Foreign nationals who wish to enter Sri Lanka for the purpose of tourism, leisure, business, discussions, seminars, conferences, mass media, technical assistance, meetings, studies, etc. are required to have a valid passport.
Sri Lanka Immigration
There are seventy(70) nationalities that are exempt from the visa fee (for tourist purposes) and can stay for a maximum of thirty (30) days upon arriving at Colombo Airport. Individuals whose places of residence do not have a Sri Lankan Embassy or Consulate may receive the original approved papers upon arriving at the airport, to be presented to the Immigration Officer for endorsement.
Applicants looking for a visa will have to forward the required documents and send their inquiries to the nearest Sri Lankan Consulate or Embassy in their current place of residence. In some cases where applicants do not have a Sri Lankan Embassy or Consulate in their place of residence, they will have to send their applications directly to Sri Lanka. Notification and approval of entry visas will be done by the Immigration Department in Colombo. There are a number of statutes and laws governing immigrants, citizens, and expatriates in the country that should be carefully followed.
These visas issued are valid for three months with the prior permission of the Controller of Immigration and Emigration, extendible depending on necessity.
The main law governing foreign nationals and immigrants is the Immigrants and Emigrants Act No. 20 of 1948 with regulations and amendments providing details on the coverage of residency and employment of people coming into Sri Lanka. The prescribed authorities are:
• The Immigration and Emigration Controller in Colombo
• Heads of Sri Lanka Missions abroad
The immigration and emigration controller is responsible for issuing travel documents in accordance to the powers vested in the Act. All persons entering, staying, and leaving the country are assessed every now and then to ensure that they are not overstaying.
As for citizenship, applications for dual citizenship are available as well as applications for the resumption of Sri Lankan citizenship. Children of Sri Lankans born out of the country are also eligible to apply. With the provisions of Act No. 39 of 1988, stateless persons may be granted citizenship.
Visa Immigration Services
The seventy (70) nationalities exempt from the visa fee (for tourist visa) include: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Philippines, Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Herzegovina, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong (China), Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Bahrain, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, South America, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Yugoslavia.
The two basic types of visas in Sri Lanka are Tourist and Business. Each has a validity period of thirty (30) days. Visitors can request extensions by applying directly at the Department of Immigration and Emigration 23 Station Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. Extensions are issued at the discretion of authorities requiring proof that applicants have a minimum amount of US$30 for each day during the entire stay and an onward or return ticket for travel. Visa extension fees may vary depending on the applicant’s country of residence.
There are also hand-over applications. Multiple entry, visit and transit visa applications should be made at the nearest Sri Lankan Mission. If no Mission is present in your current place of residence or mission arrangements cannot be properly made, the case may be forwarded to and fixed by the Department of Immigration and Emigration in Sri Lanka for legal entry and stay in the country. The Department is also responsible for applications for residence visas and visas under the Special Resident Guest Scheme.
If the travel document has yet to reach the maximum validity date, it should cover more than a period of two (2) months. This is often the period that applicants plan to stay in Sri Lanka. Visit visas will check items such as a return air ticket and sufficient maintenance funds in currency, traveller’s cheques or credit cards.
Approved tourists from nationals listed in Schedule ‘A’ will be provided landing visas for thirty (30) days at the port of entry in Sri Lanka. Two (2) months’ extension beyond thirty (30) days will be provided at the Department of Immigration and Emigration (Head Office) as needed. However, further extension will only be granted if the applicants’ reasons are valid. The restriction does not apply to ex-Sri Lankans. Individuals who intend to enter the country other than holiday or tourist reasons should obtain the necessary visa.
As for residence visas, the following are the requirements set forth under the law.
1. Expatriate personnel whose services are required for projects approved by the State.
2. Expatriate personnel employed in projects under Board of Investment of Sri Lanka.
3. A foreign national
- Who desires to invest monetary capital or
- To engage in business activities in Sri Lanka.
