By Spy Uganda
Government is engaging other countries on cases of visa denial and restrictive immigration policies.
According to the State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. John Mulimba, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in an effort to have this resolved, on Monday 11 July 2022 concluded a five day Joint Commission for Cooperation with South Africa where immigration issues were discussed.
Mulimba said this while presenting a statement to Parliament on measures being taken to ease stringent visa conditionalities for Ugandans, on Tuesday, 12 July 2022.
He added that the ministry is also negotiating bilateral agreements with several countries for exemption of visa requirements.
“We have concluded arrangements with 65 countries so far where Ugandans do not require visas to travel. We continue to engage countries to grant visas on arrival to cater for emergency situations,” said Mulimba.
He noted that the Foreign Affairs Ministry issues diplomatic notes to respective foreign missions accredited to Uganda on behalf of government officials traveling on official business to facilitate and authenticate the process of visa application.
Additionally, he said regional engagements with partner states have been undertaken especially in East Africa and with COMESA states where Ugandans do not require visas.
The minister observed that failure to articulate travel reasons, late submission of visa applications, submission of false documents and over staying visas are among reasons why many Ugandans are denied visas.
While chairing the session, Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa observed that the process of granting visas to applicants has become untenable especially in situations where they wait long hours to get interview appointments.
He alluded to having raised the same concerns in the 10th Parliament. He said Ugandans would line up at the Chinese Embassy in the wee hours but with engagement of government, an online process was put in place.
“Uganda is playing a critical role on the international stage and our country is open. We want the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to push harder for the benefit of the citizens,” Tayebwa said.
He also tasked the minister to inform the House on the status of Ugandans held in foreign prisons. “The ministry [Foreign Affairs] used to negotiate really hard especially in Asia where Ugandans are facing life or death sentences. The issue of consular services to Ugandans abroad need to be looked into,” Tayebwa added.
Hon. Hanifa Nabikeera (NUP, Mukono District) raised concerns about study visas for students some of whom she said pay fees commitments to schools abroad yet their visas get delayed or denied.
Hon. Boniface Okot (NRM, Youth Northern) observed that many young traders from Uganda have been unable to travel freely as stipulated in the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement. “My proposal is that we fast track engagements with countries that have ratified the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement to allow for visa exemptions of our young traders, ” he said.
Ntungamo District Woman MP, Hon. Josyline Kamateneti raised concerns about labour export companies that are exploiting unknowing Ugandans in guise of expediting visa or passport application processes.
“I urge the Minister for Foreign Affairs to put clear guidelines on operations of these companies. Someone pays shs400,000 for an express passport but ends up getting it after three months,” she said.
Kajara County MP, Hon. Micheal Timuzigu urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to work with other national agencies to effect civic education on travel abroad.
This, he said, will give Ugandans a chance to have the knowledge of documents required for travel requests and make visa applications more efficient.