Immigration heads’ meeting moots ASEAN common visa

ASEAN meeting host Dato’ Seri Haji Mustafar Bin Haji Ali
Dato’ Seri Haji Mustafar Bin Haji Ali. Image: Twitter.

The 22nd Meeting of the ASEAN Directors-General of Immigration Departments and Heads of Consular Affairs Divisions of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs (DGICM), held last week in Kuala Lumpur, has reached an agreement taking the grouping a step closer to an ASEAN Common Visa.

Web portal progress

The Meeting, Chaired by Dato’ Seri Haji Mustafar Bin Haji Ali, Director General of Immigration Malaysia, was preceded by the 3rd Ad Hoc Working Group on the ASEAN Common Visa (AHWG on ACV).

The AHWG deliberated on the way forward for the grouping’s Common Visa (ACV) initiative.

Noting the AHWG’s discussions, the DGICM agreed to develop a web portal to facilitate the sharing of visa information and applications among member states. It is seen as a preliminary step in progressing the ACV initiative.

“The portal will be developed by Malaysia and will probably be ready by 2020,” stated Dato’ Seri Haji Mustafar Bin Haji Ali following the meeting.

Schengen inspiration

The meeting acknowledged INTERPOL’s assistance in implementing the EU-ASEAN Migration and Border Management Programme II (EA-MBMP II). The Programme will end in mid-October 2018, and its report “Towards an ASEAN Common Visa: A Comprehensive Feasibility Study” will be disseminated in mid-August.

The ACV vision borrows from Europe’s Schengen model, which provides for a common visa across Schengen signatory states. The single visa requirement makes it easier for tourists to travel through the continent with a minimum of visa red tape.

As the World Economic Forum reported in June 2016, ASEAN’s travel and tourism industry accounted at that time for 12.3 percent of GDP.

“The region’s objective is to raise the industry’s share of GDP to 15% by 2025,” stated the report. “So how can ASEAN increase its number of international tourist arrivals beyond the current 105 million tourists it welcomed in 2014? One answer stands out: by making it easier.”

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