Rwanda has announced a new visa regime that allows travellers from across the world to be issued a 30-day visa on arrival in Kigali, beginning January 1, 2018.
The first of its kind in Africa, the visa-on-arrival policy was approved by a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Paul Kagame on November 8.
“Citizens of all countries will get a visa upon arrival without prior application, starting January 1, 2018. Before that, only nationals of African countries and few others were getting a visa upon arrival,” said a statement signed by Yves Butera, spokesperson of the Directorate-General of Immigration and Emigration.
“The new visa regime opens Rwanda to the world and is good for business. Rwanda believes that the free movement of people fosters trade and tourism, and is good for the continent’s integration policy. We are aware of the challenges of open borders, but as a country, we also believe that the benefits of our policy outweigh the potential setbacks,” said Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo.
According to Olivier Nduhungirehe, State Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in charge of East African Community affairs, the move is in line with the African Union spirit of encouraging free movement of people and is expected to increase the number of tourists and foreign investors coming to Rwanda.
“We have been talking about continental and regional integration and free movement of people for many years. Rwanda has taken the first step to implement this and we believe other AU member states and EAC partner states will follow suit,” Mr Nduhungirehe told The EastAfrican.
He said the move is in line with the Free Movement of Persons and the African Passport policy adopted by the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government at the 27th ordinary session held in Kigali in July 2016.
During the meeting, the assembly urged all member states to adopt the African passport and work closely with the AU Commission to facilitate its issuance at the national level based on international, continental and national policy provisions and continental design and specifications.
The passport issuance, however, is yet to take off.
The current 30-day tourist visa costs $30. Under the new visa regime, citizens of Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Ghana, Guinea, Indonesia, Haiti, Senegal, Seychelles and Sao Tome and Principe will be getting their visas free of charge on a reciprocal basis, with immediate effect.
This is in addition to Democratic Republic of Congo, EAC countries, Mauritius, Philippines, and Singapore, whose citizens will not be paying for visas.
Also to take immediate effect is the visa waiver for holders of diplomatic and service passports from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, India, Israel, Morocco and Turkey.
Comesa member states will also be getting a 90-day visa on arrival, as provided for by Article 4 of the Comesa Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Labour, Services, Right of Establishment and Residence.
Officials have dismissed fears that the new visa regime could be a security concern as it does not give authorities enough time to vet visitors.
“All these concerns were considered before the decision was made. By January, immigration and security services will be in a position to deal with any security concerns,” said Mr Nduhungirehe.