4. Members of the Clergy.
5. Religious Workers and Religious Students.
7. Personnel attached to Non-Governmental Organizations.
8. Foreign students
- In Universities
- Educational Institutions approved by the State
- Other Institutions
9. Registered Indians covered by the 1954 Agreement.
10. Ex Sri Lankans.
11. Spouses of Sri Lankans.
12. Children of Sri Lankans but holding foreign nationality.
This is issued to foreign nationals who wish to enter Sri Lanka for limited periods of time for purposes such as excursions, sightseeing, relaxation, family visits, and funerals. Individuals with this type of visa are prohibited from engaging in any other paid or unpaid activity. Tourist visas are issued with a maximum of two (2) visits per calendar year. Changing visa categories in Sri Lanka is not permitted as indicated by current visa regulations. Over 100 nationalities are required Entry Visas before arriving, but arrangements can be made immediately at Colombo airport if visitors do not have a Sri Lankan Embassy or Consulate in their country of residence.
This is issued to foreign nationals who wish to stay in Sri Lanka for long periods of time for purposes such as business, investment, education, seminars or meetings, advertising, employment and other work-related schemes. For these purposes, any of the 4 visas can be issued:
• Work Visa
• Student Visa
• Spouse Visa
• Guardian Visa
Work visas are issued after the required documents have been submitted by the applicant to the Department of Immigration and Emigration. The applicant also needs to provide evidence of existing employment transactions between the current company and the Sri-Lanka-based industry, most preferably through letters, notifications, and other supporting documents.
Student visas are provided for individuals who plan to attend schools, colleges, academies, universities, and other educational institutions based in Sri Lanka. In some cases, the stay may be short or long, as required by the institution. Extensions will have to be made if students stay longer than thirty (30) days.
Spouse visas are issued to foreign nationals who have husbands or wives working in Sri Lanka. The spouse based in Sri Lanka should be holding a residence or work visa. Application may be done together or after approval of the initial work visa. Guardian visas are issued to parents and other caretakers of individuals holding residence visas. These may be parents of foreign students or workers.
Permanent Residence – Resident Guest Visa (RGV)
This is issued to foreign investors, businessmen, and other professionals who have the potential to improve the economic and social-cultural state of Sri Lanka. The Resident Guest Scheme has been created by the Sri Lankan Government to provide incentives and entice more investors into the country.
Multiple Entry Business Visa
This is issued to individuals who come in and out of Sri Lanka for business or investments. Since tourists are only allowed up to a maximum of two (2) visits per year, the MEBV, or Multiple Entry Business Visa, provides you with a validity period of up to twelve (12) months with unlimited entry and departure.
An Entry Visa Approval from immigration authorities in Colombo is initially required before arrival. After obtaining the Entry Visa Approval, an Entry Visa from Sri Lankan Embassies or Consulates is needed next before arrival in the country.
Sri Lankan Embassies or Consulates do not issue Entry Visas without an Entry Visa Approval. For individuals whose countries of residence do not have a Sri Lankan Consulate or Embassy, Entry Visas may be issued upon arrival provided that prior arrangements have been made with the Department of Immigration and Emigration. Upon arrival in Sri Lanka, foreign nationals should then obtain Multiple Entry Visa Endorsements from the Department.
Other Purpose Visit Visa
Individuals who wish to visit Sri Lanka for short periods for purposes other than tourism or leisure can obtain Other Purpose Visit Visas. This is issued to those who wish to attend conferences, business discussions, meetings, seminars, mini-courses, and technical programs. An Entry Visa is initially required before arriving in Sri Lanka.
The duration of Visa Extension will depend on the Department and your reasons for overstaying. You will be required the following:
• Visit visa application
• Copy of the bio-data page of the passport
• Two (2) passport-size photographs
• Visa fee
Types of Permits
A work permit is required for individuals employed in Sri Lanka-based companies, industries and institutions. To apply for one, you will need proof of employment of transaction from the company of your country of residence and from the company based in Sri Lanka. Letters, notifications and other documents that provide proof of the existing investment or business transaction or position or employment offer are required.
US citizens looking to get a tourist visa are issued one upon arrival for a maximum stay of thirty (30) days, with extensions made at the Immigration Office in Colombo.
Business visas require the following:
• A signed passport with a validity of at least six (6) months beyond the date of entry
• Two (2) passport-size photos
• Completed application and credit card authorization forms
• Copy of flight itinerary indicating return trip
• A business letter of responsibility, typewritten on your company letterhead and addressed to the Sri Lankan Embassy or Consulate
Another requirement set forth is that the employer should proceed with the work permit of foreign recruits. A recommendation should be obtained from the relevant line Ministry where the Department of Immigration and Emigration will issue one year visa which is renewable. Generally Ministry will recommend for candidates, where that skill is not freely