In 2018 Armenia Will Liberate the Visa Regime for a Number of Countries: Karmirshalyan

“Armedia” IAA presents an exclusive interview with Vladimir Karmirshalyan, Head of the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia. 

Mr. Karmirshalyan, Armenia recently pays great attention to the development of tourism. Citizens of which countries most often apply for an Armenian visa?

 You are right. The Government of the Republic of Armenia aims to bring the number of tourists visiting Armenia to at least 3 million, due to the events to be held in 2017-2022. As a result of the program approved by the Government of the Republic of Armenia, the legal field regulating the tourism sector will be improved, qualitative new requirements for tourism services will be established and mechanisms for their provision will be introduced. Measures are being taken for liberalization or facilitation of visa regime for citizens of a number of countries that are our target markets.

It should be noted that in August 2016 the Memorandum of Understanding on visa-free travel signed between Armenia and Iran, entered into force, which canceled the visa requirement for citizens of the two countries. By the way, if in 2016 about 190,000 Iranian citizens arrived in Armenia, then in 2017 about 221,000, there are 31,000 more citizens.

In the same year, the Government of the Republic of Armenia granted Chinese citizens the opportunity to obtain a visa at the border checkpoints of the Republic of Armenia or through the electronic system of issuing visas.

In 2017, with a number of decisions of the Government of the Republic of Armenia unilateral visa-free regime for the citizens of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Japan was established and the citizens of India were given the opportunity to obtain a visa of the Republic of Armenia when crossing the border.

It is expected that in 2018 decisions will be made on visa liberalization for a number of other countries, in particular Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea. This is conditioned by the increased interest of citizens of the above-mentioned countries towards Armenia and their desire to visit our country.

What are the main reasons for refusing to issue visas to Armenia, and citizens of which countries have the most difficulties in obtaining an entry visa of Armenia?  

- The RA Law on Foreigners provides for a number of circumstances when the issuing or renewal of a foreigner’s visa is denied, or the issued entry visa is considered invalid, or the entry to the RA is forbidden.

According to this law, an entry visa to Armenia is not issued if the foreigner provided false information about himself or did not provide the necessary documents, or there are data that his entry or stay in Armenia has a different purpose than stated, or there are other serious threats to state security or the public order of the Republic of Armenia on his part, etc.

Today citizens of 55 countries of the world can visit Armenia without a visa, citizens of 77 countries can get visas for entry to Armenia at border checkpoints of Armenia or through an electronic visa system.  There is also a list of 63 countries, citizens of which, by the decision of the Armenian government, can visit Armenia at the invitation and only receive entry visas at foreign diplomatic missions or consular offices of Armenia. This list includes mainly a number of African, Arab and Asian countries in which the political situation is unstable or which have unfriendly relations with Armenia – such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Nigeria, etc.

- Taking into account the presence of a large number of Armenians abroad and the expansion of the geography of tourist preferences of Armenians, to what extent are the consular services provided by the RA available for Armenian citizens? What kind of consular services do citizens of Armenia apply for most?

- The Republic of Armenia has 51 diplomatic representations and consular offices in 41 foreign countries. Many of them are accredited not only in the host country, but also by mutual agreement, represent Armenia’s interests in neighboring countries. The direct duties of all embassies and consulates of the Republic of Armenia include protection of the rights and legitimate interests of the Republic of Armenia, citizens and legal entities of the RA in foreign countries.

I should note that in 2017, more than 150,000 Armenian citizens were served by the Consular Department of the RA MFA, embassies and consulates in foreign countries.

As a rule, Armenian citizens living in foreign countries mainly apply for a passport, passport exchange, passport extension in foreign countries, as well as a request for a certificate of return to Armenia. Over these issues, more than 50,000 Armenian citizens were served in 2017. There are many applications for citizenship. Births, marriages and other acts of civil status are recorded. There are many applications related to the restoration of violated rights of Armenian citizens and the protection of their legitimate interests in foreign countries. In this connection, about 660 Armenian citizens have been provided with assistance by diplomatic missions and consular offices of Armenia in 2017.

In the recent years, some Armenian citizens prefer to spend their vacations in exotic African or Asian countries, in Australia, where Armenia does not have an embassy or consulate yet, and sometimes they fall into such situations when there is an urgent need for legal advice and consular assistance. In these cases, the hot line of the MFA of RA comes to help. When receiving applications from the RA citizens, the employees of the Consular Department of the MFA of Armenia provide necessary consultations and support through telecommunication technologies, in cases when the citizen lost all his documents, help him to return to Armenia.