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Published on 16 March 2010
Updated on 05 April 2024

Enforcing visa regimes may not strictly fall under the mandate of the MFA. Nor is it a service directly provided to one’s own nationals. However, it is one of the most popular functions routinely performed in embassies and consulates.

Visa issues can grab the attention of the media especially when there are delayed caused by ‘nightmarish maze of bureaucracy’ sometimes resulting in tension between states.  Some of these tensions are, of course, not a result of service delays, but many countries introduce e-visa programs to cope with the piling paperwork and reduce the level of consular presence overseas.

Australia and Bahrain are examples of countries that manage e-visa systems. Visitors to their countries can apply for visas online and monitor the progress of their application. The UNDP’s guide “Virtual Consulate Primer: How to design and implement an e-visa program” (pdf) describes its e-governance projects to develop e-visa programs in Armenia and Saudi Arabia.

What is your country’s experience of implementing e-visa systems?

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4 replies
  1. Vladimir Radunovic
    Vladimir Radunovic says:

    “Virtual life removed from
    “Virtual life removed from ‘real life’?” — March 18, 2010 by Uvais —
    Marilia, in addition to your interesting questions, another question is if virtual presence can compensate for the “real” contact with others. Virtual worlds can be informal (which most will welcome in bureaucracy), but if the environment is totally uncontrolled it may not be suitable either.
    I stumbled upon a blog of an American foreign service officer who writes about what goes through his mind during interviews with visa applicants. He writes “You want to reach through the bullet-proof glass and embrace that father or mother [whose child died in the U.S. and wants to travel]… Because for the individuals involved, some of the most pivotal moments of their lives happen before my very eyes and unfold based on a decision I must make.”
    Does e-visa, or other e-services, stop us from understanding what people ‘feel’ in ‘real-life’? Is that a reason why some of these well-intentioned initiatives fail?

  2. Vladimir Radunovic
    Vladimir Radunovic says:

    “Maldives and Second Life” –
    “Maldives and Second Life” — March 17, 2010 by Uvais —
    The Maldives’ existence in Second Life disappeared as quickly as it started. The Maldives has had an open visa regime for a number of years. Tourists from any country can travel to Maldives without a visa. The virtual embassy seems to have only served as an advertisement for Maldives tourism to its market in SL. The question is, which state is a virtual embassy accredited to? In this case, Second Life? If that can’t be done, can virtual embassies be accredited on a bilateral level?
    The British High Commission in Colombo maintains a website that co bilateral issues with the Maldives, which is called ‘virtual missions’. (Most countries cover Maldives through their missions in Sri Lanka). I checked that website again [https://ukinmaldives.fco.gov.uk/en/about-us/our-presence/our-ambassador/our-highcommission], and it appears that this virtual presence has also been scaled down in the last two years.

  3. Vladimir Radunovic
    Vladimir Radunovic says:

    “Virtual embassies” —
    “Virtual embassies” — March 17, 2010 by Marília Maciel —
    The idea of a virtual embassy is very interesting, especially if it is “place” not only to obtain e-visas and information, but also to improve cultural exchanges. “Tasting” a different culture is much more pleasant, if we can combine visual stimulus with sound and real time interaction.
    I just don’t think that Second Life is a viable environment for that. Most businesses that rushed to have a virtual presence in SL already closed. It was definitely an overhyped experiment and a lot of factors contributed for that, such as the need to download it, the high bandwidth requirements, the necessity of advanced knowledge to profit entirely from the platform, etc.
    Differently from business companies, embassies did not rush to SL. Few were there, and that gives food for thought. Were e-diplomacy strategies not so mainstreamed back in 2007? Was SL seen as a too informal “place” to carry out diplomatic activities? Were diplomatic representatives cautious about performing activities in an uncontrolled environment? Were they afraid of cyber-attacks and how this could resonate in “real-life”? Pure speculation, but intriguing questions…

  4. Vladimir Radunovic
    Vladimir Radunovic says:

    “Consulate services in Second
    “Consulate services in Second Life?” — March 16, 2010 by Ginger —
    Both Sweden and Maldives are reported to have opened the first embassy/consultates in Second Life. (https://maldivesmission.ch/index.php?id=65; https://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6310915.stm and https://www.swedenabroad.com/Page____73584.aspx) It seems one could actually get a visa for the Maldives in Second Life that is valid in “First Life”. Do you think these are “gimmicks” or real services? Is this a practical application, or a matter of “pushing the envelope” which results in more normal e-services in becoming mainstream?


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