Aaron in Azerbaijan

Just another blog about Azerbaijan.

Your Visa Has Not Been Granted, Ctd.

with 9 comments

After the debacle 10 days ago, resulting in my brother not arriving here in Azerbaijan, I was a little bitter.  All of the rumor and hearsay surrounding the sudden change in visa policy here in the country has slowed a little bit, but things are still fluttering about.  Since then, I’ve come across a few things to help clarify the situation.

First, a good thing to understand is that the visa policy change is a fairly reasonable policy.  Instead of offering visas upon arrival, you have to do it ahead of time.  This is what America does for all of it’s foreign arrivals.  And it’s pretty standard throughout a lot of countries.  This is something most countries would identify as a sound policy for improving security in your country.  Any sort of back-check isn’t going to happen at the airport visa desk in the Baku airport. Can’t blame Azerbaijan for this move, really.  What you can blame Azerbaijan for is the timing.  Springing it as a half-surprise, without any specifics ahead of time, is extremely inconsiderate, almost mean, and certainly disrespectful.

Second, some more hearsay!  Through various channels, channels that peddle widely in the distribution of rumor, we’re hearing that the change is a result of some infighting.  The most recent iteration says that the State Migration Service was duking it out with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The change in policy requires that foreigners apply and pay for visas at embassies and consulates abroad, extensions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Visas obtained at the airport here in Baku would be granted by the State Migration Service.  In the first case, the money goes to the Ministry.  In the second case, it goes to the migration service.  So, this was a battle over money, one which the Ministry won.  I have no idea how the money trail winds through this labyrinth, but this at least sounds plausible to me.

The third thing I’ll share is a firsthand account, coming to you from an unfortunate Australian traveler attempting to get into Azerbaijan on that Friday.  It’s a well-written account, well worth the read:

The Immigration staff take our passports and allow us to collect our checked luggage, then escort us the the airport’s transit hall. They leave us there and disappear, passports and all.

About two hours later, one of them wanders over and asks us for our passports.

Another hour later, someone tells us we have a choice: buy a ticket out of the country or be deported (at the airline’s expense) back to where our flights originated. I ask if Ukraine will even let me back in- I had a single-entry visa and I’d already left the country. They lose the ability to speak english again. And Russian. And Azeri.

Then they ask to see our passports.

There’s a flight to Istanbul leaving in a couple of hours and it’s starting to sound pretty attractive. Another couple- DJs who had been booked for a gig in Baku that night- decide to try and get a flight to Dubai. We ask if we can buy tickets.

“You can buy tickets when you get your passports back.”

“Good, can we have them back then?”

“When you have bought your tickets we will give your passports back.”

That’s all I’ve heard since; more updates to come if I find out something new.


Written by Aaron

October 25, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

9 Responses

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  1. Hey – it’s Vladic from Baku. Since the eurasianet story, I’ve heard from a few channels that several foreign embassies are only giving out 7 day visas now – and, (get ready for this) that the airport resumed giving out visas. Now again, just rumors, so keep me posted if you hear any confirmation or otherwise on this stuff. Who knows what’s going on?

    Vladic Ravich

    October 25, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    • I’ve been hearing similar things. The biggest thing I’ve heard has been that companies (ie: oil companies) need to have the flexibility to move people in quickly, especially in the event of some oil derrick disaster, and that the government is already making exceptions in that direction.

      In general, I don’t think I see anything stopping a slide back to the previous setup, unless someone up high starts noticing again and cuts it off.


      October 26, 2010 at 3:42 am

  2. i don’t think it’s reasonable policy at all, unless what azerbaijan wants is to drastically decrease tourism. it’s the only country in the region (besides russia) where getting a visa requires a huge hassle. however unlike russia with its grand reputation that keeps the tourists coming anyway, what does azerbaijan have? these new visa regulations as well as the high cost are huge deterrents to tourism which would be great for the local economy.

    Lena Shuster

    October 25, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    • If we look at the practices other countries exercise over visa regulation, it’s fairly mainstream to make someone get a visa prior to coming to the country. I think that’s a fair bar to set for any country.

      If you want to talk about tourism, yeah, absolutely this is foolish. A country that claims tourism as one of it’s economic priorities can’t go blocking people out, especially if it’s a country with an already low tourism pull. But if you want to talk about tourism as an economic driver, a serious part of driving up economic activity, I think first you’d have to address the problem of demand. I don’t think Azerbaijan is making waves, encouraging people to come here. In order to get serious about tourism, you’d have to start working on infrastructure (especially outside of Baku), accessibility, and comfort. This isn’t exactly paradise. I think the reality would be that a vast majority of tourism dollars would be concentrated in Baku, leaving the regions, the majority of the people already in low-wealth situations, continuing to mire in destitute obscurity.


      October 26, 2010 at 3:49 am

      • in countries like america and those inside the european union screening (certain groups of) people before they come is an important step in deterring unwanted immigration. this is not the case in azerbaijan.

        in regards to tourism, first the tourists need to get into the country, then capitalist incentive will motivate the development of infrastructure throughout the country. a possible reason why most tourism is now concentrated in baku is that the kind of tourists who are more likely to explore the countryside are being deterred by the ridiculous formalities.

        look at georgia for example. i’m not sure of the exact year they changed their visa regulations but it was sometime in the past few. and look at the growth in… http://www.dotr.gov.ge/files/files/Statistics/2000_2009vizitorebiing.pdf

        the logic behind visa laws shouldn’t be “an eye for an eye.” i’m really surprised that azeri people find these new changes reasonable.

        Lena Shuster

        October 27, 2010 at 3:38 pm

      • Sure, if you’d like to take this discussion to a level where instead of talking about Azerbaijan’s particular situation, we are talking about visa policies in general for small, tourism-lacking countries, we can talk about the experience with Georgia and what they’ve done. But, in the case of Georgia, I think you could well argue that it’s not just their visa policy that has opened tourism, but also the general openness with which people are welcomed into the country. While I certainly have had some great experiences with meeting Azeris, it’s not just the visa policy keeping tourists away.

        However, my only statement was that in the context of state diplomatic relations, the Azerbaijani visa policy change is within the norms of the international community. Whether we think it’s stupid for them to implement it or not is not at issue. If we want to argue about the logic (or illogic) of visa policies, we certainly can do that. But that wasn’t where I was going with my original statement. My goal was to make sure that people knew that Azerbaijan wasn’t acting like some rogue state by implementing the policy, but instead lining up their policies with other countries. The biggest problem there was in how they failed to communicate it, which left people stranded and helpless in the Baku airport.


        October 28, 2010 at 10:02 am

  3. “First, a good thing to understand is that the visa policy change is a fairly reasonable policy. Instead of offering visas upon arrival, you have to do it ahead of time. This is what America does for all of it’s foreign arrivals. And it’s pretty standard throughout a lot of countries.”
    – I agree with you in that Aaron. Great explanation 🙂


    October 26, 2010 at 4:42 pm

  4. […] an aside, we’ve already talked about the visa situation over the last two weeks, and my discussions with people at the bank have revealed that they, too, […]

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