Minister Tiran Alles vows action on BIA disturbance, clarifies visa charges

Tiran Alles

Sri Lanka’s Minister of Public Security, Tiran Alles, asserts that action will be taken against both the individual who caused a disturbance in the visa issuance section at Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Katunayake recently and the officers who documented the incident.

In early May, a heated exchange at Bandaranaike International Airport sparked widespread conversation on social media platforms, both locally and internationally.

In 2023, the Cabinet of Ministers decided to outsource the visa issuance process to a third party, leading to an agreement with VFS Global, a foreign company now responsible for handling visa issuance on behalf of Sri Lanka.

Since April 16, VFS Global has been actively involved in visa issuance activities. Recent changes have impacted the cost structure as well, with the online visa fee increasing from $52 to $75, alongside the introduction of a Convenience Fee of $18.05 and a facility fee of $7.27, bringing the total visa fee to $100.77.

On Wednesday (May 1) night, a notable incident unfolded at the visa issuing point, triggered by the rejection of a visa application and ensuing intense conversation, escalating into heightened tension.

In response, VFS Global withdrew from visa-issuance activities, prompting immigration officials to revert to issuing visas at previous rates.

On Monday (May 6), Public Security Minister Tiran Alles convened a media briefing to address the issues, announcing that the USD 50 rate for a 30-day visa would be implemented from Tuesday (May 7).

According to the minister, the single-entry 30-day visa is fixed at a price of USD 50, and the double-entry six-month visa is priced at USD 75.

On the day of the incident, it was alleged that Indians were manning the visa counters at BIA, but Minister Alles clarified that on that date, the counters were manned by 13 Sri Lankans, with no Indians present.

Online records indicate that the majority shareholder of VFS Global is Blackstone, along with the Swiss-based Kuoni and Hugentobler Foundation and EQT.

Minister Alles explained that VFS Global cannot issue or reject visas but can check documentation, with final approval from Sri Lankan authorities.

He emphasized that there is no disadvantage for Sri Lankans and that these new systems aim to upgrade immigration and emigration processes.

Minister Alles also requested a delegation from the Singaporean government to study Sri Lanka’s immigration process and airports, with the team scheduled to arrive on May 27 to conduct a work study and provide a comprehensive report thereafter.