Govt waives off visa renewal fee for stranded tourists
KATHMANDU, April 8: The government has extended the suspension of international flights until April 30 to contain the spread of COVID-19. It has also decided to renew visa of tourists, who are stranded in Nepal due to the lockdown, for free.
A high-level government coordination committee took the decisions on Tuesday.
However, the government is undecided over whether to resume operation of domestic flights.
The government had imposed the ban on commercial domestic and international flights from March 22 to 31. Taking the risk of COVID-19 transmission into consideration, the ban was later extended till April 15. It, however, has allowed operation of special flights chartered by diplomatic missions for repatriation of their citizens to their respective countries. According to the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) Immigration Office, 2,679 foreigners have left for their home countries in chartered flights since the imposition of lockdown in the country. According to the decision, tourists, whose visas have expired after the suspension of international flights on March 22, will not have to pay any fee for extension of their visa. “The government has directed us to not levy visa-related fees for the time being,” said Sagar Acharya, the chief immigration officer at TIA Immigration Office. “Ten days ago, we had received direction against levying delay fine on renewal of visa. Now onward, we will not be charging any fee as per the directive received on Tuesday from the Ministry of Home Affairs.”
The TIA Immigration Office has been regularizing the visas of tourists returning back to their respective countries through chartered flights.
However, some tourism entrepreneurs have criticized the government for collecting visa renewal fees from tourists who left the country in different chartered flights over the past two weeks. “It is not fair to charge them for visa after leaving them stranded due to the lockdown,” a tourism entrepreneur told Republica requesting anonymity.
According to Dhananjaya Regmi, the CEO of Nepal Tourism Board, some 1,360 tourists are stranded in places like Lukla and Pokhara. “Our staffers have raised funds to help tourists who have run out of money and are unable to return home,” he said, adding that the NTB rescued over 1,700 tourists from different parts of the country over the past two weeks.
Most of the tourists brought to Kathmandu have already returned home.