PETALING JAYA: The Home Ministry, responding to social media messages about an influx of tourists from China, said today that an online entry application for India and China nationals had been in practice since 2016.
In a statement, the ministry said a gazette notification on Thursday about the visa exemption was a yearly procedure since the initiative was introduced in January 2016, when the government tabled amendments to the federal budget.
Under the ministerial order, tourists from China and India are exempted from applying for a visa if they use the Electronic Travel Registration and Information (eNTRI) system, for a visit of 15 days.
“The main objective of the implementation of the initiative is to strengthen the tourism industry by providing visa-free facilities to tourists,” the statement said.
The eNTRI initiative was initially introduced for tourists from China, but was extended to India in April 2017. Although the visitors were exempted from having a visa, they must still provide complete information when they register with the eNTRI system.
“This is one of the ways that the government, through the Immigration Department, monitors and verifies the tourists who use this visa-free facility“ which was an improvement from the earlier Visa On Arrival system.
The tourists would still be subject to immigration rules and procedures and were subject to surveillance at the border entry point.
A ministerial order on the visa exemption was gazetted on Thursday and images of the gazetted order were widely shared on social media, with comments about an influx of China nationals, and the number of China nationals overstaying in Malaysia.
Tourism Malaysia hopes for 7% increase in arrivals
Chinese and Indian tourist arrivals are expected to increase by about 7% in conjunction with Visit Malaysia 2020 and the 15-day visa exemption, according to Tourism Malaysia director-general Musa Yusof.
He said China and India were the biggest markets for Malaysian tourism. Approximately 3.26 million Chinese tourists and 683,000 Indian tourists are believed to have visited the country this year.
Musa said 2.41 million visitors from China and 539,167 Indian visitors were recorded for the January to September period this year. Chinese tourist arrivals were up by 5.7% over the same period last year, while Indian tourist numbers shot up by 23.2%.