Sri Lanka ends free visas for long-staying Russians and Ukrainians

Sri Lanka ends free visas for long-staying Russians and Ukrainians

Fees expected to affect up to 400 who have been on the island since 2022

Beanbag chairs and umbrellas are set up on Unawatuna beach in Galle, Sri Lanka. (Photo: Reuters)
Beanbag chairs and umbrellas are set up on Unawatuna beach in Galle, Sri Lanka. (Photo: Reuters)

COLOMBO - Sri Lanka has decided to stop issuing free long-term visas to Russian and Ukrainian nationals who have lived in the country for the past two years, a government official said on Thursday.

Since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Sri Lanka has allowed Russians and Ukrainians to stay in the country without paying for visas, but they will now have to pay the charges.

The rate is about $50 for a 30-day visa, if they wish to stay in the country, Public Security Minister Tiran Alles told Reuters.

“Whoever wants to stay back can apply for new visas,” Alles added. “They can immediately renew their visas and remain here.”

Immigration authorities last week set a March 7 deadline for the departure of those without new visas, in a notice that sparked comment on social media.

About 300 to 400 Russians and Ukrainians are estimated to have been staying in Sri Lanka since February 2022, said Priantha Fernando, the chairman of the national tourism body.

“This has nothing to do with normal tourists,” Fernando said. “We are more than welcoming them … there is no issue.”

Britain, Germany, India and Russia are the top sources of visitors to Sri Lanka, which has already received close to 400,000 tourists in 2024.

The Indian Ocean island nation aims to welcome about 2.2 million tourists by December in its efforts to recover from the worst financial crisis in decades.

New Russian tourists will be eligible for free visas under a separate promotion scheme adopted last November, however.

Under that scheme, tourists from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Russia and Thailand will continue to be issued free visas until March 31.

Thailand in November began offering 90-day visa-free stays to travellers with Russian passports. The pilot project will run until April 30.

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