President Rajapaksa’s Code is an eight-page memorandum [presented] by External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris. It calls for significant changes. He has said that the NGO Secretariat (now coming under the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development) and the Registrar of Companies will be tasked “with clearing NGO requests on hosting events and arranging necessary visas for the participants.” He has proposed “to designate a focal point at the NGO Secretariat and the Registrar of Companies in order to streamline the visa process.”
Peirs notes that the present ETA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) online visa system does not have a provision for ‘seminars/conferences/workshops’ as the purpose of travel. He has pointed out that instances have been reported of some participants erroneously selecting the ‘visit’ visa category to obtain online visas to participate in events and thereby encountering some difficulties. “Therefore, creating a category called ‘conferences/seminars/workshops’ in the online ETA visa system is strongly recommended,” Peiris has said.
Peiris adds that when an applicant selects the new category in the ETA system, “it should automatically be flagged to the Officer-in-Charge/focal point at the Department of Immigration and Emigration, and he/she could cross check with his/her records or take measures to inform the relevant entities about the request. “Once this category is selected,” Peiris has recommended that “the applicant should be requested to provide details of the local sponsor, letter of invitation and other relevant documentation. This step would further streamline visa issuance process relating to this category,” Peiris has claimed.
This is how Minister Peiris has described the different categories:
PROFESSIONAL BODIES – As most professional bodies are not affiliated or linked to any Government entity, they could inform of the events with international participation directly to the Ministry of External Affairs. The Ministry will provide its observations in consultation with the relevant authorities, to the professional body with a copy to the Controller General of Immigration and Emigration. After receiving these observations, issue of visas to the participants would be through the Sri Lanka missions abroad or the Controller General of Immigration and Emigration.
CHAMBERS – THINK TANKS – The Chambers and most of the Think Tanks are incorporated as companies under the Companies Law. However, it is proposed that the Chambers/Think Tanks should inform the organisation of events with the participation of the External Affairs Ministry with a copy to the Controller General of Immigration and Emigration. Whilst Chambers could write directly to the latter, the Think Tanks could write to the NGO Secretariat.
NGO’S REGISTERED UNDER THE NGO SECRETARIAT – Their request should be made to the Ministry of External Affairs together with a copy of their registration certificate. The EAM, after processing, will advise the NGO Secretariat and the Ministry of Defence. The issuance of visas thereafter will be recommended to the Commissioner General of Immigration and Emigration.
NGO’S REGISTERED UNDER THE COMPANIES ACT – The NGOs registered under this category should make a request to the Registrar of Companies. They should provide the certificate of registration and details of funding sources. In addition, they would be required to give an outline of the subjects to be discussed, objectives and list of participants. The Registrar will forward such requests to the External Affairs Ministry with his observations. It is only thereafter that the Controller General will be requested to issue visas
– form the Sunday Times political column