Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Rwanda government has received widespread praise for it new visa regime which comes in effect on January 01, 2018. Citizens of all countries now have an automatic 30 day visa on arrival. A few arrivals might be required to pay applicable fees.
The Morocco World News online noted that “Rwanda has emerged over the years as a pillar of the free movement of people and goods in Africa”.
It cited the Africa Visa Openness Report 2016, which Rwanda ranked ninth among African countries that facilitate entry into their territory.
In an interview, the Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told the newspaper that “the new visa regime opens Rwanda to the world and is good for business”.
“Rwanda believes that the free movement of people fosters trade and tourism, and is good for the continent’s integration policy. We are aware of the challenges of open borders, but as a country, we also believe that the benefits of our policy outweigh the potential setbacks,” she reportedly said.
An editorial in a Ugandan newspaper, The Observer, noted that “this innovative strategy of the Rwanda government will earn it rewards in the tourism sector.
“Uganda needs to watch with keen interest the innovations being implemented by the EAC partner states,” it said in an editorial.
According to a Nov.16 press release from the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration starting next year citizens of all countries will be eligible to get a 30-days visa upon arrival at a point of entry to Rwanda. There will be no need for prior application.
Currently, it is only citizens of East African countries get free 90 day visas upon arrival in Rwanda.
Titled `30 days visa upon arrival’ part of the document says “Citizens of all countries to get visa upon arrival without prior approval, starting 01 January 2018.”
Before this only citizens of African countries and few others were eligible to get a visa upon arrival in Kigali Airport.
The new visa regime also touches on visa reciprocity for specific countries whose citizens get free visas with 90 days validity.
The countries in this category include Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Ghana, Guinea, Indonesia, Haiti, Senegal, Seychelles and Sao Tome and Principe. Others are Democratic Republic of Congo, East Africa Member Community Partner States, Mauritius, Philippines and Singapore
Meanwhile, nationals of Australia, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States of America will be issued with entry visa valid for a period up to 30 days. But they have to pay US$30 for the visa upon arrival. There is no requirement for prior application under the new regime.
Rwanda has also entered visa waiver agreements with several countries; include Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, India, Israel, Morocco and Turkey. That means Rwandan diplomatic and service passport holders will not be required to get a visa when traveling to these countries.
In return, nationals of these countries will also not require visa while traveling to Rwanda using diplomatic and service passport.
The Directorate of Immigration and Emigration said the new move is likely to lead to a 1.9% reduction in visa revenues from countries whose citizens will not pay fees as a reciprocal measure.
However, it is expected that there will be an increase in overall revenues due to the corresponding increase in tourism.
Previous visa adjustments have seen significant rise in the number of visitors coming into the country.
When Rwanda moved to issue visa upon arrival to all Africans, the number of African nationals that were issued visa on arrival at Rwandan entry points increased from 31,054 in 2013 to 77,377 in 2016, according to The New Times newspaper article.
It says currently on average of 350 online visa applications are received per day and processed within 3 days.
The new visa regime will also enable foreign residents in the country use their resident ID cards for entry. Previously foreigners living in Rwanda would have to produce their passports on entry into the country.
Citizens of the Common Market of East and Southern Africa (Comesa) will also now get a 90 day visa upon arrival. But some might have to pay some prescribed fees. The same applies to other African and Asian states.
Rwandans living abroad with dual nationality will be allowed to use national IDs on entry and would not be required to pay any visa fees.
The innovative visa changes are intended to make Rwanda a more attractive destination, especially for tourists and business travellers.
Rwanda has previously made travel to Kigali easier by promoting its national carrier to fly to destinations in the USA and Europe.
On reciprocal basis, Rwanda reinstated payment of visa fee upon arrival to citizens of Hong Kong that were getting free visa upon arrival. It comes after Hong Kong re-introduced visa requirements to Rwandans since April 29, 2016.