While obtaining a Visa on arrival in Egypt is very easy and straight-forward, the extension process can be a bit of a hassle, depending on several different factors.
I wasn’t even sure if I should write a blog post about it, as official information is almost non-existent, and what I know is based on my own experience and other traveller’s stories. Each time I thought I’d figured it out, something new came up, requirements change, or my personal favourite – exceptions to the rule.
Still, I’ll try to give you the information I’ve collected as best as I can, and hopefully, it will shed some light on this mysterious process. I extended my visa in Nabq, Sharm el Sheikh, but it should be same same (…) all over Egypt.
Factors Affecting Your Visa Extension in Egypt
Firstly, in order to start the extension process you need to go to any of the Immigration Offices and apply for a 6-month Extension for Tourism Purposes. For the application you’ll need:
- 2 photo copies of your passport main page and Egypt Entry Visa page
- 2 recent photos passport size
- Fill in the application form they give you
- Pay 15le service fee
- Later on, upon picking up your extended visa you’ll have to pay 555le (April 2018).
Just ask at any of the desks and they’ll tell you what to do next. Chances are, you’ll have to have a quick chat with the Chief Officer, but don’t worry, it’s just a formality.
It’s very important to wear respectable clothing, especially for women. Egypt is a mostly muslim country, so even in popular tourist destinations it’s best to have your shoulders and knees covered.
From then on, there are several factors, which will determine how things will go for you:
There’s two main processes, depending where you come from. All countries have ‘preferred’ and ‘less preferred’ nationalities, but here the difference between the two processes is impressive.
Preferred Nationalities: USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand & Western European countries. You guys are lucky and can have the whole thing done in a single day, if you visit the main immigration office in the area. For South Sinai this is the capital city El Tor, but there is also a sub-office in Nabq, Sharm el Sheikh. Going to a sub-office simply means you’ll need to go back the following day, as the main approval comes from the main office. Still, a pretty easy and straightforward process, unless if you fall into the ‘exception‘ category. Read on for more details.
The Exception to The Rule: Even if you have a ‘preferred nationality’, in rare occasions you could still become an exception. This will mostly happen if the authorities have any reason to suspect you’re involved in suspicious activities. From what I’ve heard, arrogant behaviour or disrespectful clothing can cause the same. In any case, if you become the ‘exception’, you’ll be treated as a ‘less preferred nationality‘ and you should keep on reading.
Less Preferred Nationalities: Balkan countries, Eastern Europe, Russian Federation, other African and Arab countries, and the exceptions to the ‘preferred nationalities’ rule. This is where the ‘fun’ begins.
As a Bulgarian citizen, this is by far the most prolonged and complicated visa extension process I’ve had… and I’ve been places.
After filling in my application in Nabq, I was asked to go for an interview at the National Security office in Sharm el Sheikh in 5 days. It got me a little bit worried, but it had to be done.
The interview itself was a brief and friendly conversation with the officer in charge, who gave me my passport back with some handwriting in Arabic inside, and told me to go back to Nabq in 20 days (are you counting? This is 3 trips already). Now, I’ve heard that not everyone has it that easy with the National Security, but my passport is almost full of stamps and visas from all over the world, so I guess that helped.
22 days later (I left some margin for ‘Egyptian time’), I went back to the Nabq office, where the officer told me my visa is not ready yet and I should come back in 2 weeks.
16 days later I went again, and was again told my visa is not ready – go back in 10 more days. At this point you might start boiling as this is 4 trips already, each of them costing transportation money and time, but it’s very important you keep it cool. Throwing a tantrum is definitely not going to help your situation, irrespective of your nationality.
Finally, after 2 months of going back and forth visa offices, I got my resident tourist visa for the 4 remaining months, which was great news! A possible outcome apparently, is that the interview in the National Security didn’t go so well, in which case, people are being issued just a 3 month Visa. Having in mind 2 months have passed in waiting, you’ll be left with only 1 more month, during which time you have to start the whole process all over again (provided you want to stay).
I don’t know what the process is in the main El Tor office, but from what I’ve heard it’s not much different. I don’t have information about other countries either, so if you’re coming from another part of the world, best thing will be to get in touch with your local Egyptian Embassy and try to get the information from them. A tarot card reading might help as well 🙂
Tip: If you’re staying in Egypt for a longer period, I highly recommend renting a car. It’s an easy and inexpensive process (depending on the car it can be around 3500le per month, less than $200, and gas is cheap here). It will save you a lot of hassle and money on taxis and transfers. If you’re staying in Sharm each trip to the Nabq office will cost you at least 200le. I had to do 4 of those + 1 to National Security, and I was extremely pleased with the rental car. International driving licence is required!
Visa On Arrival Specifics, South Sinai
Arriving to South Sinai, chances are that you’re flying to Sharm el Sheikh International airport, where you can get a free 15-day visa only for South Sinai, or apply for a 1 month tourist visa valid for all of Egypt.
The 15-day free visa can not be extended and you cannot leave the region with it, so if you’re looking at staying longer, make sure you pay $25 for the 1 month visa. You can do that at any of the bank kiosks at the airport and they accept USD, EUR and GBP. If you don’t have exact amount your change will be in Egyptian pound, but the exchange rate won’t be the most favourable one, so at least try to have small bills 🙂
Note: If you’re crossing the Taba border by land, you can only get the free 15-day South Sinai stamp. There are some tour agents who can arrange a 1-month visa, but you’ll have to arrange all details with them in advance.
Alternatively, there is an eVisa Application Service available now, and you can apply for a visa before your trip. However, this service is quite new and I don’t have personal experience with it, but you can check out their website here: visa2egypt.gov.eg
Benefits of Tourist Resident Visa in Egypt
No matter how easy or complicated the visa extension process was for you, there’s good news – you’ve got benefits!
With a Tourist Resident Visa you can get discounts on entering National Parks, hotel accommodation and even some restaurants. This is not widely advertised, so just ask if you can get a resident discount and see what happens 🙂
I got a resident price to enter Ras Mohamed National park, which I’m absolutely in love with! In this post I explain why:
If you’ve already been though the extension process, please share your experience in the comments below. Maybe together we’ll manage to fit all the pieces of the puzzle 😀