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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Tourists in fix as Sri Lanka visa validity halved after VFS Global deal

ECONOMYNEXT – Tourists who were sold visas by VFS Global which has been given an e-visa monopoly by Sri Lanka, are in a fix after the validity period was halved and the price doubled, according to posts on a global travel forum.

Sri Lanka was widely acknowledged on travel forums to have the best or one of the best e-visas in the world due to a user-friendly website which did not ask for unnecessary details, and charged only 50 dollars for double entry and gave six months validity for first entry.

A British tourist applied though the new VFS Global portal said she sold two visas by VFS Global for 170 sterling pounds (about 200 dollars), based on their arrival dates.

“I put our arrival dates as 23rd September 2024 and departure of 4th October,” the tourist, Jodie wrote on Tripadvisor.com

“The approval notice stated we must travel to Sri Lanka by the 3rd August 24 or the visa then expires. Which is something we cannot do.”

Until the VFS Global deal, tourists could plan their trips to Sri Lanka several months ahead, and make the first arrival within six months of the visa issue.

Most countries have shorter first visit period, which was a reason tourist did not mind paying the 50 dollar fee. The double entry also allowed them to travel to Maldives and come back.

VFS portal had not helped her, after selling the visa, and had referred her to the Department of Immigration, she said.

“I have contacted them via phone and email and they have said to contact the Immigration & Emmigration Sri Lanka but they would not give me their details,” the unfortunate tourist wrote.

“I have emailed that department and had no response. The visas have cost me £170 for two and I cannot simply afford to pay another £170. I really need to know how to get these dates changed,” she pleaded, sounding more helpless than angry.

Sympathetic comments from fellow posters showed that Sri Lanka image was getting a hammering.

“Looking at the dates from beginning of May it appears that this new company running the immigration system has reduced the grace period for use from 6 to 3 months,” commented another forum member, Graham.

He warned that the old website had also warned not to make any mistakes or money will not be refunded.

“I do not think you will have any luck getting a refund or making changes,” he said pessimistically.

“This whole horrible mess is typical of Sri Lanka. Good luck and please keep us updated with any progress you make.”

Others blasted VFS Global for a badly programmed website.

“Was the validity or some similar terms used on the website?,” wrote Simon, another Brit.

“Nonetheless, it’s awful programming on the website as there should be date validation in the entry date field to check it’s within the time limit (3 months).

“If there was a warning you have little chance of a change, but you could protest that the application should have failed.”

Public Security Minister Tiran Alles said a 12-year monopoly was awarded to the company without competitive tender following a proposal made to the Sri Lanka.

Related Sri Lanka to lose 20-pct from $50 tourist visa to VFS Global: legislator

Sri Lanka has since started offering 50 dollar visa but only for single entry, with opposition members questioning whether VFS Global was getting a 20 percent of the price, resulting in a 20 percent revenue loss to government.

Related Sri Lanka ‘free’ visa costs US$21.61 under VFS Global deal: legislator

In another twist legislators have revealed that VFS Global was collecting 21.61 US dollars from tourists from several countries who are supposed to get free visas under a promotion.

(Colombo/May08/2024) EN

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