DISAPPOINTMENT OVER COST OF VISA FOR EXPATRIATES LIVING IN EAST AFRICA
(Posted 30th June 2014)
Reactions were swift to come in when news spread over the weekend that expatriates living in any of the three ‘Coalition of the Willing’ countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya will still have to pay Visa fees in order to be able to visit any of the neighbouring countries, a disappointing state of affairs and thought unhelpful to keep a significant number of travelers within the region, as expats in large numbers visit countries which do not require Visa from them like the UAE, the Seychelles or South Africa.
While at a cost of 100 US Dollars per Visa is the period of validity now extended to 6 months, this does not matter much for those who only wish to spend their local leave for instance at the beaches of Mombasa and not travel several times to and from one of the neighbouring countries.
Tourism stakeholders for long argued that such Visa should be given for free for expatriates holding a work or residence permit but it is now clear that the issue of revenue trumped the need to truly make the region an open area for tourist exchanges.
While officials tried to spin a positive effect into this latest announcement were tourism operators and in particular travel agents less hopeful as they had expected that the need for costly Visa, setting a family of four back by 200 US Dollars under the old regime and 400 US Dollars under the new regime, would be shelved. ‘The doubts you expressed here before were justified. If my clients now pay 100 Dollars each for a Visa, even if it is valid for half a year and they only need it once a year when they have their local leave, they will keep that money in their pockets and continue to fly to Dubai or to Jo’burg or to the Seychelles’ said a travel agent in Kampala before adding ‘If they really want more expats here to go to Mombasa, with all the hullaballoo going on there, they must give them a free entry because what we now read is a weak compromise which will serve little purpose. There will not be much uptake for that, perhaps business people regularly flying from Entebbe to Nairobi or Kigali but not for the target this was aimed for, families going for a beach holiday. They never listen!’.
Is change which brings no change really change one wonders? Back to the drawing board ladies and gentlemen, as duly registered expats after all pay taxes and deserve some better consideration. The spirit of an open, and as the promoters say Borderless Borders East Africa, here at least, is not very visible.