Some countries such as the Maldives grant free visas on arrival. What's the point? Why not grant entries without a visa, as for example Singapore or Hong Kong are doing for citizens of many countries such as France?

  • 8
    Honestly, even the paid visa-on-arrivals are a completely mystery to me. I can't imagine them making that much profit for the country compared to the amount of tourism it discourages...
    – JonathanReez
    Dec 14, 2023 at 23:17
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    Most likely reciprocity. But to get the full answer you'd need to reach out to the government of that country.
    – littleadv
    Dec 14, 2023 at 23:29
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    @littleadv see en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_requirements_for_French_citizens reciprocity column for the Maldives. The free visa on arrival is not reciprocal. Dec 14, 2023 at 23:41
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    @FranckDernoncourt But it is still a reciprocal visa requirement. "France requires it of us, so we'll require it of them"
    – Midavalo
    Dec 14, 2023 at 23:53
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    Do you have to fill a form? if so, then that's the point of the visa, the data! It gives them better control, especially if some dude disappeared and his embassy started to bother the local authorities, usually the visa form will be fetched, and the tourist can be located. Dec 15, 2023 at 2:18

3 Answers 3


Maldives are a small country that doesn't have the capacity to support a full visa issuance process through diplomatic posts abroad. It doesn't want to either. But due to the general reciprocity principle, Maldives require visas from people holding passports of countries that require visas for Maldivian citizens. France is one such country.

To make it easy and seamless, since they don't really care, it's a free visa on arrival. But to support the reciprocity principle, you still need a visa.

Not every country follows the reciprocity principle, and some countries don't require visas for passport holders of countries which do. For example, a lot of countries don't require visas for US passports even though US require visas for theirs. This is mostly due to the disproportional impact of such requirements.

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    But why the reciprocity rule? Just for the sake of principle? It just adds unnecessary hassle and paperwork, both for visitors and officials.
    – Trang Oul
    Dec 15, 2023 at 10:54
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    @TrangOul, obviously a "reciprocity rule" is there to motivate equal (i.e. better) treatment from the other party. If the other country doesn't want to make things easy on your citizens why would you make it easy on them.
    – Kvothe
    Dec 15, 2023 at 13:16
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    @TrangOul Lots of international politics boils down to matters of principle. My favourite example of "principles are important" is the relationship between Switzerland and the mini-state of Liechtenstein. There have been multiple recorded "invasions" by Switzerland, consisting of a handful of Swiss recruits getting lost in the woods. They get offered drinks and directions home by the locals. But it's still an "official incident".
    – xLeitix
    Dec 16, 2023 at 18:35
  • @xLeitix At least there's no principle of reciprocity for invasions :-)
    – Bergi
    Dec 17, 2023 at 23:33
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    @Bergi The USA sort of has one. It promises to invade any country which tries to try it for war crimes. Dec 18, 2023 at 5:29

Each country may of course have their own reasons to offer a free visa on arrival. Another possible reason I can think of is that it in some countries may be a tedious and lengthy legal process to lift visa requirements, while moving the place of issuance and changing the visa fee may be a simple administrative act.

If country A requires a visa for visitors from country B, but e.g. wants to encourage tourism (which is probably the case for the Maldives), it is not unlikely that actually lifting the visa requirement is a process, which after thorough analysis must go through several political instances before the legislation can be changed. To allow such a change to pass legislation, it is perhaps not enough to assume that increased travel from country B does not pose a risk, but the advantages and disadvantages of such a change must be put against eachother based on substantiated facts. Moving the place of issuance from the foreign embassy to a local border checkpoint and reducing the fee to 0 may however be something a ministry may decide during a coffee break. For all practical purposes, the goal has been achieved. Citizens from B can now de facto travel to A as if they did not need a visa, but country B has saved a lot of bureaucratic overhead.

  • 1
    Good answer, but "decide during a coffee break" seems a bit exaggerated :)
    – gerrit
    Dec 15, 2023 at 10:30
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    And likewise, it may make things easier for them if they suddenly want/need to change the rule and make visitors pay a fee or require a visa in advance (or nowadays, more likely some sort of e-Visa).
    – jcaron
    Dec 15, 2023 at 13:23

It may be a way to institute mandatory registration. "Entry without a visa" could be reasonably interpreted as meaning one could bypass the government booth. They can usually physically stop that, but it's nice to have an unambiguous legal mandate, also presumably a few people may come by boats other than big cruisers.

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    That doesn’t make much sense given that visa free countries are ubiquitous and don’t have this problem.
    – JonathanReez
    Dec 15, 2023 at 19:38
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    This is wrong on so many levels. 'Entry without visa' does nowhere entitle you to bypass immigration checkpoints and there are plenty of countries where all foreign visitors are registered, wether they are visiting with a visa or are travelling visa free. Dec 15, 2023 at 21:48
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    To put this another way "A visa can be revoked" meaning that one has no further permission to be in the country, and that fact of revocation will be logged on your permanent record.
    – Criggie
    Dec 17, 2023 at 20:47

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