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Sri Lanka Extends Visa-Free Entry for Indian and Select Nationals Amidst Tourism Revival Efforts

In a move aimed at reviving its tourism industry and facilitating international travel, the Sri Lankan government has announced an extension of visa-free entry for visitors from India and select countries until May 31, 2024.

This decision, approved by the country’s Cabinet, allows nationals from India, China, Russia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia to enter Sri Lanka without a visa for a 30-day visit.

The initiative, initially introduced as a pilot project in October, forms part of a strategic effort to breathe new life into Sri Lanka’s tourism sector, which has been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and internal economic and political challenges.


Visa-Free Travel Initiative and Application Process

Under this initiative, visitors from the specified countries can enjoy a visa-free entry, facilitating seamless travel and exploration within the picturesque island nation. However, travelers are required to apply for a visa through the official website before their arrival. The visa obtained through this process holds a validity period of 30 days, promoting hassle-free travel experiences for tourists.


Government’s Decision on Visa Charges

Despite recent controversies surrounding high visa charges imposed by a private company, the government has decided to maintain a $50 fee for visitors obtaining a 30-day arrival visa. Various stakeholders in the tourism sector have advocated for this fee cap, emphasizing the importance of attracting tourists while ensuring affordability and accessibility.

The tourism industry in Sri Lanka has faced significant challenges due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and internal economic and political crises. The extension of visa-free entry comes amidst efforts to support the country’s recovery from these challenges.

Additionally, Sri Lanka has outlined specific requirements for Indian citizens seeking tourist visas. These include holding a valid passport with at least six months’ validity from the date of arrival in Sri Lanka, completing an online visa application form, paying the applicable fee, providing confirmation of return or onward travel, and proof of accommodation bookings in Sri Lanka. Health-related documents such as a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate are required if arriving from an infected area.

A statement released by President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office on May 6 noted: “Today, it was decided to maintain the current USD 50 fee for a 30-day visa for foreign visitors to the country and to uphold the complimentary visa service extended to citizens of seven countries – India, China, Russia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia.”

The government’s choice to retain the existing visa charges and the free visa provision comes in response to widespread criticism of the new on-arrival visa system managed by a foreign entity at Bandaranaike International Airport.

The extension of visa-free entry and the decision to uphold visa charges reflect the government’s commitment to supporting the tourism sector’s recovery while addressing concerns regarding accessibility and affordability for travelers.

These measures aim to enhance Sri Lanka’s appeal as a tourist destination and stimulate economic growth in the country. With the tourism industry poised for revival, Sri Lanka looks forward to welcoming visitors from around the world to experience its rich culture, scenic landscapes, and warm hospitality.

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