Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New visa requirement for tourists

The current system of issuing a visa on arrival to tourists is to be suspended on the 30th of September. Tourists will be expected to apply for a visa in advance.

The issue visas on arrival will be restricted to countries that reciprocate, which means Singapore and the Maldives. Everyone else will need to apply for a visa. This plan was mooted about a year ago but its implementation was delayed due to protests by the tourist industry, justifiably so because slow processing of visas could hurt the industry.

The Government has announced that visa's will be issued on-line and to make things even simpler, could be sought by applicants themselves, a third party, a registered agent or a Sri Lankan embassy.

This sounds fine, except that the site does not seem to work. It returns the error:

Error 404--Not Found
From RFC 2068 Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.1:
10.4.5 404 Not Found

The server has not found anything matching the Request-URI. No indication is given of whether the condition is temporary or permanent.

It gave the same error when I checked yesterday. Perhaps it has not yet been uploaded?


N had commented on the confusion this has sown amongst potential visitors, something that I had missed. Just checked on Trip Advisor, some questions and comments should be read by people in the industry. A few are reproduced below:


5. Re: Sri Lankan visa on arrival

Hi there

I am visting Sri Lanka later this month as a tourist and have seen conflicting reports about whether or not the visa-on-arrival facility is still operating. I am travelling on a New Zealand passport, so the visa-on-arrival option would apply in my case, if it is in fact still operating.

Can anyone confirm definitively whether it is operating? Otherwise, it's going to be a mad dash to get a visa next week before I leave for the Maldives next weekend.


Hi there.....

Visa BEFORE arrival still not in operation, was due around May time, but no confirmation yet.., so at this time, you will get your visa when you arrive..



This notice on Sri Lanka Immigration website ( has not been updated since early February:

"The on arrival visa facility (Visit Visa, Transit Visa) will remain unchanged until the internet based on-line visa service (Electronic Travel Authority) is established. The general public and the stakeholders will be duly notified when the ETA system is operationally ready."

Also no updates in local newspapers.

When I extended my visa 2 weeks ago I asked the controller at Immigration when the new system will be launched. He did not know.

With the 3 months pilot test that was announced in January I doubt the new system will be effective until August st the earliest.


Following a very recent difficult experience with the arrival visa stamped on the passport, I'd like to suggest that everyone check that the Immigration Officer has written the number of days [ normally 30] on the visa stamp and also initialled it as well. Usually you would assume that has been done - especially if you travel in and out very frequently - and just take your passport and hurry to baggage claim.

I'd suggest that those who were born in SL but travel on a different passport should be more careful about this. I'm just finding out that some unexpected hassles are being encountered on departure regarding this.


Cadence said...

A case of 'Cart before the Horse' it seems.

Jack Point said...

Ha ha yes Cadence.

I just hope someone knows what is happening otherwise the the guy who is supposed to oversee the website will get fried.

Anonymous said...

This site will launch on Oct 1st

N said...

Hopefully they don't stop the on-arrival visa thing immediately since the industry was supposed to get a few months notice about far it's been a few days. Even the Tourism Board doesn't know what is happening and is having a meeting tomorrow to discuss this. This country sometimes beggars belief with the stupidity of the people that run it.

Anonymous said...

I suggest, its better wait until 30th to comment.

N said...

@Anon - in terms of foolishness, you're right up there with the GOSL. When putting something like this into effect, you plan and inform stakeholders especially when it comes to such a significant income generation vehicle for the country. This is a thoroughly unprofessional way to do things causing confusion in the industry and tourists who have already booked travel.

Jack Point said...


thanks for the comment. It is usual to have a 'Hold' page for a website under construction, I see that this is now up.

It would be useful to have some details on the Hold page such as the guidelines on how people should apply for the visa, charges etc.