US Ambassador Responds to GD Leader’s Visa Criticism

U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan dismissed the criticism of the ruling party Chair, Irakli Kobakhidze, that the US was not issuing enough visas to Georgians.. Amb. Degnan said, “Sometimes people want to think that they should have special treatment.”

Amb. Degnan was speaking to journalists after opening the Rondeli Security Conference in Tbilisi.

A day earlier, Kobakhidze lamented that in spite of a strategic partnership with the U.S., Georgian citizens were having considerably lower visa approval rates than their neighbors – in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and even Russia (before sanctions). Kobakhidze said the U.S. Ambassador “should better take care of that issue” and brought up a recent example of a children’s folk song ensemble (which, the interviewing journalist noted, also includes Kobakhidze’s own child) allegedly failing to get visas on time for their tour in the US. Chairman also noted that “it would cost nothing to the U.S, to have a free trade agreement with Georgia” and to launch direct U.S.-Georgia flights.

These complaints were made in the context of Russia abolishing visas for Georgian citizens and re-opening direct flights to Tbilisi – the moves welcomed by the ruling party.

Responding to criticisms, Amb. Degnan stressed that the U.S, welcomes thousands of Georgians every year, including through cultural and educational exchanges. “Just last month, we issued visas to a group of thirty Tbilisi State Ballet performers to tour the United States,” said Ambassador, “as well as visas for a group of Georgian dancers and singers who are going to perform at our Library of Congress to celebrate Georgia’s Independence Day.”

She retorted: “Sometimes people want to think that they should have special treatment and not have to go through all the steps involved, but all of the information for getting a visa is online, [as are] the recommendations we provide to help people get their visas as quickly as possible. If people follow those rules and that advice, they usually get a visa if they’re eligible.”

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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