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Digital nomad visa to be introduced shortly

20 Feb 2022

  • Delayed due to stakeholder concerns over regulations
  By The Sunday Morning Business Desk  The proposed digital nomad visa, which has been delayed for over a year, will be finally introduced to Sri Lanka by the next Cabinet briefing, according to Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA)  Director General (DG) Dhammika Wijesinghe.  When asked about the delay in implementation, Wijesinghe told The Sunday Morning Business that several stakeholders in the industry had a few concerns over regulations, which is why it had taken time to amend the initial digital nomad programme. Wijesinghe said that as the amendments were now finalised, it was now scheduled to be announced at the next Cabinet briefing.  According to her, this digital nomad programme will look to attract working professionals, ranging from medium to high-end tourists with permanent jobs in a foreign country that could be done remotely. Wijesinghe also said that initially, a visa for one year would be issued to people who were eligible for the digital nomad programme. When applying for a nomad visa, she noted that a special security clearance should be obtained by the individuals from Sri Lankan embassies in their respective countries, apart from the application for the visa. Other requirements include proof of a permanent job and bank statements to prove income. The groundwork for the implementation of this digital nomad programme is being done by the SLTDA, Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), and Department of Immigration and Emigration.  Ministry of Tourism sources told The Sunday Morning Business on an earlier occasion that the Government had taken the decision to attract digital nomads with long-term one-year visas as it was a fast-growing segment within the global travel and tourism industry. They added that according to the Cabinet paper, the proposed visa fee will be $ 600 for such tourists. Attempts to contact the Department of Immigration and Emigration for further information proved futile. In June 2021, French travel and tourism operator Club Med ranked Sri Lanka as the second-best destination for digital nomads in 2021, after Thailand. This pushed the Government to come up with a digital nomad programme, which received Cabinet approval in July 2021. The proposal by Minister of Tourism Prasanna Ranatunga was to launch a promotional programme by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) in a bid to attract digital tourists to the country and to introduce a long-term visa category for digital tourists. Digital tourism is a novel method of travel that was created owing to the global pandemic situation. Digital tourists – referred to more commonly as digital nomads – often stay in public libraries or cafes to provide their services online. These tourists are attracted to long-term visas, high-speed internet connections for communication, affordable accommodation, tax exemption for earnings, etc., which are some of the elements the Government is utilising to lure tourists. The digital nomad concept was established out of the need to ‘work from anywhere,’ post-pandemic. Many tourist attractions such as Thailand’s Chiang Mai, Portugal’s Lisbon, Colombia’s Medellín, and Indonesia’s Bali have taken strenuous steps to promote digital tourism, while the Ministry of Tourism hopes that Sri Lanka will soon be among the top favourites for digital nomads.

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