By Hrach Melkumian
The holders of Armenia’s first post-Soviet passports which were issued ten years ago and were due to expire this fall will be able to use them for five more years, a senior official said on Thursday.
“If a passport is not damaged and still has blank pages, we can extend its validity for another five years. If not, the citizen is to be given a new passport of the Republic of Armenia,” Alvina Zakarian, head of the Department on Visas and Passports at the national Police Service, told RFE/RL.
Independent Armenia’s first government began issuing the blue-cover identity documents, used for both domestic paperwork and foreign travel, in September 1994, largely completing the replacement of the old Soviet passports in the next few years. The Armenian passports, unlike the Soviet ones, were to be valid for only 10 years as is the case in many countries of the world.
This meant that those who received them first had to think about how to change them. Some citizens have already had difficulties getting foreign visas.
Zakarian said the government is also expected to explicitly ban any external use of Armenia’s 10-year special residency permits given to foreign nationals. She said some of their 9,549 holders, mostly Diaspora Armenians, have used them as full-fledged Armenian passports when traveling abroad.
The residency permits were introduced nearly ten years ago with the aim of facilitating contacts between Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora. Holders of such documents worth 150,000 drams ($282) each are entitled to visa-free travel to Armenia and enjoy every right of an Armenian national except the right to vote.