Discussions of the law on repatriation began last year. The government stated that repatriation is very important for the development of the country. In January 2020, Sisak Gabrielyan, a member of the “My Step” faction, initiated a new bill on amendments to the Customs Regulation Law.
The goal was the following: to support the citizens who have left Armenia for various reasons in recent years and to give them a new opportunity to return to their homeland. The process to exempt personal belongings from customs duties and taxes was simplified for those who wish to return to Armenia for permanent residence. Thus, the bill enables people returning to Armenia to bring their personal belongings home with zero customs and tax duties.
According to the previous law, only those who have lived abroad for the past 5 years and those who did not have Armenian citizenship or registration had such a privilege. The current customs legislation of the Republic of Armenia provided certain benefits for those who came for the purpose of permanent residence in the Republic of Armenia, but the law created certain problems for the repatriates.
It was envisaged that if one was outside the country for 5 years, he could import personal property without customs duties in case of return but he must not be registered in the Republic of Armenia.
MP Sisak Gabrielyan suggested a bill on granting customs privileges to those citizens who have not been to Armenia for half of the past five years upon returning home. The privilege is provided for the import of personal property and one vehicle into the Republic of Armenia without customs duty.
Pargev Keshishyan moved to Armenia from China in January, leaving his personal belongings there. Under the new law, he could transport his personal belongings to Armenia without paying customs duties.
“The process is very simple. Those who wish to move permanently to Armenia can take advantage of this new privilege”,-says Pargev Keshishyan.
Upon arrival in Armenia, the citizen must apply to the passport and visa department of the police. The citizen receives a document certifying that he is an individual arriving in Armenia for permanent residence. The whole process takes 2-3 days on average. Except the Police Department, one can also apply to the State Revenue Committee.
“The State Revenue Committee sends a request to the Ovir police department instead of a citizen. Having received the relevant document from there, the citizen must submit it to the customs authority certifying his right of permanent residence in another country and Armenia,” says Vaghinak Janinyan, the head of the customs control department on non-tariff regulation and coordination of the State Revenue Committee.
The customs exemption is applied to only previously purchased personal items. MP Sisak Gabrielyan noted that the law and the corresponding government decree have been running for ten days.
On average, the benefits provided to repatriates amounted to 230 thousand dollars. The repatriates brought personal property, some brought their personal vehicles. “A repatriate can bring a car to Armenia without customs duties if it belonged to him within the last 6 months,” says Sisak Gabrielyan, a member of the “My Step” faction.
30 families from the USA, Germany, China and France have taken advantage of this privilege and moved to Armenia so far. Repatriation will be encouraged as it contributes to the preservation of Armenian identity and the solution of the demographic problems of Armenia.
A separate law on repatriation which will provide a complete and comprehensive picture of how the government sees repatriation is currently being drafted. On the initiative of Mkhitar Hayrapetyan, in co-authorship with Vagharshak Hakobyan, a draft law the discussion of which began in August last year is being developed.
Meetings were held with the Head of the Department of Diaspora at YSU Arman Yeghiazaryan, the Head of the Repatriation Department Hovhannes Aleksanyan and the Executive Director of “Repat Armenia” Vardan Marashlyan. The main concepts of the law as well as areas requiring legislative regulation which indicate the beginning of joint work were discussed.
A working group has been formed. It will present a preliminary package to the parties, professional circles of Armenia and the diaspora after the completion of the work.
Zareh Sinanyan has been appointed the head of the body responsible for shaping political relationships between the government and the diaspora. The members of all departments can join all the meetings of the working group if they wish.
The group's task is to meet with scientific and professional circles of the Diaspora and Armenia, repatriated families in order to understand what the new law will look like. Mkhitar Hayrapetyan informed that this project is very important for the government and it will probably be included in the NA agenda at the end of this year.