PUTRAJAYA: The fate of visas-on-arrival (VOA) issued to foreigners from eight nations will be decided when Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin chairs the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Workers and Illegal Immigrants meeting on Feb 22.
The meeting will decide whether the controversial VOA facility should be abolished or continued, with changes made to the process to prevent abuse. Malaysia is said to be the only country providing such visas.
It is learnt that the committee would outline more stringent measures for issuance of visas to visitors from several “identified countries” as efforts were needed to prevent foreigners from taking part in negative activities while they are here.
Visitors from these countries are expected to be carefully vetted during their visa application process. They will likely be required to produce more documents during the visa application process, rather than just return air tickets and hotel bookings, to prove they have no intention of overstaying.
Home Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Mahmood Adam told The Star that other issues pertaining to foreigners residing in Malaysia would also be discussed at length during the meeting.
“The Cabinet committee will decide on the fate of the visa-on-arrival. At this point, I cannot say if it will be abolished or if the facility will be retained because the pros and cons have not been deliberated on as yet. We need to listen to the views of all before coming to a decision.
“As for tighter visa procedures, I do not want to elaborate but suffice to say that we believe the time has come for us to do so,” he said.
It has been reported that thousands of tourists had abused the VOA – which was introduced in 2006 in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2007 – by overstaying.
The facility was extended to tourists from China, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Taiwan and Comoros.
Recently, 10 people, nine of them foreigners with links to international terrorist networks, were arrested under the Internal Security Act.
The Government had indicated that it planned to have a more systematic monitoring and screening of all foreigners who were already in the country, be it foreign workers, expatriates or students, to ensure they posed no threat to the nation’s security.
Deputy Foreign Minister A. Kohi-lan Pillay said plans to tighten visa procedures for foreigners would not cause a “backlash”, adding many countries were strict in issuing visas and yet their tourist arrivals and the number of those investing remained high.
“This is a good way to stop people with negative intentions from entering Malaysia. Those who genuinely want to experience our warmth and hospitality will continue to come, even if they have to do more to get a visa,” he said.
Kohilan said the authorities should consider placing more Immigration attaches at missions abroad, especially in problem spot areas.