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The tedious processing of Sri Lankan visa extension

I didn’t think Sri Lanka has a very strict visa policy. The plan was to stay in the country for 40 days but upon entry, they only gave me 30 days as per country visa rules. I had two options: (1) Overstay and just pay the fine; (2) apply for an extension.

Apparently, the latter makes more sense and is hassle-free. Unlike most countries, simply paying a fine is not that simple in Sri Lanka.

What happens if you overstay in Sri Lanka

It’s a torture. When you go out of the country and they see that you overstayed, they will ask you to pay a fine, go to the Immigration office (outside the airport), pay for the extension and go back to board your flight. That is, if your flight hasn’t took off.

Just so you know, it will take you 4-6 hours to apply for the Sri Lankan visa extension so you will definitely miss your flight. Of course, I didn’t want to experience this so after the visa shenanigan I had to brutally face when I entered Georgia, I learned my lesson and did things beforehand.

In here, you will learn (and get tired just by reading) the tedious process of Sri Lankan visa extension. Read carefully as they have no efficient system. You will have to figure out everything on your own.

Step 1: Go to the Immigration Office in Colombo

Imagine, I was staying in Matara and had to go all the way to Colombo just to process this. Together with a friend from Israel, it took us 4 hours (long train, no choice) to travel. Just with that, the “tedious” process already started.

The Immigration Office is located at: 330, Galle Road, Colombo 03. However, I was told that you can also do it in a smaller office in Kollupitiya where the process is simpler: apply, pay, leave and your passport will be mailed within 24 hours but they only ship if you are staying in Colombo.

In my case, I had to do it in the main Immigration Office because I have to go back to Matara the same day. Meaning, I had to wait…

Step 2: Fill out the application form

Upon entering the door, there is a counter on the left with 3 charming Sri Lankan ladies who give out the application form. Ask for one and fill it out accordingly.

Step 3: Get your token number

Once you finish the form, submit it to the ladies in the same counter and if all information is correct, they will give you a number. The R code is for residency and V is for visa. Make sure you get the V!

Step 4: Submit your application form

The ladies will point you in a direction as if you already know the next step or where you’ll be going. Go out of the visa division area and there will be a small office that says “Visa submission” about 50 steps away. When you get inside, there will be 4 different cubicles labeled from A to D. Enter door “C” and submit your application form to the person in-charge. They will ask how much time you want to extend and that’s it.

Step 5: Come back to the visa division and wait for your number to be called

Foreigners’ sense of humor.

This is where the waiting game begins. You will have to wait until your number is called in order for you to pay the visa. It will be 2-3 hours approx. Since we already knew it will take time, my friend and I went out to buy snacks and go for a little shopping spree.

Step 6: Pay for the visa

Sri Lankan visa extension fees per nationality.

Once your number is called, go to the payment counter. I found it odd that the visa fees for different countries are different. My friend is from Israel only paid $18 USD while I paid $30 USD.

To know how much you need to pay, check the table above. They also accept credit card payments so don’t worry about not having enough!

Step 7: Collect your passport at the visa-issuing counter

Brace yourself because after paying, you will need to wait another 2-3 hours. This was the funny part. It’s when everyone goes crazy from waiting too long. Whenever their numbers are called, they clap or jump for joy – it’s like winning the lottery or playing Bingo. It was a total show for me but seriously, while waiting, I was already thinking about the long way back to Matara.

We saw people leave one by one until we were the only ones (about 8 people) waiting. I saw that place go from 6-in-the-morning-market-crazy to 7-in-the-evening-market-peaceful. Can you believe I was the last person who was issued the visa? I mean the last. Like passport on the bottom of the bulk last.

In the end, I got what I wanted – a one-month Sri Lankan visa extension!

Additional tips:

  1. Bring a pen. I need to remind this because I know a lot of people who don’t really own a pen. It’s a must! The place can go crazy that no one will lend you one. Not even the nice ladies in the application form counter.
  2. You will need a passport picture. Luckily, I always bring one. There is a small studio by the wall inside the visa division office where you can have your photos taken. Cost: 250 SLR (4 pcs).
  3. Food is available within the area. If you fancy to go out, the Immigration building is surrounded by loads of small stores, restaurants and cafes.

Ever tried applying for a Sri Lankan visa extension? How was the experience? Would love to hear your thoughts!

9 − seven =

Puran Appu

Sunday 23rd of June 2019

The visa extension process in not that bad at all. If you been to any other countries and try to extend the visa it will be the same or worst. Try to extend a US visa while in US. China visa extension. These are the real nightmares. Keep in mind you dont need to wait there for 4 hrs or so. you can come back and collect the visa. If you been to Chinese consulate in San Francisco you will find out how easy the Sri Lankan visa extension. No consulate waiting for you with Immigration stamp on their hand to put on your passport. It is normal to take time. It is an Immigration visa process and not an assembly process in a factory. Dont complain be flexible if you are traveling. Plan your trip in advance. Sri Lankan visa process takes normal time as in any country to extend a visa.


Thursday 1st of February 2018

Just a note as this post is a little misleading.. The Government immigration centre is not located at the address you have provided (The Immigration Office is located at: 330, Galle Road, Colombo 03) This is indeed a private firm who for a fee will do the processing for you. Not at all a bad thing as they only charge RS4000 to do all the cueing, admin and photos through the government office via courier. They'll have your passport back the same day before 4.30pm. For anyone going to this address 330, Galle Road, Colombo 03 you should be aware that the government immigration office is about 30-40 mins by tuk tuk depending of traffic from here!


Thursday 6th of December 2018

Yes, that is correct. The immigration office is at "Suhurupaya", Sri Subhuthipura Road, Battaramulla.

Steve Happ

Monday 10th of April 2017

Thank you. I am going to try this out tomorrow. Great tips.

Cez of eTramping

Friday 17th of February 2017

What a headache! Seems like this post of yours will serve quite useful to anyone in that situation.

Agness of eTramping

Thursday 16th of February 2017

Also, the pen should have black ink. Some people own only pens with blue ink, Trisha.