The budget for the previous financial year saw an increment of Uganda tourist visas from $50 to $100, causing an uproar among tour operators.
Through the Uganda Tourist Association(UTA), stakeholders successfully lobbied the President of Uganda arguing that whereas for instance Rwanda charges $30, Kenya and Tanzania $50, respectively, for a tourist visa, Uganda’s regime remains the highest in the region.
Although the President agreed to UTA’s appeals, it had to wait until the current financial year before Parliament could pass the Finance Act that was presented in the budget speech of 2016/17.
It has been confirmed that the “Ministry of Internal Affairs issued an instrument for tourist visas to be reduced from $100 to $50” said UTA President Bonifence Byamukama, who presided over a consultative meeting held on July 20 at the Hotel Africana in Kampala. The Immigration Department under the Ministry of Internal Affairs was also invited to address issues related to the newly-introduced online e-visa application process among other pertinent issues.
Representing the Commissioner for Immigration was Wilberforce Ngonde who confirmed the developments.
He absolved his department from the aberration arguing that the department had asked Parliament to reduce the fee since the East African tourist visa covering Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda already stood at $100.
Other recommendations included enabling online immigration cards to be populated prior to arrival as is the case with Rwanda in order to reduce queuing times, indicating minimum processing time, at least 48 hours before receiving a response from immigrations, adopting the UAE (United Arab Emirates) system where approved agents are permitted to facilitate the visa process on behalf of their clients, introducing online payment, and a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.
Sylvia Kalembe, who represented the Uganda Tourism Board, called for a toll-free line and a dedicated office to handle tourist visa queries. She also recommended that its missions abroad continue to provide consular services especially in non-English-speaking markets.
While the meeting was in progress, real-time feedback continued to stream in.
Mohit Advani of Global Interlink reported a what’s app message from a client stating “…immigration responded in less than 48 hours, which is more than reasonable. A well-built portal…” On having to scan and upload required documents, the client reported that “the limit for MBs is too small.”
The Commissioner promised to incorporate the views of stakeholders, acknowledging that the rollout was a work in progress. He appealed to stakeholders to encourage their clients to start using the system.
The meeting was moderated by UTA Executive Director Richard Kawere who outlined the recommendations for future follow-up.