The Ministry of Economic Development has brought out a new set of regulations called the Business Visa Regulations. The regulations are made under the Immigration Act and have come into effect on 25th August 2021.
What is a business visa?
It is a short-term temporary visa issued to a foreign national (not having any other visa under Maldives law) to enter and remain in the country, for the purposes of business or work. It is issued for 30 days and is extendable by tranches of 30 days, but for a total of 90 days in a year.
Who will enforce?
Once the Registrar of Business has approved a visa application, it is the responsibility of the Immigration Controller to enforce these regulations, issue the visa without further conditions, and attend to extensions and other matters of enforcing these regulations.
Even if the Controller is required under these regulations to issue the visa without imposing further conditions on an approval issued by the Registrar of Business, the Controller still retains the power under the Immigration laws to deny entry to a business visa applicant, if they fall under any of the prohibited categories listed in clause 8 of the Immigration Act.
Who can apply?
Any foreign national who expresses their interest to invest in the Maldives can apply for a business visa if they are to carry out any business or work in association with a business entity registered in the Maldives. It could be a company, partnership, cooperative society, proprietorship, association or government entity.
However, an applicant must satisfy certain conditions: they must not have any other visa already issued under section 9 of the Immigration Act; should not be convicted of a criminal offence; should not be subject to any prosecution or investigation of a criminal offence; should not be convicted of an offence of domestic violence or subjected to any form of order or injunction in relation to such an offence; should not be subject to any Interpol notice or arrest warrant; should not be a person previously deported from the Maldives; should not be convicted of a sexual offence or human trafficking; should not be convicted of or involved in an offence of corruption, money laundering or be a member of such a group. Also, they should not fall within the list of prohibited persons under section 8 of the Immigration Act.
How to apply?
An application is submitted with supporting documents mentioned in the regulations.
They include a sponsorship letter from a local entity or person explaining purpose of visit and nature of business and details of work to be undertaken; a notarized copy of applicant’s health and travel insurance policy; a signed declaration in the prescribed form; a passport size photo (less than 3 months old), a color copy of passport bio-data page (which has at least 6 months to expire).
The applicant may in certain cases be asked to provide proof of financial credibility and if such a request is made the applicant must provide notarized copies of an appropriate document.
All applications ought to be submitted via the business portal (http://business.egov.mv/), and a reference number will be issued for every complete and compliant application. Every qualified applicant will be approved within 10 days and the visa may be processed by the Immigration Controller subject to requisite payment of MVR 750.
After approval, the visa is valid for multiple entries. A visa is issued for a minimum of 30 days and can be extended for a maximum of 90 days in a given year. Each extension will be for a duration of 30 days.
An extension is requested within the last 10 days of the current visa.
No restrictions will be imposed on a business visa holder to enter and leave the country so long as the visa holder does not come into conflict with sections 7 or 8 of the Immigration Act.
How it is cancelled?
A business visa can be cancelled if the visa holder is involved in a criminal offence, undertakes work outside the visa, provides false information in their application; does not enter the Maldives within 6 months of being granted the visa; or fails to abide by Maldives law.
Where a decision is made to cancel the visa, the Controller will be informed within 24 hours of the decision. A person whose visa is cancelled will not be allowed to apply for a new business visa for the next 5 years.
It is an immigration offence to overstay or remain in the country on expiry or cancellation of a business visa.
What about current visa?
All existing visas will continue to remain unaffected till their expiry. However, extensions may only be requested under these new regulations.
Contributed by AI
Photo: Courtesy Mihaaru