Sri Lanka plans to streamline the issuance of ‘on arrival’ visas for visitors, though Singaporean and Maldivian nationals would continue to enjoy the benefit.
Only the Singaporean and Maldivian nationals would be allowed 'on arrival' visas without prior approval under Sri Lanka’s new visa regime, officials said on Wednesday.
"This is not a new visa system. It is just a system of taking prior approval," Chulananda Perera, a top immigration department official said.
Perera said that intended travellers to Sri Lanka will be able to go online and seek prior approval for their visas before arriving in the country.
"Those with prior approvals would promptly receive their visas on arrival”.
The Singaporeans and Maldivians need not obtain prior approval as these two are the only nations to extend the same courtesy to Sri Lankan passport holders.
The "Electronic Travel Authorization –ETA" system is to be launched at a date to be announced soon. The travel industry officials believe that the ETA will come into force from January 2012.
This is in effect would mean the scrapping of the on arrival visa policy where bona fide tourists from 78 nations received a visa valid for 30 days.
“The system would enable us to gather data on tourist arrivals to the country," Perera stressed.
Responding to a question if the new system would hinder tourist arrivals to the island, Perera said the efficiency of the system would not pose such problems.
The new system is being viewed as an attempt to streamline the prevailing entry visas system.
Tourism is a major foreign exchange earner for the island nation. However, the government has been complaining of foreign nationals abusing the system on arrival visa policy.
People who had entered the island as tourists have been found to be working, set up business and even done reporting as journalists, authorities said.