The US embassy released the announcement below with regard to Malawi visas on 18 August 2016. The implication is that visas may no longer be issued on arrival unless the applicant has applied in advance for a ‘visa letter’ (the exact nature of which is mysterious). Although the letter, pasted in below, is directed at US citizens, we assume that it applies to all other visitors who require a visa, a list that includes most countries outside the SADC and COMESA.
Any on-the-ground updates from travellers will be gratefully received and posted here too.
The announcement reads as follows:
This message is to remind U.S. citizens that Malawi has introduced a system of visas and entry fees for nationals of countries which require Malawians to pay visa fees. This applies to U.S. citizens. This message also contains important updates on Malawi’s “visa letter” scheme.
According to the Government of Malawi, with the exception of diplomats and government officials, U.S. citizens must obtain a visa or “visa letter” prior to arriving. Further details on these two methods are below. Through August 18, 2016, exact rules and procedures surrounding Malawi’s new “visa letter” scheme remain unclear and implementation has been inconsistent. The U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe strongly encourages U.S. citizens to obtain a visa prior to arrival. U.S. travelers should contact the Malawian diplomatic mission nearest them to arrange for visa issuance and confirm fees.
Malawi has three types of visas for visitors:
– Single Entry Visa: These visas are subject to a fee of $100 USD when issued by a Malawian embassy or consulate or $75 USD when issued from within Malawi for those already present or arriving via the “visa letter” scheme.
– Multiple-Entry Visa: These visas are valid for 6 or 12 months for a fee of $220 USD or $300 USD, respectively, when issued by a Malawian embassy or consulate. When issued within Malawi for those already present or arriving via the “visa letter” scheme, the fee is $150 USD or $250 USD, respectively.
– Transit Visa: These visas are valid for seven days and are available for a fee of $70 USD when issued by a Malawian embassy or consulate or $50 USD when issued within Malawi for those already present or arriving via the “visa letter” scheme.
All visa fees are payable in U.S. dollars. Please note that fees charged by Malawian diplomatic missions may vary from the figures cited above. U.S. travelers should contact the Malawian diplomatic mission nearest them to arrange for visa issuance and confirm fees.
The Government of Malawi reports that when it is not possible to get the visa in advance, a visa can be obtained at the port of entry in Malawi only upon getting prior authorization by the Immigration Department of the Republic of Malawi. This authorization is in form of a “visa letter” issued by the Immigration Department to the traveler before he/she travels. The Government of Malawi states that these “visa letters” can be applied for by submitting a request to firstname.lastname@example.org. As of the August 18, 2016, the U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe is unaware of any U.S. citizens having successfully obtained such a “visa letter” through an application to this email address. The Government of Malawi has not clarified what material should be included in the application for a “visa letter” nor has the Government of Malawi posted information on possible fees or processing time. U.S. citizens may wish to contact Malawi’s Department of Immigration for further details. Given the uncertainty surrounding the “visa letter” scheme, the U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe strongly encourages U.S. citizens to obtain a visa prior to arrival.
ARRIVING VIA AIRLINE
The Government of Malawi reports that is has informed the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that a visa or “visa letter” is required for entry into Malawi for U.S. citizens. However, it remains unclear whether IATA guidance to airlines reflects this. Airlines may require U.S. travelers to have a Malawian visa or “visa letter” before boarding connecting flights to Malawi. U.S. travelers without a visa or “visa letter” may be denied boarding.
EXCEPTIONS TO VISA REQUIREMENTS
Foreign visitors or residents possessing long-term residential, employment, student, or business permits such as the two-year validity “Temporary Employment Permits” (TEP), five-year validity “Business Residence Permits,” one-year validity “Students Permits,” and “Permanent Residence Permits” are considered holders of long-term permits and are exempt from the visa requirement as they are considered returning residents.
Persons holding 30-day (extendable for an additional 60 days) “Visitors Permits” or “Business Visit Permits” are considered holders of short-term permits. Holders of short-term permits will be required to have a visa or “visa letter” once they have exited Malawi and wish to return.
Diplomats and officials traveling on government business are exempt from this visa requirement.
Interested persons such as tour operators or relatives may be able to make advance payment within Malawi at offices of the Immigration Department on behalf of the arriving travelers, but this is not confirmed at this time.
The entry fee does not apply to nationals from either the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, not including Angola, or to nationals from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) countries.
The U.S. Embassy will update this announcement as more detailed information becomes available regarding specific guidance or procedures.