The Timorese Government temporarily suspended a set of new rules for tourist and business visas into the country.
“The decision has been temporarily suspended”, said an official source at the Interior Ministry to Lusa, questioning the controversial changes announced on the official website.
This week, the Immigration Service had announced the application of new rules for tourist and business visas, which, although envisaged by law, are being strongly challenged by the obstacles they raise, complicating the procedures.
The current law provides that tourist visas (class 1) must be requested from consular or diplomatic representations but, given resources limitations, according to an official government source, the procedure was done with visas upon arrival in Dili or at the country’s land borders.
However, as of May 1, 2019, and on the basis of an Order Nr. 470 signed on April 16 by the interim Minister of the Interior, Filomeno Paixão, visas had to be applied for, compulsorily, in representations abroad.
This decision has provoked criticism from tour operators, East Timorese, and foreigners who are organizing visits to the country.
The official information, published on the Migration Service’s website, makes specific reference to law 9/2003 on immigration and asylum that has already been repealed by a new law approved in 2017.
On the other hand, the website of Timor-Leste Migration Service contains different information according to the language in which it is published.
Faced with this discrepancy identified by Lusa, the official source of the institution explained that the “updated information is the one in English”.
According to the same source, the “technicians have not yet updated the information in Portuguese and Tetum”, the two official languages of the country.
In the case of countries where there is no diplomatic representation of Timor-Leste, the information is silent and procedures do not allow the visa to be requested electronically.
The new procedures do not apply to those who have a passport from countries with which Timor-Leste has visa agreements, notably, countries of European Union apply.
Government source confirmed to Lusa that the matter was discussed today in Council of Ministers, and it was decided to suspend the decision after the meeting.
Official source of the Migration Service told the Moon that “Prior Authorization is only an authorization for downstream control purposes,” and that “visas upon arrival continue to be issued at border posts.”
“Given that it is not yet possible to implement the new Immigration law which provides for the issuance of visas in Timor-Leste’s diplomatic representations abroad as a preparatory phase, and in view of the high number of cases of misuse of tourist visas (Class I ) for the unauthorized exercise of activities, it was necessary to establish a prior check of admission applications by Immigration Attachés to Embassies and Consulates“.
The announcement of the new procedures was made at a time when Timor-Leste is suffering the impact of growing isolation in the tourism sector, with the termination of air connections to Singapore and a significant increase in prices for flights to Bali, Indonesia.
Operators speak of an abrupt drop in the number of visitors, which is having a significant impact on an already weak sector, such as tourism.
Lusa requested clarifications to the Ministry of the Interior and has yet to receive an update.
Government sources confirmed that the controversy was discussed today in Council of Ministers.
Several countries in the region have in recent years relaxed visa procedures for tourists, with Indonesia implementing visas on arrival for citizens of most countries.
In other countries, the procedure is more complex, but visas are usually requested electronically from a distance.
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