Due to the current global health situation with COVID-19, we’d suggest not travelling right now. Furthermore, many cities and attractions will not be operating as advertised on our website. Please stay up to date using official sources like the WHO. Stay home and stay safe!
Last Updated on

A Step-by-Step Guide to Get Your Sri Lanka Visa.

Please Note: This post is intended to act as a helpful guide to assist you with the application process, however we shall assume no liability for errors. The answers to common questions might be different for you and your nationality. Please read all the details about the travel visa on the official website before you apply and pay any money on any website.

Ah yes, travel visas. So we meet again. It seems like no one likes travel visas – but we think that they aren’t that scary! This is probably a good time to mention that we both worked in the travel visa industry for a while. As such, we know the visa processes (and the horror stories) more than the average traveller. That said, we aren’t experts – but we do know what to look for when applying for a visa.

If you’re travelling to Sri Lanka, you’re likely going to require a visa for entry. Luckily, Sri Lanka introduced an electronic system for processing visas for most nationalities in 2012. This means that the process to apply for the visa (called an ETA – Electronic Travel Authorization) is done easily online before you leave for your trip.

Since the official government website of Sri Lanka can be difficult to find among all the other visa services that look like the government website, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide that walks you through the process with screenshots of the whole process. The screenshots outline the process for someone applying for a “Tourist ETA” but the process is similar for the other two types and we outline that below!

General Questions About the ETA for Sri Lanka

Here are a few of the general answers about the visa before you apply. We’ll walk you through the process down below.

What is an ETA?

An ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) is the official name for the “Sri Lanka visa” that most tourists and business travellers from basically all nationalities need to enter Sri Lanka for short stay trips. It is issued electronically meaning its all done online. If successful, you’ll get an email with an ETA number and all your information connected to it. The border guard will have it in their system that you have your ETA when you show them your passport and you’ll be good to enter Sri Lanka. No stamp or label will be placed in your passport. There are lots of other kinds of travel visas – and you can read more about the types of travel visas here.

Who needs an ETA to enter Sri Lanka?

Basically all nationalities need an ETA to enter Sri Lanka for a short stay. The only three citizenships that do not require an ETA, as they receive visa-free travel, are: The Republic of Singapore, The Republic of Maldives, and The Republic of Seychelles.

When do I apply for my Sri Lanka ETA?

You can apply no earlier than 90 days from when you intend to arrive in Sri Lanka. This means that you can apply in the three months before your trip starts. For example, if you plan on entering Sri Lanka on July 15, the earliest you can apply for your ETA is April 16.

How long does it take to process a Sri Lanka ETA application?

The application takes a few minutes and the processing time is “within 24 hours” so you will receive it pretty quickly. But of course, don’t wait until the last minute with your application!

What is the validity for a Sri Lankan ETA?

“Short stay” ETAs are valid for 30 days in Sri Lanka if you’re travelling to Sri Lanka for tourist or business purposes. If you are just passing through Sri Lanka or on a cruise ship, a transit ETA is valid for 2 days from the arrival date.

How many times can I enter Sri Lanka on my ETA?

If you’re entering Sri Lanka for tourist or business purposes, your short stay ETA allows you to enter Sri Lanka twice. This is called a “double entry” visa. If you’re entering on a Transit ETA, you can enter Sri Lanka only once.

How much does the Sri Lanka ETA cost?

For adults of most nationalities (United States, Germany, Canada, Australia, etc), the Sri Lanka visa costs $35 USD if you apply online before you leave. Children under 12 of any nationality are free.

Do I have to book my whole trip before I apply for a Sri Lankan ETA?

No, you can apply for your Sri Lanka ETA before you book your trip. Simply know your intended date of arrival and the address of the first place you will head to when you arrive.

Do I have to print my ETA?

The ETA is linked to your passport, but you will receive a confirmation page at the end of the online application with your reference number. We recommend printing that and bringing it with you – just in case.

What if I am on a cruise that visits Sri Lanka?

If you are on a cruise that visits Sri Lanka, you’ll need a Transit ETA. Transit ETAs are free and allow for entry for two days in Sri Lanka.

How to apply for Sri Lanka ETA

If you’re applying for an ETA to Sri Lanka you have two options: apply through the Government website or apply through a third-party website.

Using the Official Sri Lanka Government Website

Here’s our step-by-step guide to applying for the Sri Lanka ETA on the official government website. Remember, there are three types of “short stay” ETAs for Sri Lanka. If you’re applying for a Tourist ETA, a Business ETA, or a Transit ETA, you apply through the same portal and specify that later.

1. You can begin your application at the official government website for Sri Lanka.  You will be brought to this page.

This is the Official Government Site. If it doesn’t look like this, you’re on the website of a visa company.

2. Click English and you’ll be brought to the English landing page where you’ll find all the answers to your questions. It’s here that you can click Apply and you’ll begin the process to apply for your Sri Lanka ETA.

3. Agree to the Terms and Conditions by clicking the button at the bottom. This is where you agree to showing a return ticket when you enter and that you have enough money to cover your trip if the border guard asks.

Screenshot of Sri Lanka ETA Terms and Conditions Page

4. Choose which ETA you are applying for. The default is Tourist ETA for an Individual but you can apply for a group or for someone else on their behalf. Check the right ETA on the LEFT SIDE of the screen. Here’s the breakdown of ETAs again:

  • ETA for Tourist purpose with double entry for 30 days
  • ETA for Business purpose with double entry for 30 days
  • ETA for a 2-day Transit through Sri Lanka

In most cases, you’ll fill in “Apply for an Individual” under Tourist ETA. Fill out your personal information. You begin with your basic information like name, date of birth, passport number, and nationality. Be sure to double check your information as you fill it in. You will have the chance to review it again before you submit, however.

