Colombo Telegraph

Beware Travelers To Sri Lanka Of Extortion Scam By Immigration Officers

A traveler’s experience – on arrival visa and fraud at Colombo International Airport

By Jurgent T. Steinmetz  –

After a short and pleasant flight on SriLankan Airllines, the national airline for Sri Lanka, from the Maldives, I arrived at Colombo International Airport.

Immigration forms were given to passengers on this flight. I had the form filled out and after disembarking approached the immigration counter. The officer looked at my form and passport and asked, “Where is your visa?”

Photo © J. T. Steinmetz

No one had explained onboard or at check-in that a visa was required to enter Sri Lanka as a tourist, but luckily there was a visa on arrival desk, and I qualified to get a visa on arrival.

I looked for a sign explaining visa fees but was unable to find such posted information.

I got in line and noticed some people paid US$20, others US$25, and others US$35.

When I approached the officer, he asked me how long I was staying in Sri Lanka. I responded that I would stay for only 2 days. This officer did not want to take my visa or my money and referred me to another officer in a white uniform. He seemed to be a supervisor.

The officer asked me twice if I was really staying for only 2 days, and then he escorted me to another officer at the immigration counter.

He asked me to pay just US$20 in cash to his colleague, and after taking my money, this officer stamped my passport and gave me a permit to stay for 48 hours.

After checking into the Colombo Hilton, I went online and pulled up the information page for Sri Lanka immigration and found out that the regular tourist visa rate was US$25, and for stays of 2 days or less a free permit was issued.

In the 20 minutes I was in line, I observed many tourists paying varied visa fees at the bank and to immigration officials directly.

I decided to call the Immigration department and explained what happened. After 5 calls, and someone hanging up on me quietly again and again, I managed to find a phone number for the Controller and Supervisor.

This time a person listened to everything I had to say, but strangely did not want my name or other details. He promised a full-scale investigation.

I hope this article will encourage Sri Lanka officials to investigate. Posting clear signs at the visa on arrival center would make it more difficult for corrupt officials to extort money from tourists and their governments.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful destination with many dedicated people doing a fantastic job with pride to showcase their country. It is my understanding that money generated from visa fees are to go to improve the infrastructure of the country, not to line the greedy pockets of a few traitors operating with a uniform.

*This story appeared in ETN Globle  Travel Industry news on May 19, 2013

Back to Home page