What to do if your passport expires

This article is an instruction for those who find it dangerous to return home and are wondering how to continue living in Georgia legally.
31 января 2024
There are currently tens of thousands of expats from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine in Georgia. Each of them crossed the country's border with a valid passport obtained in their country of citizenship. Some of them have passports that are about to expire and have no grounds for a residence permit. This article is an instruction for those who find it dangerous to return home and are wondering how to continue living in Georgia legally.
After all, not everyone has the opportunity to obtain a foreign passport at the consulates of the country of origin abroad.

For example, Belarusians have been deprived of it since recently - they cannot get anything but a certificate of return to the country of citizenship. If not only a foreign passport, but also an internal passport has expired, Russians cannot get anything but a certificate of return to their home country at the Permanent Section of Russian interests at the Swiss Embassy.

One way or another, the question arises what to do if it is impossible to get a passport abroad and return to the homeland for it.

Is there a way out?

In reality, there is a way out.

Georgia is building a state governed by the rule of law, the country has UN membership and is subject to international law, including the UN Refugee Convention. The country has its own law explaining to whom and on what grounds humanitarian protection is granted. Therefore, for foreigners whose legal stay in Georgia is coming to an end and who cannot leave the country due to the lack of a valid passport, it is worth trying to stay in Georgia by applying for humanitarian protection.

What problem does this solve?

  • The problem of legal stay in Georgia if the period of stay in the country established by law has expired (for citizens of CIS countries the period of visa-free stay in the country is 1 year).

    If the refugee status is granted, then together with the decision of the Migration Department on granting refugee status you will receive the right to reside in Georgia almost completely similar to a resident permit.

    However, while your application and documents are being considered by the authorised bodies of Georgia, you will have a basis for legal stay in the country in the form of a document confirming the fact of application for humanitarian status.
  • In addition to the intra-Georgian identification document, a person with humanitarian status also has the right to obtain a travel document that gives the right to leave Georgia.

How to increase the chances of being granted asylum?

Migration authorities make the decision to grant asylum to an asylum seeker at their own discretion, based on international practice. There are various ways to convince them that a migrant is in danger in their country of origin.

For some people it is enough to simply claim that they are in danger because of war, but in most cases it will be necessary to do some hard work, including providing administrative or criminal records or other evidence that the applicant has been persecuted in the country of citizenship or that there is a real threat of such persecution. Additional grounds for a favourable decision may include conclusions of relevant NGOs and international institutions that repressions are being carried out in the country of citizenship (including individual repressions against the applicant, but not necessarily), copies of articles by independent media and protocols of interviews with witnesses confirming these facts. The composition of documents in each case is strictly individual and is called a "migration case". It must demonstrate a real risk to the applicant's health and freedom in the event of his/her return to his/her home country. It is wise to have a professional lawyer who is familiar with migration law prepare such a file.

What to do if there are no documents about repressions and the chances for refugee status are not clear?

When the applicant does not have any documents confirming the danger of returning to the country of origin, the question arises: is there any point in applying for refugee status?

The answer, oddly enough, is positive.

If there are no or negligible chances of satisfying the refugee claim, it is necessary to apply for humanitarian protection at least in order to legalise one's stay in Georgia. The fact is that in most cases, the processing of applications takes years. The normative term of consideration is 6 months, but it is often not observed.

During the whole period of application processing, the asylum seeker cannot be deported - he/she receives a temporary intra-Georgian identity document (so called "azilum") and stays in the country legally. Yes, there is a significant inconvenience - the petitioner cannot leave Georgia, but this is the only restriction of freedom.

In case of a negative outcome and refusal to receive azilum, the applicant will have almost one and a half months to return to the country of citizenship.

In your home country no one will know that you tried to defend yourself from it. The Refugee Convention prohibits the country considering an asylum application from informing the country of origin or requesting any documents there. Thus, apart from the right to travel abroad, you do not lose anything for a couple of years, but on the contrary, you gain security and confidence in the legality of your status.

To summarize

Expiration of the term of legal stay in Georgia makes a foreigner's stay in the country illegal and threatens with deportation to the country of citizenship. You can avoid this procedure and legalise your stay in Georgia in a legal way - by applying for humanitarian status (refugee status). During the period of application processing (up to 2 years on average) your stay in the country is legal. If the status is granted, the refugee will receive a Georgian identity card and the possibility to obtain an exit document for travelling abroad. If the decision is negative, the alien will have 45 days to leave Georgia.
You can get qualified legal assistance on refugee issues, humanitarian status and prospects of forming a migration case by writing to us.

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