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Foreign visitors happy with their visas
Published in The Egyptian Gazette on 04 - 05 - 2011

CAIRO - Anyone, anywhere in the world, needs a visa to travel to Egypt, irrespective of their nationality, age or purpose of travel. Foreigners are granted an entry visa to the country at Egyptian consulates abroad.
It is a single-entry visa, unless it is otherwise stated, within six months at the most from its date of issue, that it is a multiple-entry visa, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry says on its website.
It's easy for foreigners to visit the country and they can even get their visa on arrival here. But things are not so easy for Egyptians wanting to travel abroad.
Obtaining a visa before travelling to Egypt costs $35, while on arrival it's only $15. An Egyptian pays much more to get an entry visa to other countries.
“The fact that most foreign visitors get their visas on arrival in Egypt causes the country to lose about $200 million annually,” said Mohamed el-Minisi, the general supervisor of a Foreign Ministry department responsible for expatriate Egyptians.
“About 300,000 visitors to this country each year get their visas beforehand at Egyptian consulates abroad, while 10 to 11 million visitors pay for them on arrival here. Each of these millions saves $20 in so doing,” el-Minisi told the Arabic-language Akhbar Al-Youm newspaper.
He added that he had raised the issue with officials at the Ministry of Tourism when he was Assistant Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs.
But the then Tourism Minister opposed the idea of raising the fees for visas on arrival, as he was worried that this might discourage foreign visitors from visiting the country.
It's very doubtful that a tourist would change his mind about visiting the country for just $20, bearing in mind that the Egyptian visas are among the cheapest worldwide.
A visa to the US or the European Union, for example, costs more than $100.
Based on his experience gained from working in Egypt's consulates in Milan (Italy) and New York, Ambassador el-Menisi blames travel agencies for the loss.
“The agencies only pay $15 per visa, but charge each tourist $35,” he said. “I hope things change in the near future, so that Egypt can earn millions in extra hard currency.”
As for Europe's inflexibility in offering visas to Egyptians, especially countries that are party to the Schengen Agreement, the diplomat said that they are afraid of people violating the conditions of the visa.
He wondered whether you ever hear about European citizens violating their visas in Egypt.
The Schengen Agreement has abolished internal borders, enabling passport-free travel between a large number of European countries.
Transiting from one country to another within the Schengen area is done without border controls. In fact, the Schengen visa makes it possible to visit all the countries in the Schengen area and to cross internal borders without further formalities.

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