Foreign nationals entering the country to invest will be issued multiple-entry visas valid for up to five years. It is a marked improvement from a short-stay permit they were given for three months.

The new regulation recognises the investment visa introduced in the investment proclamation, where executives and shareholders of foreign companies get a five-year visa for 1,000 dollars. Managers and board directors get up to three years' visas for 750 dollars.

The Investment Commission has given license to 142 foreign investors last year.

According to National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE), 33 projects, 4.2pc of the total, became operational with three billion birr capital in the last year.

The Agency is restructuring its services, revamping the website, adding new services and hiring more people before enforcing the regulation, estimated to cost up to half a billion Birr. The new service includes building a standard VIP room with furnished materials exclusive to serve officials and diplomats. The Agency is also planning to introduce a door-to-door passport delivery service, which will cost applicants 700 Br. The total project cost is nearly two billion Birr with a budget secured from the federal government.

The new regulation is expected to restructure the Agency's working system and upgrade the services with technology. It was rejected three times before getting approval from the Council of Ministers nine months ago. The high cost of passports, mainly printed in France, has led to the revised service fees, according to the head of the Agency.

"We spend a lot in foreign currency," said Biruhtesfa. "The service tariff is much lower compared to other countries."

The move to grant extended visas to foreign investors is hailed by officials and businesspeople who hope to see the new regulation facilitate smooth and unhindered travels by prospective foreign investors. It gives a sigh of relief to investors coming into the country, having difficulties travelling for projects that require extended stays, said Antyeneh Admasu, founder and CEO of Walia Technologies Plc.

"This encourages investments," said Biruhtesfa Mulugeta, director of the Immigration Nationality & Vital Events Agency (INVEA).

Investors were allowed to stay for only three months, and the Commission had to write a recommendation letter for prospective investors visiting the country briefly but wanted to stay longer. The other option was to apply for a residence permit.

''We receive many requests to write recommendations for a longer stay," said Aschalew Tadesse, foreign direct investment (FDI) director of the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC).

Aschalew believes granting investors a five-year stay visa will positively impact the investment climate.

The Agency officials foresee service charges for passport and visa issuance, renewals, and residence permits triple in the coming months. The regulation to increase service charges is prepared following the revision by the Agency. Experts from the Agency conducted a study to determine the service fees and amended the previous regulation a year ago. Ethiopians applying got passports are subjected to pay 2,000 Br for 32-page and 4,000 Br for 64-page passports.

The Agency operates through its 15 branches, reducing the three months waiting time to a month, providing an emergency issuance within five days for 5,000 Br.

Keneni Demesu, a resident of Dukem town, 37Km from the capital, has registered online to get a passport. After a three-month wait, she was asked to return after a week. She got a job in Dubai but could not travel on time because of the delay.

''My travel plans are inconvenienced," she said ''I would be willing to pay extra."

PUBLISHED ON Nov 12,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1176]

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