By Damith Wickremasekara
Regulations are likely to be relaxed in the issue of visas to Sri Lankans currently holding foreign citizenship, investors, students and others, a Cabinet Minister said.
Internal Affairs Minister S.B. Nawinna told the Sunday Times the proposals, if approved by the Cabinet, would enable the Government to provide visas ranging from two to five years, instead of short term visas as currently issued.
He said the objective was to attract Sri Lankans domiciled overseas to return and stay here for longer spells, attract more foreign students and regularise the issue of visas for foreign investors. The minister said the move would help Sri Lankans who were unable to obtain dual citizenship in Sri Lanka would be able to apply for visas up to five years and visit the country to engage in professional services such as medicine and engineering. They would also be able to spend more time with their families
Mr. Nawinna said foreign students would be issued visas for the entire period of the course in one instance, instead of the requirement to extend the visas on a regular basis. Accordingly, the students would be able to apply for visas upto five years, depending on the duration of the courses.
“We could attract more foreign students to study in Sri Lanka through the process,” he said.
The current system of issuing visas for foreign investors and workers would be relaxed enabling them to obtain long term visas, depending on the requirements of the project, instead of seeking extensions either every six month or every month.
He said the move will help the Government to reduce the number of persons overstaying visas and engaging in various professions or gaining employment as unskilled workers.
The move comes as the Government continued to issue dual citizenship to encourage Sri Lankans to return to the country, keeping with government policies.
At least 25,000 dual citizenships have been issued during the past two years.
Source: Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)