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Who Can Obtain Refugee Status and Humanitarian Protection in Georgia

Vyacheslav Ivanets, leading lawyer at JUST Advisors
Obtaining the status allows eligibility for a residence permit
July 1, 2023
Applicants for international protection and foreigners who have officially obtained refugee or humanitarian status in Georgia are protected from extradition to their home country. They have the right to temporary stay in the country, financial assistance, employment, healthcare, and education. Later, they can apply for a Georgian biometric passport. However, each case has its nuances, as outlined in the article.
Georgia’s law on "International Protection," adopted on December 15, 2016, establishes the legal basis for providing international protection to foreign citizens who are persecuted or in danger in their country of origin due to political views, race, religion, nationality, or social group.

According to this law, if a person is outside their country of citizenship and cannot return for the reasons mentioned above, they may be recognized as a refugee. If another threat to life prevents return (such as armed conflict or mass human rights violations), individuals seeking international protection have the right to claim humanitarian status.
Refugee status in Georgia is granted indefinitely, while humanitarian status is valid for one year, with the possibility of extension.

How to Apply for International Protection

To obtain the desired status, one must follow a specific procedure. First, submit an application for international protection directly to the Ministry for Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Resettlement and Refugees of Georgia, or to the Migration Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, the prosecutor’s office, or another relevant government body that the person met upon arrival in the country.

Next, the applicant will undergo an interview, after which they need to visit the House of Justice to obtain a temporary plastic asylum seeker card. Approximately a month later, a second interview will be scheduled by phone. Following this, the Ministry’s representatives will communicate the result, and in the case of a positive decision, issue a document confirming the assignment of international protection status. The House of Justice will then provide a permanent plastic card, and the Migration Department will begin disbursing payments as required by law.

Processing Time for Asylum Applications

In general, the Ministry processes international protection requests for up to 6 months, but this period can be extended. The maximum waiting time by law should not exceed 21 months from the submission of the application.

If the status is denied, the decision can be appealed through legal proceedings, but this process usually takes several years. However, all guarantees and rights of the applicant are preserved until the court case is concluded.

Rights of Protection Applicants

Submitting an application for asylum and humanitarian protection opens up broad legal possibilities for applicants (listed in full in Article 56, Chapter VII of the "International Protection" law). Even if the status is not granted administratively or judicially after the application review, the applicant can legally stay in Georgia without visas or fines until all legal proceedings are completed (several years, during the appeal of the protection denial).

An important detail: the foreign passport with which the person entered Georgia for protection purposes is handed over to the Migration Department for the entire application review period (it is not returned when obtaining humanitarian status as long as the status is valid). The applicant cannot leave the territory of Georgia without withdrawing the initial application. If necessary, document retrieval from the Ministry and passport return can be done within one day, allowing for departure once again.
The status of the applicant guarantees protection from detention and "automatic" deportation upon extradition requests from foreign states.

Rights of Those Granted Humanitarian Status

Individuals officially under Georgia's international protection with an approved humanitarian or refugee status receive more privileges. For example, they have a legal right to:
  • Education - on par with Georgian citizens.
  • Medical services under the Universal Healthcare Program.
  • Monthly allowances (the amount is determined by legislation).
  • Right to obtain a temporary residence permit (TRP) and a certificate of status.
  • Right to work, including self-employment, also on par with citizens.
  • Free residence and movement within the country.
International extradition requests for individuals who have obtained refugee or humanitarian status are usually not satisfied. Extradition can only occur by court decision, for example, if the crime attributed to the person in their home country is also a crime in Georgia. Another reason for expulsion is a refugee's violation of the conditions of stay in the country.

Refugees and holders of humanitarian status are free to travel outside the country. They can obtain a Georgian biometric passport, indicating the owner's humanitarian status. Additionally, the passport allows them to apply for visas (including Schengen visas) from Georgia. Before traveling, it is important to check with the diplomatic representation of the country the person plans to visit whether crossing the border is possible based on this document - some states may require a visa.
According to the assumptions of JUST Advisors' lawyers, the same visa regime that applies to Georgian citizens should apply to any holder of a Georgian biometric passport when traveling to another country. To clarify this, we have sent a request to one of the consulates. The response will be published separately in this article and our social networks — subscribe to Telegram, Instagram, and Facebook to stay informed.
There is one exception for people with humanitarian status: they cannot return to their country of origin without renouncing their status in Georgia. To do this, one must submit a statement renouncing international protection and requesting the return of the passport. This rule does not apply to refugees.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in 2022, almost 1500 foreigners sought protection in Georgia. Of them, 460 individuals were granted humanitarian status, 41 received refugee status, and 822 applicants faced rejection. In the first six months of 2023, 515 people submitted requests to the Ministry.
This statistics confirms that obtaining international protection in Georgia is possible. However, the chance of a positive application review, including through appealing the decision in court, is much higher when handled by professional lawyers such as JUST Advisors. We are ready to assist you with any legal questions and provide information about other lawful grounds for obtaining a residence permit.

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MARIA GUSEINOVA
Leading Manager of Commercial Department