After already being East Africa’s most expensive country to enter, with visa fees of US$100, claims have now emerged that the Ugandan Immigration at Entebbe International Airport is refusing visitors to issue the common tourist visit to visitors to the country, which was agreed by the NCIP – short for Northern Corridor Integration Projects – countries two years ago to promote increased travel across the region.
Several cases have emerged over the past weeks first registered in disbelief; yet more came to light today when a fellow travel blogger went public after her parents were denied the common visa as they could reportedly not demonstrate that their travel itinerary included side trips, in this case to Rwanda as they arrived in Entebbe.
Many independent travelers, especially backpackers and those falling into the VFR – short for Visiting Friends and Relatives – category, however, often do not have printed tour itineraries but nevertheless wish to visit neighboring countries under the common visa arrangement. These travelers, however, now need to watch out that they are not being fobbed off by immigration officials on arrival and later on compelled to buy another visa when crossing the borders to Kenya or Rwanda so that Uganda can pocket the entire US$100 and not have to share with their neighbors as the agreement provides for.
No such cases are reported from the Kenyan or Rwanda side, seemingly singling out Uganda for what would amount to non-compliance with the agreements of the common visa, which was expressly launched to encourage cross-border tours and travel.
It could not be established if this behavior can be attributed to mischievous individuals working at immigration, at Entebbe, or if not, it is an unspoken and hitherto hidden new policy by Uganda’s Department of Immigration.
More recently, President Museveni has laid into the department for corrupt practices and should the reports received be part of a greater trend, no doubt another nail is driven into the coffin of reputation of the service.
Clarification is now being sought by the tourism industry, and individuals have raised the issue with the East Africa Tourism Platform, which has been the main promoter of the common visa for participating East African countries.
Meanwhile, travelers intent to visit Uganda before moving on to Rwanda and Kenya, are advised to first provide some form of printed expression of intent, or hotel/travel bookings to substantiate their demand for a common East African tourist Visa and avoid being denied one on flimsy grounds and then compelled to spend more money when crossing the borders.