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Sri Lanka halts free visas for long-staying Russian, Ukrainian nationals

By Uditha Jayasinghe

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka has decided to stop issuing free long-term visas to Russian and Ukrainian nationals who have lived in the Indian Ocean island nation 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 Sri Lanka, 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.”

Last week immigration authorities said they were ending the free long-term visa scheme for Russian and Ukraine nationals, setting 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 island’s 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.

Sri Lanka 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 from last November, however.

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

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