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Foreign firms at Colombo airport to continue to facilitate visa services: Sri Lankan immigration

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Colombo, May 5 (PTI) Sri Lanka's immigration authorities on Sunday said the foreign companies facilitating visa services for travellers at the Bandaranaike International Airport here will maintain their operations.

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The clarification came after the airport witnessed protests by tourists against the foreign companies for their poor visa service on Wednesday. Subsequently, the immigration department took control of the visa-on-arrival counters as the private staff manning the counters had left following the protests.

The services of the foreign companies GBS Technology Services and IVS Global FZCO in partnership with VFS VF Worldwide Holdings Ltd would be continued at the airport, senior immigration department officials said.

The delays at the visa-on-arrival counters were a technical fault, which would be rectified by next week and the foreign companies would resume their operations after that, they said.

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It was earlier alleged that the companies concerned were Indian. However, the Indian High Commission in Colombo has clarified that the companies were not Indian firms.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the High Commission of India said, “We have seen reports and comments including in social media regarding Indian companies taking over visa issuance at Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), Colombo.” “The companies referred to in these reports are not India-based or Indian and are headquartered elsewhere. Any reference to India in this context is unwarranted,” it said in response to media queries.

On Wednesday, without revealing the name of any company, Sri Lankan immigration authorities claimed that they had taken back control of the ‘Visa on Arrival’ counters at the Colombo International Airport.

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“We took over the operation after the Indian company left. They were unable to carry out smooth operations which drew the ire of the passengers on arrival,” Jayasinghe Bandara, a senior immigration department official, had told PTI.

The Indian firm officials were unable to carry out a smooth operation as they had not done a trial run of the busy operation, he had claimed.

The visa services at the airport recently shifted to the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system. The visa fees were also revised recently to USD 75 (and USD 35 for SAARC countries), additional service and convenience fees brought about by outsourcing visa issuance have pushed the cost above USD 100 per visitor for a six-month stay. PTI CORR SCY SCY SCY

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