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Chaos at BIA as Indian Company Takes Over On-Arrival Visa Process

Last night, chaos erupted at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a contentious transition in the on-arrival visa issuance process to an Indian company. This move, fraught with controversy, saw the Indian firm imposing an additional $25 charge, contrasting with the smooth management of the process by the Immigration and Emigration Department over the years.
This transition occurred without requisite cabinet approval, raising pertinent questions about the authorization behind such a decision. Moreover, alongside the standard $75 fee, the Indian company implemented this supplementary charge.

In response to inquiries, Controller General Harsha Illukpitiya of the Immigration and Emigration Department disclosed that control over the visa issuance process reverted to their jurisdiction due to the private company's incapacity to ensure operational efficiency.

Footage circulating on social media vividly portrayed extensive queues at the airport. A Sri Lankan citizen was captured expressing frustration towards the Indian visa officers, alleging the cancellation of his wife's on-arrival visa. He vehemently contested the authority of Indian personnel to dictate visa status for Sri Lankan citizens, asserting his rights and taxpayer status, emphasizing his annual contribution of approximately Rs. 4 million. He vocally criticized the decision to outsource visa issuance to an Indian entity, contending that numerous capable Sri Lankan firms could have managed the task.

Simultaneously, he questioned the Indian visa officer's jurisdiction to address him in such a manner and accused the Sri Lankan government of neglecting local employment opportunities by allowing Indian companies to operate in the country.

Additionally, foreign travelers reported enduring lengthy waits exceeding two to three hours for visa processing, further exacerbating the chaotic situation.