Saturday, February 24, 2024
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Govt announces visa-free scheme for 7 countries to boost tourism

By: Staff Writer

Colombo (LNW): Sri Lanka has introduced a visa-free entry initiative for visitors from seven countries, including India, China, and Russia, as part of a pilot project.

The Immigration and Emigration Department has announced the immediate implementation of a free visa initiative for nationals of China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Thailand, Malaysia and Japan.

The move is effective till 31 March 2024 and serves as a pilot project aligned with the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers.

Under this initiative, foreign nationals from the specified countries holding Diplomatic, Official, Public Affairs, Service and Ordinary passports are eligible to benefit from a visa-free scheme.

However, they are required to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) before arriving in Sri Lanka, with the application fee waived till the program’s conclusion in March 2024.

Tourists availing themselves of this scheme can enjoy a 30-day visa-free period, and a unique feature permits a double entry within 30 days from their initial arrival in Sri Lanka, as outlined in the official statement from the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

The free ETA application remains open only till 3 March 2024, and the 30-day free visa period cannot be extended beyond this timeframe. The statement emphasises that after the specified date, visitors seeking an extension must apply for a visa extension, subject to the appropriate fees.

The Controller (Visa) for the Controller General of the Immigration and Emigration Department underscored that the visa-free scheme exclusively pertains to the seven mentioned countries, while other nations must adhere to Sri Lanka’s standard rules and regulations for ETA.

This decision, announced by the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Ali Sabry, received approval from the Sri Lanka Cabinet.

The pilot project, which begins immediately, will be in effect until March 31, 2024. Minister Sabry shared this update, stating, “Cabinet approves issuing of free visas to India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia & Thailand with immediate effect as a pilot project till 31 March.”

Recently, the Ministry of Tourism had revealed that a Cabinet Paper was presented during a previous Cabinet meeting, suggesting the issuance of free tourist visas to foreigners from five countries who plan to visit Sri Lanka as tourists.

Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is setting its sights on a higher target for 2023, with the aim of attracting 2 million visitors, up from the previous goal of 1.5 million.

Tourism, a significant contributor to Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange earnings, faced challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic and political crises in the South Asian nation.

This adjustment reflects the industry’s determination to recover and thrive in the face of these challenges.

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