RANGOON — Burma plans to launch an online application system for tourist visas later this year, according to the Ministry of Immigration and Population, which announced on Friday that it was opening a tender for the project.
As tourist arrivals in Burma continue to grow, the ministry has received complaints about the difficulties and delays in applying for visas at embassies, according to Maung Maung Than, director-general of the Department of Immigration and National Registration.
“We’re considering the process of online visa applications, and we’re confident we can get it operating by September,” Maung Maung Than told The Irrawaddy, adding that non-tourist visas would not be available through the new system.
Visa fees will be paid online, he said, adding that the fees would be determined later by the operating company and the government.
According to a statement in state-run media, information and technology companies can submit proposals for the project until July 16.
Currently, tourists must apply for visas at embassies in their home countries. More processing time is required if an applicant lives in a country without a Burmese embassy. Long wait times are also common at the embassies in Thailand and China, which neighbor Burma and see a high number of applicants.
Tourists can stay in Burma for 28 days on a single visa. According to figures from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, more than 2 million tourists came to the country in 2013. The ministry expects more than 3 million tourists this year.
Burma’s tourism sector saw the highest relative growth in Southeast Asia last year, with the number of foreign arrivals spiking 52 percent, according to a report by the UN World Tourism Organization. Despite the surging growth, Burma remains one of the region’s least-visited countries after decades of military rule and poor development.