Friday, March 09, 2007

Travel to Sarawak made easy with Visa On Arrival (VOA)

By George Francis

MIRI - Expatriates from within the continent of Asia working in Brunei or tourists from the Sultanate can now enter Sarawak by using visa on arrival (VOA) at the Sungai Tujoh border checkpoint, 36 km from here.

"Those from India, Pakistan and Nepal can easily come to Miri and get VOA on the spot with a fee of RM100 only. They don't have to go to the Malaysian High Commission in Brunei for the visa anymore," said Sarawak Director of Immigration Datuk Robert Lian, who launched the facility yesterday.

He said VOA is ideal for tourists who want to stay in Sarawak for a couple of weeks without the hassle of applying for visa at any of the Malaysian High Commissions, especially for those who have been long-employed in Brunei and who want to unwind during the weekends in Miri.

Sungai Tujoh, which is an international entry point apart from the Kuching International Airport, only have the VOA system installed in Sarawak.

A VOA holder is not permitted to engage in any employment or professional occupation in Malaysia. Duration of stay is not exceeding 30 days and extension will not be granted. On the Frequent Traveller Card (FTC) system pilot project which has since stopped, Robert said it would be on the agenda for the next meeting between the Malaysians and Bruneian counterparts to be held on March 15 in Penang.

FTC was introduced in June 2005 for Malaysians and Bruneians who regularly travel between the two countries via the Sungai Tujoh Border checkpoints. Malaysian used their MyKad while Bruneians used their smart identity cards, and they must carry their international passports as the travel document.

The users are frequent travellers of at least five times a month, such as lorry drivers, taxi drivers, newspaper deliverymen or traders and they must be registered and subjected to security screenings.

Robert said almost 300 people from each country are registered under FTC, adding the concept is ideal for regular travellers to save up pages of their passports from Immigration stamps. Some 40,000 Malaysians are now working in Brunei, he said, who must renew their passports.

He said Sungai Tujoh Border checkpoints are one of the busiest in the country with between 2,000 and 3,000 commuters passing through everyday.

In January during this Visit Malaysia Year 2007, the checkpoint registered 72,853 Malaysian commuters, including those working in Brunei or going to Sarawak's towns of Limbang and Lawas or to Sabah state, while the foreigners both Bruneians and expartriates in the Sultanate accounted to 90,026.

Last month, a total of 187,990 people went through the Sungai Tujoh checkpoints.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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