Sri Lanka revokes long-term visas for Russians and Ukrainians

Sri Lanka has revoked long-term tourist visa extensions for Russians and Ukrainians, citing the need to regulate immigration following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

In response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Sri Lanka has announced the termination of long-term tourist visa extensions for thousands of Russians and Ukrainians who have been utilizing the policy to reside on the island. Commissioner-General of Immigration Harsha Ilukpitiya stated that the government will not be granting further visa extensions, setting a deadline of March 7 for affected individuals to depart.

Over the past two years, just over 288,000 Russians and nearly 20,000 Ukrainians have visited Sri Lanka, as per official figures. While the exact number of those who overstayed the usual 30-day tourist visa remains unclear, it is believed that a significant portion, particularly Russians, have chosen to settle in Sri Lanka, possibly to evade potential conscription into their home country’s armed forces.


Reports suggest that some of the long-term residents have established businesses, including restaurants and nightclubs, contributing to the local economy. However, the recent decision by the Sri Lankan government comes amid controversy, with social media backlash erupting over a Russian-operated nightclub’s organization of a “whites-only” event in the southern coastal resort town of Unawatuna.

Sri Lanka initially introduced 30-day visas on arrival to stimulate tourism, a crucial sector for the nation’s economic recovery from its severe financial crisis since mid-2022. Following a default on its $46 billion foreign debt in April 2022 and subsequent street protests leading to the resignation of then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the country faced significant challenges.

However, with the assistance of a $2.9 billion IMF bailout, Sri Lanka has managed to stabilize its economy and alleviate shortages of essential commodities such as food, fuel, and medicines. The decision to revoke long-term visas for Russians and Ukrainians aligns with the government’s efforts to regulate immigration policies and ensure national security.

As Sri Lanka navigates its path to economic recovery, it remains vigilant against external pressures and seeks to balance its tourism goals with strategic immigration regulations. The move underscores the complexities of managing international relations amid global geopolitical tensions, as nations strive to safeguard their interests while maintaining diplomatic ties.