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Myanmar eases visa rules for in-country foreign employees

Myanmar has eased visa extension rules for foreigners based in the country in response to growing travel restrictions and flight cancellations.

The Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) announced that foreigners can now apply for new visas and stay permits until up to five days of expiry of their existing visas. This change will remain in effect until further notice.

The move is to alleviate travel uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, DICA said.

“DICA’s announcement should make it a bit easier for expats to apply for new visas and stay permits in Myanmar, reducing the risk to be quarantined upon return to Myanmar if a foreigner leaves the country to apply for a visa abroad,” commented Fabian Lorenz, a lawyer with Luther Law Firm in Yangon who expects the new rules to ease uncertainty among the expatriate community.

Previously such applications had to be submitted 21 days before the expiry of current visas.

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, many countries have closed their borders and airports to travellers, while airlines have cancelled flights.

Bangkok, the most active regional air hub for Myanmar, has enforced tough restrictions on foreign passengers. Singapore no longer allows short-term visitors to enter or transit through the city state, while Hong Kong’s Cathay Dragon has halted flights between the city and Yangon for April and May.

This makes it increasingly difficult for foreign employees working in Myanmar to renew their visas abroad. Failure to renew their visas risks placing them in an illegal situation.

At the same time Myanmar is expanding the list of countries placed under temporary restrictive measures. Travellers from the US, Switzerland, the UK, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Norway, Sweden and Denmark will be subjected to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, while visas on arrival and e-visa for all nationals are suspended until April 30.

Myanmar has reported no confirmed cases of the virus so far but only fewer than 200 people have been tested out of a population of 53 million. The country closed land borders to all foreigners on March 18.

The British embassy last week issued a travel advice advising its nationals to leave Myanmar, while some American, Australian, European and Singaporean citizens are also evacuating as the pandemic sweeps the world.

“The worldwide coronavirus outbreak is expected to put significant pressure on Myanmar medical facilities, and they may not be able to offer routine care,” the UK embassy said in a statement. It also cited the risk of travel restrictions and flight cancellations.

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Source: Myanmar Times

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