Tanzania visa validity
April 30, 2008 12:56 PM   Subscribe

Tanzania travel. How is the visa validity defined for a UK citizen on a tourist visa?

I will be going to Tanzania on holiday in July. I've just been issued with a visa by the Tanzanian High Commission in London. My understanding of the visa is that it is valid for entry any time in the next 90 days, then for a stay of up to 90 days from date of entry. However, this is by no means clear from the visa or the web resources of the Tanzanian government. It could be that the visa is valid for 90 days from issued date, full stop, which would not be good for me. I will obviously try to get clarification by telephone, but any data from recent Tanzania-visiting MeFites would be appreciated.
posted by Jakey to Travel & Transportation around Tanzania (5 answers total)
I'm unsure as to why you got your visa so early. Are you traveling elsewhere first and then entering Tanzania by land? If you go by air, you can just buy your visa at the airport upon arrival. I do this with my UK passport when landing in Zanzibar, but you can do it in Dar es Salaam as well. (And be aware you'll have to also pay an "exit fee" - I've always paid it in US dollars because it seems to be easiest, but assume you can pay in other currencies as well.) Best to call the embassy to find out, but I'd guess that the visa you already have will, indeed, expire in 3 months and you'll have to purchase a new one when you land. This is my guess because Tanzania seems to be one of those countries where the visa is simply a money-maker: the visa fee seems to change according to the mood of the time - I think I last paid $100 US.

I'll be following the thread, hoping that someone (or you) eventually has a more definitive answer. I'm heading back in a few months and if it's cheaper to get the visa in London, I'll do that.
posted by meerkatty at 1:19 PM on April 30, 2008

Best answer: A friend of mine actually got burned by this very situation a few months ago. Tanzanian visas (at least the tourist visas you can get at the embassies or on arrival) are valid for "three months" (maybe that means 90 days, maybe not) from the date they are issued, not the date you first arrive in the country. My friend dutifully applied by mail and got his visa about 45 days before he arrived. About 47 days into his stay he realized his visa had just expired. He made a quick exit via Malawi, paid a US$100 bribe in lieu of the US$400 fine and had no problems getting a new visa back into Tanzania the next day.

Getting a visa on arrival in Dar is a piece of cake, they even have a fancy digital camera setup so you don't need to bring passport photos with you. It takes 20 minutes or so of waiting in line and paying the visa fee in US dollars (I think it just went up pretty much across the board from US$50 to US$100). I've never arrived via air to Zanzibar but I assume the process is similar. You only have to pay the exit fee if you are flying from Zanzibar, not from Dar Es Salaam. And you also don't have to pay if you are flying from Zanzibar to Dar, only (I believe) if you are flying internationally.

I have a US passport and was in Tanzania from September of last year to March of this year. I flew into Dar and paid US$50 for a 3 month tourist visa at the airport. Unfortunately they stamped my 3 month visa with about a two month expiration date, a fairly common practice. So 2 days before it expired I went to the immigration office and got an extension to the full 90 day limit. You can't get an extension until just a day or two before it expires, so be near a border in case things don't work out :-) So at long last when that extension was about to expire, 87 days after I first arrived in the country I went to Malawi for two weeks (Malawi doesn't require a visa for many countries, including the US and UK). In the 90 days from when I got my first visa to needing a second they raised the single entry three month tourist visa fee to US$100, which is/was what the 90 day multiple entry tourist visa cost, so the border guards at the Malawi/Tanzania border gave me a multiple entry visa without any trouble. You can't get a multiple entry visa at an airport, only at land crossings. Exactly 90 days after getting my second three month tourist visa I flew out of Dar without any issues.

Sorry for such a long winded and poorly written explanation. The short answer is yes, your visa may expire before you arrive but it is very easy to get one at the airport if you have another US$100. I think the only reason to apply for a visa by mail is if you need a multiple entry visa and will be arriving via plane.

If you are going to volunteer, be careful. The immigration office sometimes cracks down on volunteers with tourist visas. The Lonely Planet forums have a few accounts of this and the organization I was volunteering with was somewhat nervous about the potential, enough that we all had to run out the back when a pair of immigration officers wandered by.

Good luck. I recommend visiting the southern highlands.
posted by ChrisHartley at 7:57 PM on April 30, 2008

Response by poster: meerkatty, don't get me started on the visa debacle. Uptight SO and passport requirements for travel between now and then meant I had to apply now. Fees are not that different to those on arrival. £38 + registered post fees both ways. Contacting the high commission is (as suspected) not proving easy. Several minutes of navigating phone menus ends with a 'we're all busy' message before being cut off.

Chrishartley's if your experience holds true, then we're probably going to be out for a new visa regardless. Some folks over at the Thorn Tree and Bootsnall forums have suggested that validity starts on entry, but your data is more recent so is likely more accurate. I'm inclined to ask at Namanga on the way in and pay for a new one there if necessary. I won't be anywhere near a border point until exit, so getting an extension's not gonna work. $100 for 4 extra days. Bummer.

I'll post back if I ever manage to get through to the visa desk.
posted by Jakey at 4:22 AM on May 1, 2008

I spoke with someone in the DC embassy before I went with a question about non-tourist visas and they were completely unhelpful. I wouldn't be surprised if for some people the visa clock starts ticking when it is issued and for others not until arrival. Who knows, in the end it is all up to the clerk at the immigration desk.

Good luck!
posted by ChrisHartley at 11:55 AM on May 1, 2008

Best answer: I gave up trying to contact the visa section by telephone and eventually sent my passport off again with a covering letter and the cash for a new visa, if necessary. I received a call from the visa desk, in which the administrator confirmed that the visa validity is up to 90 days for entry PLUS up to 90 days of a stay. As a result, I do not need a new visa, and the passport and payment were returned to me. The same interpretation of the validity is detailed in this (pdf) visa application form from the Tanzanian High Commission. For the record, time to process and return the passport was around a week in both cases.
posted by Jakey at 5:32 AM on June 6, 2008

« Older Adjusting PHP Code for Photo Gallery   |   What's the best way to get rid of old, outdated... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.