Life in Georgia

What Does the Upcoming “Foreign Agent Law” Mean for You as a Foreigner in Georgia?

This article outlines the key aspects of the law and clarifies how it might impact you.

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Foreign agent law in Georgia

The highly controversial “Law of Georgia on Transparency of Foreign Influence,” commonly referred to as the “Foreign Agent Law,” introduces significant changes that may affect foreigners in Georgia. This article outlines the key aspects of the law and clarifies how it might impact you.

Does It Affect Me?

The law directly affects you as a foreigner in Georgia only if you fall under one of the following categories:

  1. NGOs and Non-Commercial Organizations: If you own a non-governmental organization (NGO) or any other non-commercial organization registered in Georgia that receives more than 20% of its annual income from abroad.
  2. Media Broadcasters: If you own a media broadcasting entity registered in Georgia that receives more than 20% of its annual income from abroad.
  3. Print Media Owners: If you are a legal entity (LLC, JSC, etc.) owning mass information print media operating in Georgia that receives more than 20% of its annual income from abroad.
  4. Internet Media Owners: If you are a legal entity owning or using internet media that operates in Georgia and receives more than 20% of its annual income from abroad.

Entities that meet these criteria are designated as “organizations that carry the interests of a foreign power.”

Indirect Effects

Even if you do not fall into one of the above categories, the law might still indirectly affect you. For instance, if you are a Georgian commercial entity conducting regular business with foreign clients and you transfer funds to an organization that carries the interests of a foreign power, the government may consider that you are indirectly financing a foreign agent organization.

Requirements for Organizations Carrying Foreign Interests

If your organization is identified as carrying the interests of a foreign power, several obligations follow:

1. Registration:

  • You must register with the National Agency of Public Registry by January 1st of the following year after meeting the criteria.
  • Registration approval should occur within 2 days.

2. Application Submission:

  • After registration, you must apply for status as an organization carrying the interests of a foreign power within 10 days.
  • The application should include:
    • Identification data of the applicant.
    • Residence address.
    • Website address.
    • Details of cash and property received in the previous year, including sources, amounts, and purposes.
    • Information on expenditures in the previous year.
    • Date of application submission.

3. Application Review:

  • The Ministry of Justice will review applications within 30 working days.
  • The ministry has the authority to seek necessary information, excluding state secrets.
  • Relevant individuals and entities must promptly provide requested information.
  • If the application is incomplete or incorrect, you will be notified and given 10 working days to correct the errors.
  • If the application meets the criteria, it must be registered within 5 working days as an organization carrying foreign interests.

4. Annual Financial Declaration:

  • Registered organizations must submit an annual financial declaration electronically each January.
  • The declaration should detail the previous year’s financial activities, including income sources and expenditures.
  • The Ministry of Justice will review the declaration within 30 working days.
  • Any errors in the declaration must be corrected within 10 working days.
  • The declaration and its contents are public and must be posted online by the agency.

Conclusion

The upcoming “Foreign Agent Law” is highly controversial and has sparked significant debate in Georgia. Many view it as a necessary step towards transparency, while others see it as a restrictive measure that could stifle freedom and limit international cooperation. As a result, the law has led to extreme polarization among the populace. If you own or manage an organization receiving substantial foreign funding, it is crucial to understand these requirements and comply with the registration and reporting obligations to avoid legal repercussions. While the law primarily targets specific entities, understanding its indirect effects is essential for all businesses and organizations operating in Georgia.

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