Traveling light – new e-Visa system boosts tourism in Uganda


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Across the world, governments face the challenge of combining smooth and swift border crossings for legitimate visitors with ever-more stringent protection against unwelcome arrivals.

At the same time, public authorities are under seemingly relentless pressure to achieve greater operating efficiency.

In response to these apparently conflicting goals, a growing number of countries are recognizing the key role that an e-Visa solution can play. By moving the entire visa application process online, this new generation of travel document service promises to transform the experience for both travellers and the issuing authority. Furthermore, it offers an end to trade-offs between convenience, border integrity, and the drive to cut bureaucracy and red tape.

In this article, we'll see how Uganda has made the switch from traditional, paper-based procedures to a sophisticated and fully integrated e Visa system. We'll also consider the benefits that are being reaped as a result.

So how does the e-Visa system work?

Uganda electronic visa-permit application systemUganda's Electronic Visa and Permit system went live in July 2016.

In the process, it created a remarkably simple and straightforward online platform for visa applications. Prior to traveling to the east African country, applicants now fill out the necessary details in the e-Visa web portal.

Bona fide visitors will then receive a bar-coded Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) by email. On arrival at any Ugandan border post or airport, that email must be presented and the barcode is scanned into the country's immigration system, along with the holder's fingerprints.

Upon payment of an appropriate fee, a visa is printed and inserted into the passport, which has also been verified.

But that's not the full story

In addition to single entry visas, Uganda's new system manages the common East Africa Tourist Visa (which also covers Kenya and Rwanda), multiple entry visas, business visas, and applications for special passes and work permits.        

Where does Gemalto fit in?

To implement its e-Visa system, Uganda's Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control (DCIC) turned to Gemalto's Visa Management solution. Crucially, this allows authorities to manage the entire visa lifecycle, from application to issuance.

Security and convenience go hand in hand

In addition to the online portal, Gemalto's solution for Uganda includes a link to an integrated control list from local and international sources and an alert system to detect and manage undesirable applicants.

There's more.

It creates a centralized traveller database, secured by an Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), to share, search and match electronic fingerprints accessible by authorities all over the country.

To aid a smooth transition to the new system, Gemalto has also provided:

  • integration,
  • deployment,
  • maintenance assistance,
  • training for Ugandan immigration officers.

Now let's take a look at the results

In the first month of operation alone, the Directorate reported that the new system had received 12,019 applications, of which 9,404 were for visas.

The sheer ease of use and accessibility of the new system has proved an immediate success, and it is already offering vital support for Uganda's tourism and business sectors.

Uganda evisa

A boost for tourism…

As an industry, tourism is unique in that countries must compete with virtually every nation on the planet to attract overseas visitors.

Time consuming and laborious face-to-face and postal-based visa application processes alienate both business and leisure travellers, damaging the local economy and putting jobs at risk. In contrast, the World Travel and Tourism Council's 2012 report, The Impact of Visa Facilitation on Job Creation in the G20 Economies, highlighted a potential increase of over 15% in overseas tourist arrivals as a result of visa facilitation programs, generating a rise of up to 20% in traveller spend.

Electronic Travel Authorization and E-Visa systems can therefore legitimately claim to deliver bottom-line benefits for the host country's GDP.

…as well as national security

Extending a warmer welcome to visitors to Uganda has not come at the expense of border integrity.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

Against a backdrop of increasing mass migration across East Africa, and the ever-present menaces of crime and terrorism, the arrival of the e-Visa has significantly enhanced protection for the state and its citizens. Real-time, biometric-based security, linked to national and international databases, is helping to ensure that threats can now be identified and stopped at the border – or even earlier.  

It's time to make the journey to e-Visa

In Uganda and beyond, the move to e-Visa is a logical response to a world in which the expectation is now for instant, online and mobile access to public services.

International travellers are no exception.

Not surprisingly, a growing number of governments have either made the switch, or are planning to do so. As a result, those that fail to follow suit may soon find themselves missing out on the multiple benefits of increased tourist income, more rigorous border control, and streamlined public administration.

Now it's your turn

What do you think about the potential of the e-Visa? Do you have a question to ask? Or are there any other topics you'd like us to cover in our articles? Please leave your comments in the box below.