Sri Lanka Extends Visa-Exemption for 7 Countries

Sri Lankan government has extended the visa-exemption for nationals of 7 countries. Their citizens can travel to Sri Lanka without a visa until the end of April 2024.

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Sri Lanka has extended the visa exemption for nationals of 7 countries until April 30, 2024.

The said countries include China, India, Malaysia, Russia, Indonesia, Japan and Thailand. Their nationals can enjoy visa-free entry from October 2023. 

The exemption was originally supposed to commence on March 31, 2024.

However, following the latest announcement by the Sri Lankan government, these passport holders can travel to Sri Lanka without a visa for stays of up to 30 days, at least until the end of April. 

Minister of Tourism Harin Fernando has hinted at the possibility of even more relaxed visa requirements in the future.

A long-term decision on this matter is expected to be announced soon, which could further boost tourism in Sri Lanka. 

Other foreign visitors, however, still need to obtain a tourist ETA in order to enter Sri Lanka.

Reasons for relaxing visa policy in Sri Lanka

The decision to extend the visa exemption was made due to the increase in the number of tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka, which is already one of the top tourist destinations in the world.  

As part of the Strategic Action Plan for Tourism in Sri Lanka, the government is trying to stimulate economic growth and revitalize the tourism industry, which has been significantly impacted by the pandemic. The extension of the visa exemption is a key step in this direction. 

Tourism is the third-largest and fastest-growing source of foreign investment in Sri Lanka, accounting for around $4.4 billion of the national GDP in 2018.  

The outbreak of the pandemic, however, stopped this promising growth of Sri Lanka, and the number of visitors significantly decreased, from nearly 2 million in 2019 to only around half a million in 2020. The following year, 2021, was even worse, with only 200,000 travelers. 

2023 was quite a good year for the country. Due to the relaxed entry requirements, over 1.4 million foreigners decided to visit Sri Lanka. 

Prolonging the visa-exempt program is expected to increase the number of arrivals in Sri Lanka to achieve 5 million over the coming years

Why particular countries are exempt from Sri Lankan visa requirements

The countries that can now travel to Sri Lanka visa-free were selected upon a strategic selection. For example, Russia is the second country whose nationals most frequently decide to visit Sri Lanka. In turn, Asian and Pacific countries account for around 40% of all tourists in 2022.*

India, also listed as a visa-exempt country for Sri Lanka, is another essential nation for the Sri Lankan government. Indian nationals make up the most significant number of arrivals. 

*Data has been retrieved from the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.  

ETA Application for Sri Lanka

While seven different countries can benefit from formality-free travel, other non-visa-exempt nationals should remember to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization before arriving in Sri Lanka.

The ETA is issued for two entries to the country, and the total stay must be at most 30 days. Applicants can choose from three types depending on their travel needs, including tourism, business, or transit.

As the processing time may take around 3 business days, it is best to submit the online application at least a few days before the date of intended travel.

Katarzyna Żyła

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