Myanmar launches online visa system

As Myanmar went to polls last Sunday to vote in a historic election that eventually brought back to power long-time political detainee and Nobel prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the government also launched an online visa system that in all likelihood is a sign that the country is keen on developing its tourism infrastructure.

The low-key beta launch of the electronic visa (Evisa) at the official government website, which is really just a simple announcement of the new service, may have drowned in the recent swarm of attention that engulfed the country, but probably not tourists who are keen to visit the Southeast Asian nation.

Myanmar's Ministry of Hotels and Tourism explained in the website that with the service, tourists need not visit the Myanmar embassy in their respective countries to apply for a visa.

"The Evisa process from application to approval is completely done online. The process is very straight forward; the applicants just need to fill out the details and submit the payment through a secure payment gateway with a credit card," it said.

Like most websites using a payment gateway, the site also gives assurance that it uses Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption technology to secure  credit card information submitted online.

Visa applicants are instructed to upload passport photos or use a webcam to take a picture and make payments online via the eNETS credit card payment gateway. A letter of confirmation will be sent to the applicant to proceed with the visa application, and once approved, the tourist only needs to print it and to show it to the immigration officer upon arrival in Myanmar.

The current online system only accommodates applications for tourist visa. The website did not mention any plans for including other types of visas in the future. It also said an official launched will be announced soon.

Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar has a population of over 55 million and is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia. However, decades of military rule has kept the country almost closed or limited to tourists. But times are changing. The newly revamped Ministry of Hotels and Tourism website makes available all information needed by potential visitors from a detailed listing of hotels and resorts, tour operators, tour guides, transportation, festivals, destinations and even a photo gallery of its famous landmarks.

"The legendary "Golden Land" - this is still the Myanmar of today. Certainly one of the most exotic countries in the world - a land of astounding beauty and charm that moved Kipling to pen these apt words: 'Quite unlike any land you will ever know,'" it said in the introduction.

With the favorable political climate and the world attention that will certainly be focused on Myanmar in the coming months, more people will be expected to visit this land that only in the recent past is not very easy to know.