The referred visa: Consequences of non-compliance

Upendo Mmbaga


The consequences of a person from the above mentioned countries not to have the referral visa are huge because they involve the particular individual, the airline if the individual came by air and the Immigration.

In the current business world people move from one place to another to do various activities ranging from business, investment, leisure etc. In order to move across borders, one is required, among other things, to have a valid and genuine travel document, and to comply with the immigration laws of a country he intends to visit.

In Tanzania, the laws which regulate the immigration affairs are The Immigration Act, 1995, the Citizenship Act, 1995 and regulations made under those Acts, which include the Immigration Regulations of 1997 and orders.

There are several types of visa which can be applied for at the airport or at the High Commissions abroad to enable a foreigner who intends to enter Tanzania to have a proper type of visa upon his/her arrival at the listed entry points. Tanzania has several types of visa which are categorized due to the nature of the journey of the visitor. These are ordinary visa, multiple entry visa, referred visa, transit visa and gratis visa.

Someone may ask who is required to have a visa? The answer to this question is that all foreigners seeking to enter the United Republic of Tanzania are required to have a valid visa unless their countries have a visa waiver agreement with Tanzania. In principle, all foreigners are free to apply for the visas to enter Tanzania but there are special restrictions that apply to some foreign nationals. In this article, I will venture to discuss in detail about the referred visa.

Referred visa is a type of visa which requires special clearance or permission from the Principal Commissioner of Immigration Services in Tanzania Mainland or Commissioner of Immigration Services in Zanzibar. Hence before a visitor travels to Tanzania, he has to make enquiries at the nearest Tanzania Embassy or High Commission abroad to ensure that he is not obliged to obtain clearance before he/she makes any travel arrangements to Tanzania.

In particular, the nationals who need special clearance as per the Immigration list to-date are the ones hailing from the following countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan (north and South), Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Yemen, Abkhazia, Austria, Chad, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Mali, Mauritania, Niger Republic, Palestine, Senegal, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The procedure to be followed is for the above mentioned nationals to fill in a visa form (which can be obtained at Tanzania Immigration’s website) and attach to it a covering letter explaining the purpose of visit, the number of days they intend to stay, the date they expect to enter Tanzania, passport size photos and any other document that will be required by the immigration officer or the officer of the Tanzania embassy abroad. The form and other attachments need to be submitted timely and it takes some time to be processed and a clearance to be issued.

The clearance (referral visa) is provided in form of a letter to the foreigner and a separate copy of the letter is sent to the entry point where the holder will enter in Tanzania. A copy of the letter or list of those who have been cleared at the entry point helps immigration officers of that station to identify the holders of the clearance letter when they present their clearance letter by making reference to the list before them at the entry point or station.

Upon being satisfied by the holder of the letter (referral visa), the Immigration officers will allow the visitor to enter Tanzania upon payment of the entry visa fee.

The entry visa fee applicable to the foreigners who need to seek clearance is $50 with the exception to Pakistan nationals who are required to pay $ 200.

The rationale for requiring listed foreign nationals to get clearance from the Immigration is for security reasons, taking into account the incidents that have been encountered in the past; for example terrorism and other incidents which threaten national security.

With the current “globalization of terrorism”, one would question the necessity of having that list as sources of terrorists are diverse and wide. Others may argue that the list must be expanded to cover a number of countries that have seen perpetual acts of terrorism and radicalization in the last decade, but have not been listed in the law.

The consequences of a person from the above mentioned countries not to have the referral visa are huge because they involve the particular individual, the airline if the individual came by air and the Immigration. Usually what happens is that a foreigner is not allowed to enter Tanzania and will be required to go back where he came from.

If the entry was at the airport, port or railway station then the immigration officer will take a listed foreign national who does not have a referral visa into custody and communicate with whoever is in charge of the airline which carried him/her for them to take that person to where he came from at the expense of the airline.

The situation is different when the entry point is by road especially where the two countries have good diplomatic relations; for example, Kenya and Tanzania. In this situation the immigration officer will communicate with the immigration officers of the other country at the entry point and order that person to be returned where he came from or the bus which came with him/her will be ordered to return that person to the other side before crossing the border to enter Tanzania at their own expense.

In summing up, it is essential for all foreigners to counter-check with the Tanzania embassies and High Commissions abroad to ensure that they are not listed and thus required to apply for referral visa before they make any travel arrangements to Tanzania.

If they find out that they are listed, then they are urged to seek and obtain the requisite clearance.