2 January 2018

Rwanda's Open Border Policy Comes Into Force

Photo: The Guardian

Effective Monday January 1, 2018, all visitors to Rwanda started to get a 30-day visa upon arrival without prior application, the Rwandan Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration announced.

Under the new visa regime, first announced last November, citizens of the other East African Community Partner states are entitled to six months visitors pass (renewable) upon arrival with no fee.

Previously, only nationals of African countries and few others were getting a visa upon arrival.

"In view of bilateral agreements, nationals of the following countries may visit Rwanda without a visa for a period up to 90 days: Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, DRC, Ghana, Guinea, Indonesia, Haiti, Mauritius, Philippines, Senegal, Seychelles, Sao Tome and Principe and Singapore," reads part of the statement from the Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration.

Usually, foreign nationals wishing to obtain a Rwandan visa submit their applications online or at the Rwandan diplomatic missions of their country of residence.

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 and pay for a visa ($30) upon arrival without prior application.

However, the migration directorate notes that the visitor's visa should not be used for employment.

It said on reciprocal basis, Hong Kong citizens are required to pay visa fee upon arrival.

"This decision removes the necessity for pre-clearance requirement of acquiring an entry visa before travelling to Rwanda. Nationals of African countries who prefer to continue applying for entry visa online or through Rwanda diplomatic missions may do so if they so wish," the notice said.

Payment of visa fee where applicable was not removed despite this decision.

"Nationals of all African countries traveling to or transiting through Rwanda obtain an entry visa upon arrival without necessarily making prior application and pay for a visa ($30) where applicable," adds the statement.

Nationals of the countries mentioned above not exempted from visa may also choose to get visa at Rwanda diplomatic missions (except the UN Mission in New York) or online.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs in November said that the new visa regime is in line with the African Union spirit of encouraging free movement of people across the continent and is expected to increase the number of tourists and foreign investors coming to Rwanda.

The 27th ordinary session of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government held in Kigali in July 2016 adopted the Free Movement of Persons and the African Passport policy.

Conference organisers who spoke to The New Times then sounded optimistic on the new policy, saying it would bring more international forums to Rwanda.

They said that, among the major determining factors that influence conference hosting, include accessibility of a country.

When Rwanda started to issue visa upon arrival to all Africans in 2013, the number of African nationals that were issued visa on arrival at Rwandan entry points increased from 31,054 to 77,377 in 2016.

On average, 350 online visa applications were being received per day and processed within 3 days.

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