IT is not just an ambition coming true, but the process of transforming Oman into a template for digital society. The eGovernance initiative by the government is a powerful tool that enables greater accountability, accessibility and convenience from the public services.
The motivating factor for a digital Oman is His Majesty’s vision for a sustainable knowledge-based economy by adopting technology in the daily operations and focusing on electronic delivery of services.
Last year, the Institute of e-Government at Japanese Waseda University, ranked the Sultanate third in its overall index.
It also ranked Oman first in the Arab world and eighth on the index of administrative development. Singapore leads the general index, followed by Denmark and the United States of America.
The latest in the series of digitalisation of government services in the Sultanate is the e-visa project facilitating and simplifying visa application process through its online platform.
Fees for obtaining visas through the online mechanism is paid through its e-payment portal.
As the e-visa process will provide ease of application, it will also help boost the tourism sector, as it will attract many more tourists to the country.
The move could directly help Oman’s economic diversification plans, with the new visa system allowing for easier travel in and out of the country for tourists and investors.
According to Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehrzi, Minister of Tourism, the facilitation of visa procedures and their electronic switch is a requirement especially in view of the rapid growth of tourism industry.
“The launch of the digital platform is a new qualitative move that simplifies the process of obtaining visas,” he says.
In a recent interview to Al Markazi magazine, Brig Hilal bin Ahmed al Busaidy, DG of Passports and Residency at ROP, said that a mechanism is being worked out to issue two types of e-Visa: the non-sponsored tourist visa for 67 countries and visa for GCC residents, noting that up to 116 professions are benefiting from the e-Visa.
“Oman is blessed with a unique location and diverse, exquisite nature, making it a top destination for tourists and visitors,” Brig Hilal told the magazine published by the Central Bank of Oman.
As part of the main goals of e-Visa, visitors are allowed to make prepayment for the visa before travelling to Oman through a simplified process and in accordance with the laws and regulations in force in the Sultanate.
“This project exudes our pride and joy,” Brig Hilal adds, as he feels that the outcome is a result of outstanding hard work to facilitate the visa issuing process in the country on par with global standards.
Commenting on the information about the identity of the foreign visa applicants, he explains that the identification process is made through the Interpol.
The ROP obtains a copy of the applicant’s passport and other information to be scrutinised and processed. Based on the outcome of the scrutiny, the applicant is informed of his/her visa application status — whether it is approved or rejected.
According to Brig Hilal, the visa holder may get approval but cannot pass through entry points if objectionable precedents occur post approval.
Commenting on the efforts to promote e-Visa, online application procedures and statistics on visas issued last year, Lt Col Abdullah al Kalbani, Director of e-Visa, told the magazine that 2.7 million visas were granted to visitors last year.
The non-sponsored tourist visa for foreigners is granted only to nationals of those countries which are specified by the Sultanate who wish to visit Oman for tourism. This visa authorises its holder to enter and stay in the country for the period specified by law.
Applications are submitted through ROP website, and tourists can get the visa stamped upon their arrival to the Sultanate through simplified entry procedures via official entry points.
With regard to the process of obtaining non-sponsored tourist visa, the DG explained that the intended tourist should first submit an application by filling out a form according to the details in the travel document, which are attached as one of the required documents.
After the successful completion of the application, the user then is asked to pay a fee which he or she needs to do with his or her credit card through the Sultanate’s official e-Payment portal. Following these procedures, the applicant will be notified via an email stating if his or her visa is approved or rejected.