Friday, February 4, 2011

(Planning Notes - 3) Oriental Outings: Visa Matters

After chalking out a rough itinerary and having air tickets booked, the next step is arranging for visas, which is probably the only boring aspect of traveling! And after going through all the hassle, our passports and now ready to take us beyond borders!!

Sri Lanka

Lets beat the weakest first! No offense, I mean in terms of the visa issuance policy.

Good news: Pakistani passport holders do not require a visa for Sri Lanka and the inexpensive on-arrival visa only requires a blank page on the passport and the return ticket!

Bad news: Sri Lankan government is contemplating on scrapping the on-arrival visa which had initially been introduced to promote tourism in the island especially in the wake of the ethnic conflict. And since the rebellion has been suppressed now, the country is experiencing a tourism surge, so perhaps the on-arrival thing is no more lucrative.

And then some Lankan hawks (yes! they have got hawks too!) think that the favour is unjust especially when fellow consulates don’t reciprocate and require their countrymen to go through the strenuous visa processes.

Moral of the Story: See Venice before it sinks!


This beautiful country used to issue Pakistanis with the on-arrival visa; however, the policy has changed now, except for transit purposes.

However, both the visa process and the fee are reasonable as compared to those of the neighboring countries, reflecting Malay government’s vision about tourism. Malaysia, truly Asia!

Following are the requirements for filing up of visa as per the consulate website:

1.     Covering Letter (Individual or Institution - typed written);
3.     2 passport size/blue background photographs;
4.     Original & photocopy of CNIC/ Form-B (A4 size);
5.     Original passport & photocopy of passport (A4 size);
6.     Original & photocopies of confirmed airline tickets;
7.     Original Bank statement/s (last six (6) months: Rs. 100,000 pp);
8.     Invitation letter for business visit or attending conference; and
9.     Confirmed return airlines ticket

Make sure your passport (#5) is valid for six month, or more, from the date of your arrival in the country. Bank statement (#7) should be accompanied by a letter issued by the branch you are maintaining your account with. A letter from the employer with brief details is also asked.

One may cut the process and apply through your travel agent, as did I, so you will have to take care of Photographs (#3) and Bank statement (#7) only and the rest is your agent's headache.

Visa handling charges are Rs. 1,000 per visa which covers scrutiny of documents, submission to the Consulate General, and onward return to the applicant. However, you might be paying Rs. 200-500 per visa to your travel agent on top of this as service charges!

Applying independently is also easy through American Express, TCS, and other authorized visa service providers. In this case, filling up two sets of the Visa Application Form (#2) and making photocopies of CNIC/Passport on A4 page (#4) will save you from the hassle. Invitation Letter (#8) is obviously not required for tourism purpose while confirmed return tickets (#6) and confirmed airline tickets (#9) look one and the same to me! You may be asked to submit hotel booking, when applying yourself, in lieu of the Invitation Letter (#8). There are good online options available especially when one is not sure of the detailed itinerary.

Malaysian Visa
Our passports were stamped the fourth day of the filing of the application. Bravo!


Unfortunately, Pakistan is not among those 65 countries which are eligible for on-arrival visa to Indonesia. More unfortunately, the visa process is quite opposite to those mentioned for the above countries; a whole lot of formalities and expensive. No surprise why lots of Pakistani, heading to South East Asia, don’t visit the archipelago country and instead prefer Thailand!

Anyway, here goes the list of documents one needed to apply for Indonesian visa (Holiday or tourism)

1.         Visa application form;
2.         Three colour passport-size photographs;
3.         Original passport with photocopies of page 1-3 and previous Indonesian visas;
4.         Photocopy of CNIC/ Form-B
5.         Bank statements
6.         Return ticket/ ticket for forward journey, with photocopies.
7.         Hotel booking in Indonesia
8.         Reference letter from the employer
9.         The Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia reserves the right to request additional documents if needed!

My travel agent was reluctant to apply for the Indonesia visa because of their negative experiences. So, I had to go on my own, and the process was strenuous and time taking.

If you are a family/ multiple persons with the same itinerary then make separate file for each person. 2 sets of Visa application form (#1) are required with photographs (#2) pasted on each form. I remember they did not ask me the third photograph. Unlike Malaysia, they apparently don’t require A4 photocopies of CNIC (#4)/ Passport (#3).

In case you are going to Indonesia from a third country, then return ticket from origin (#6), i.e. Pakistan, is also required. However, the visa officer did not want the visa of those 3rd countries. You may see the requirement of a letter from Chamber of Commerce but that is obviously not required for the Tourist visa.

I guess requirement # 9 is a bit weird, but that is what they say on their website!

Hotel confirmation (#7) is rather complicated. The official website hints that it is optional, or preferable actually, however, one cannot do away with this. There is a section in the visa application form regarding Sponsor which is to be filled with the hotel detail and that is mandatory. Making things worse, they also require written confirmation on hotel’s letterhead, which is not a common practice. I discussed this with the visa officer and she was kind enough to accept the online booking. Lucky me J

To my surprise, the hotel name is mentioned on the actual visa and there is a strong probability that the immigration officer at Bali airport would like to confirm that. A friend reported that one of his colleagues had been deported from Jakarta as the immigration officer could not get the positive confirmation!

Visa fee is USD 45 per visa, acceptable only in cash, however payable once you go collect your visa and the visa officer usually possesses the change with them in case required. In my opinion, visa fee is on a much higher side making the trip costlier, especially when there are no direct flight to Indonesia from Pakitsan. They have an answer to this; i.e. Pakistan visa fee for Indonesians is more than there’s. But then we don’t want tourists come to Pakistan! Do we?

Indonesian Consulate is located near Park Towers and can be found conveniently while heading towards duo-talwar (Two-Swords). Visa counter is located on the outside corner facing the main road and one does not need to go inside the embassy so no lengthy security checks. The lady on the counter, Ms. Zehra, is frank and helpful, and one can easily approach her on the below given phone numbers for information. In case of emergency photocopying, driving license branch is the nearest resort. Visa form are accepted from 9 to 12 (Monday to Thursday) and 9 to 11 (Friday).

Address: E/1-5, Sharah-e-Iran, Clifton, Karachi-75600, Pakistan
Telephone: (92-21) 5874619 - 5874623
Fax: (92-21) 5874483

Indonesian Visa
It was a pleasant surprise, when I receive a call from the embassy only the third day of visa filing that our visa had been approved J Go Bali! And the visa sticker is modern looking, better than the red bland stamp, however, for a much handsome fee!

The website also provides Online Visa Application facility, which I could not try, so please report back if you successfully tried it!


If you know someone personally who lives in Singapore as a resident and can do you a favour, then Singapore visa is just an email away. Luckily my university friend, Khalid, decided to pursue his career in Singapore and I would like to see him there!

The process is rightfully called SAVE and the visa can be processed by the local contact having SingPass without physically going anywhere. I just emailed Khalid a scanned copy of my passport, scanned photograph as per the requirement, and other particulars as required for Form 14A. He applied for the visa electronically and we got the positive response the third day he filed the visa! Keep It Short and Simple!
Singapore Visa
Now the local contact, in my case Khalid, needs to go to the Immigration office in Singapore to collect the sticker and then to courier the same to me. Visa Fee is SGD 30 per visa and is payable through credit card at the time of submitting the visa application.

In fact, Singapore government has taken a step forwards and started issuing e-Visa, which means no sticker collection, to nationals of selected countries, including China and India.

So that's it! Now I have to move to start refining the itinerary. Will get back soon...