5. If you have any children that do not have their own passport and they are traveling on your information – complete the following section. Otherwise, leave it blank. While children under 12 pay no visa fee, if they have their own passport, they need their own ETA like an adult.

6. Next, you’ll fill in your travel information. This includes arrival date and purpose of visit.  Going as a “Tourist” is one thing, but you’ll need to choose more specifically what the reason for your travels are. There’s a drop-down menu for you to choose the specific purpose.  Fill in your contact details like your home address, and you’ll need to fill in the address of where you are staying in Sri Lanka. If you are moving around, put down the first place you will be staying at after you arrive.

*If you are travelling for Business, there will be an additional section here to fill in the details of your company and the Sri Lankan Company you are visiting and conducting business with during your stay.*

7. Fill in the Declaration section. It’s straightforward if you’re heading to Sri Lanka for the first time and you’re basically not Sri Lankan. Complete the captcha to move on and click Next.

8. You’ll be brought to the next page where you can review all the information you just entered. If there are any errors, click “change” and if everything is correct, click “confirm”. If you submit and pay and have incorrect information, you won’t receive a refund and will have to apply again. So be sure to double check passport numbers and spelling of names!

9. You will confirm twice that you have submitted the correct information by clicking “OK”. After that, you’ll be brought to the payment page where you choose how you will pay. The only option is by card,  and the choices are VISA/Mastercard OR American Express.  Click the one you wish to use and then you’ll be brought to a secure payment portal like you see below. Submit your card details and click “pay“.

10. That’s it! You’ve applied and paid for your Sri Lankan ETA. HOWEVER, this is NOT your visa. This is confirmation of application. You’ll receive this confirmation page and a reference number which you should write down. We’d advise printing this page out so you have a copy.

screenshot of sri lanka eta application confirmation

11. If everything looks good on the Government of Sri Lanka’s end, you’ll be granted your ETA in a few hours but it can take up to 24 hours. You’ll receive an email that looks like the one below. DEFINITELY print out this page from the email and bring it to the border with you just in case. Since the ETA is processed and issued entirely online, you will not need any copies of your passport or photographs.

There are other emails you could receive that indicate that your processing may take longer or that your application is declined for whatever reason. Usually an application is declined because of false information or because you already possess an ETA from a previous trip to Sri Lanka. If you run into any issues, there’s contact information on the Confirmation Page in Step 10. The email for the Sri Lankan Government is eta@immigration.gov.lk. Be sure to include your order reference number and name so the authorities know what application to look into.

Applying using a Third-Party Visa Service

If you are unable to complete the payment online because the official website only takes certain credit cards, you could always apply through a reputable third-party visa service. Visa companies are able to help you with your application and will charge a service fee on top of the standard government fee. In the case of using any third-party, be sure to read the fine print and do your homework about the service or website.

What to do When Arriving in Sri Lanka

When you enter Sri Lanka, you will head through to customs where an Immigration officer will check your passport and check to find your ETA that is connected to it.

What do I have to bring with me when I arrive into Sri Lanka?

At the port of entry, you’ll need to have:

  • A passport valid for not less than 6 months from the date of arrival
  • Proof of a return ticket

Sri Lankan authorities also suggest that travellers be able to demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to meet their expenses during their stay. It’s also a good idea to keep a copy of the ETA approval with you to show it at the port of entry in Sri Lanka if necessary.

Can I get a visa on arrival in Sri Lanka?

You can get a visa on arrival – but it’s highly recommended that you get your visa before you leave. You’ll run into time wasted at the border, you won’t please the guards, and it’s $5 USD more to do it there. The process is simple and streamlined for the ETA to be done before you leave. 

Extending Your Stay in Sri Lanka

If you’re looking to extend your trip in Sri Lanka, or you know that you will need more than 30 days on the initial ETA, then you’ll need to apply for an extension or a different visa altogether. Below are the frequently asked questions about this process.

Can I apply for a new ETA visa if I am still in Sri Lanka?

No, you can not apply for a fresh ETA while you are in Sri Lanka. If you want to extend your stay – this is done through the Department of Immigration and not online. The next question answers this more in-depth.

How do I get a 3-month visa for Sri Lanka?

If you’re looking to stay in Sri Lanka for longer than 30 days then you may apply for an extension. Your “short stay” ETA can be extended for up to 90 days from the date of arrival at the first instance and another 90 days at the second instance. Overall, all extensions can total no more than 6 months.

It’s very important to apply for extensions well before the expiry of the ETA or else there can be fines for overstaying the visa or worse. Any application to extend an ETA must be done through the Visa Office of the Department of Immigration & Emigration in Colombo by visiting them in person or through an Authorized Agent. You can find more information here at the Government of Sri Lanka Immigration Site.

Alternatively, there are different visas for longer stays that can be applied for through the Department of Immigration & Emigration but these processes are different from that of the ETA.

And there you have it – everything we know about how to apply for the Sri Lanka ETA. If you have all the right information ready, it’s really not that difficult to do it on your own. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below and we will try our best to help you find the answer!

As always, Happy Sri Lanka Waddlin’,


Eric is a Canadian & Hungarian content writer with over 45 countries under his belt. From volunteering in Australia to studying his Master's degree abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, his travel experiences have taken him across the globe. Next to writing on Penguin and Pia, he has been quoted by the BBC, the Travel Channel, USA Today, and Mashable and contributed to companies in the travel space such as Matador, AirHelp, GoOverseas, and Spot.

Comments are closed.