Sunday, October 17

New Visa Regulations for Azerbaijan

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As a citizen of a non- EU member country, I know all the down sides of applying for a visa. Bank statements, letter of invitations, hotel and ticket bookings, letter of employment and the rest. And as a frequent traveler, I also know how frustrating it is to go through all this documentation every time I have to or want to travel. And yes, I do feel as a third world citizen as I go through this every time, feeling that all my private life is on the paper despite the number of times I have been out of the country. 

But never would I thought that Azerbaijan, will be applying similar rules to foreign nationals coming to visit the country either for work or pleasure. And so, the news came as a shock wave, not only for me, but for many when Azerbaijani authorities announced that as of October 15th, all foreign nationals planning on visiting Azerbaijan will have to obtain their visas from Azerbaijan Embassies in their respective countries. It will no longer be possible to obtain a visa upon arrival. CIS countries are the only ones that are still allowed to enter the country on visa free regime.

The reasons are still not known with official Baku remaining silent. The change came write before parliamentary elections scheduled for November 7th. Many believe it was to keep international scrutiny away from the country during the elections. While some of the local residents think it was a smart move ahead, especially given what Azerbaijani nationals have to go through to get a visa for any European country. One of the local commentators on Facebook expressed her satisfaction with the decision stressing the importance of the new regulation. Before the regulation was passed people had to wait in lines for hours at the airport waiting for a visa, and so now they shouldn't complain as they will be issued visas beforehand and save themselves from trouble, stresses the user. "I find it absolutely right! It is not only about "what we know" it is international politics! And this decision is the brightest they could have ever come to [...]".

However, others remain frustrated calling on the decision as groundless and pointless. The new regulation might seriously impede businesses in the country as well as tourism industry given the number of new high- end luxury hotels in the pipeline

This article published at Eurarisanet.org provides an analysis of the situation. The article ends with perhaps the best line explaining this situation. According to the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs consular department "the purpose is that the president ordered the changes". 

And that is as far as the representative goes. 
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On one hand, not waiting in lines is a good thing, but instead of removing visa acquirement upon arrival, perhaps an improvement could have been made to the system that is already there?! For instance, instead of going through passport control and then going back to visa section, visitors should have been allowed to get a visa first, then go through the passport control like it is many other countries in the world. There should have been multiple visa operators at the arrival desk so as not to have huge lines. Perhaps it would have also helped to have visas where it is no longer required to fill it in by hand (see the image). Having electronic versions of visas ready to be printed could have also helped. Basically, there could have been a number of ways to improve it but instead it is completely replaced now.

Whatever the reasoning, one thing for sure, there are so many other things to replace in this country that should be prioritized that changing visa regime just doesn't fit any of those priorities right now... 

6 comments:

Adrineh said...

Arzu jan, did you read this blog post: http://blogs.crikey.com.au/back-in-a-bit/2010/10/20/thats-some-catch-that-catch-22-or-how-not-to-get-into-azerbaijan/

Wow.

arzu geybulla said...

i did, its great!

Shawn Basey said...

I was talking to one Azeri embassy guy at a bar in Europe. He asked me, "Why didn't you go to Azerbaijan while in Caucasus?"

"I would have, if there wasn't all these ridiculous rules on visas."

"Oh, they just do that on reciprocity. Like for us trying to get in the US."

"You're not the US. If you want tourists and business travelers, you have to make it EASIER to get into the country. If you don't want tourists and travelers, then keep doing what you're doing."

arzu geybulla said...

Hi Shawn,
I agree, it has nothing to do with reciprocity.
It's more about not having foreigners for purposes we all very much aware of- less foreigners, less problems.
Thank you for the comment.

Anonymous said...

Well, I can't understand why this regulation is upsetting some people here? It is fair that the people will be treated in the same way as we get treated when visiting forign countiries. And please don't argue with things like 'if you want touriss and business travelers'.. it sounds rediciluous. Especialy business travlers... they will come whatever it takes if they need to. No worries. Relax and obey the rules.

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