Services at this link.
The test on the fundamentals of law does not look so simple anymore.
With whose consent can a public defender be detained or arrested, his place of residence or work, car or personal belongings searched?
a) under no circumstances;
b) with the consent of the Parliament of Georgia;
c) with the consent of the President of Georgia;
d) with the consent of the Chairman of the Constitutional Court of Georgia.
The exam is considered successfully passed if the person correctly answered seven questions out of ten.
But what about the president?
The last word belongs to the President of Georgia. But she herselfdoes not study all special cases. The case of each applicant is examined by a special commission, draws up a protocol, sends it to the agency, and based on this protocol, the agency prepares a report and sends it to the president for a final decision. This report already indicates whether a particular applicant obtains citizenship.
The role of the president is largely formal – refusal or consent.
The president has a week to make a decision. If the agency sent a report, and the president did not issue a decree on the satisfaction of the application or a decision to refuse within a week, then he refused to grant citizenship.
The President’s decision cannot be appealed.
Is it possible for the agency to issue a positive opinion and the president still make a negative decision?
Why can an applicant be rejected if he meets all the requirements?
Granting citizenship to a particular person may not be in the interests of the state. So, in order to obtain citizenship, a person must not commit an international crime, must not be wanted by Interpol.
How long does it take to get/not get citizenship? How long does the whole process take?
For the entire process – from the moment of filing an application to the decision of the president – a three-month period is established by law.
However, the law also recognizes the expediting of the procedure. The shortest term is 20 days (the duty in this case will be higher).
What do the statistics say?
According to the Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information, over four years (2018-2022), the Agency for the Development of Public Services sent the president 13,644 positive and 7,360 negative conclusions on granting citizenship. The President confirmed 13,575 of them and, accordingly, made a negative decision in respect of 69 persons.
Of those who received a positive opinion, 5,111 people had their citizenship restored, and 8,464 received Georgian citizenship as an exception (for example, dual citizenship).
Moreover, among the last 72% (more than 6 thousand people) were citizens of Russia.