A single ASEAN visa would lead to a common visa system for the region, similar to the Schengen Visa in the European Union. ASEAN is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and it is a political and economic organization that promotes economic growth and regional stability amongst its members. ASEAN is made up of 10 member states that include Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.
ASEAN has a growing population of over 600 million people and it is facing increasing challenges with travel and security. ASEAN representatives have discussed regional human mobility and how it affects each country. This August, a meeting was held to revise the feasibility of implementing a single ASEAN visa for the region. The study is the result of a one-year research by the Habibie Center in Jakarta.
Back in April, during a tourism conference in Bangkok, Thailand's Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said, in regards to a single visa for all ASEAN countries, "It is not that easy, but we are not stopping, so we have a single visa committee working together". The committee has to work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior, Immigration Bureau and Office of National Security Council of each nation.
Kobkarn also said about the development of the ASEAN visa, "it not only touches one ministry in one country, it needs to answer questions of so many bodies". No specific time frame has been given as to when the ASEAN visa will be launched. What has been made clear, is that all ASEAN member countries are working toward this goal.
Citizens of eligible countries will be able to obtain the ASEAN visa, while the list of these countries has not yet been announced, travellers will be able to complete the online form within minutes. Similar to other electronic visa platforms, the ASEAN online application form will require that applicants provide their full name, address, date of birth, passport details and travel plans.
Single ASEAN visa expected to boost tourism
ASEAN tourism ministers hope that the launch of an ASEAN single visa policy will contribute to a tourism boost for the entire region. Tourism has been one of the key growth sectors in ASEAN and it has been a resilient industry even in the face of global economic challenges.
Southeast Asia is already a very popular destination and it draws millions of visitors each year. According to a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the tourism industry already contributes significantly to the ASEAN economy, "Collectively, the ten countries that make up the ASEAN region are more dependent on travel and tourism to drive their economies than all other regions in the world."
In 2015, 109 million tourists visited ASEAN and that same year the total contribution of travel and tourism to the economy's GDP was of 12.4 %. Thailand had the biggest share of tourist arrivals among ASEAN countries in 2015 at 29, 881, 000 people. Malaysia followed with 25, 721,000 tourists. In 2016, the tourism industry contributed 6.6 % to the Philippine economy.
Some countries in the ASEAN association already have electronic visas in place and each country regulates their borders in their own way. Cambodia has an electronic travel authorization for citizens of eligible countries. Cambodia's single entry visa grants a stay of up to 30 days and should be requested at least four days prior to the departure date. In February 2017, the Government of Vietnam also implemented an electronic visa for foreign travellers. The Vietnam e-Visa is a single entry visa and also grants a stay of up to 30 days.
Making a single ASEAN visa will take time as its member countries need to take into account several aspects of their current immigration and border control regulations.