Egyptian Immigration Requirements
What you need to come to Egypt:
Whether you are coming to Egypt for work, tourism or studies, you will need a visa and you will require a valid passport with at least 6 months remaining before expiry.
Most students, when coming to Egypt for the first time, tend to put their purpose of visit as ‘ Tourism’ rather than ‘Study’ as they are not enrolling in a university or a higher-education institution and while on their trip they intend to do a bit of sight-seeing. Egyptian authorities understand this and it is not really a problem to put tourism rather than study, however if you plan to stay for a few years in Egypt e.g. studying in Al-Azhar university or the like, then stating that you’re here to study may be the best option.
So if you are coming to Egypt as a tourist you will be able to purchase a visa upon your arrival at the airport (or any other major port of entry).
If you are coming to Egypt to work or study, the process may be significantly more complicated. The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides updated information regarding visas and permits on its web portal . Note that the Ministry often uses “tourist visa” and “entry visa” interchangeably. In practical terms, they are the same thing.
Tourist Visas/Initial Entry visas
In the arrival hall at the airport, head to any bank (you will find at least 3) and buy a visa from the bank clerk. The visa is a single blue-coloured sticker.
Then take your visa from the bank clerk and stick it on the first empty page in your passport. Now, fill your arrival card. You should have received this from a flight attendant prior to landing. If you did not get one, don’t worry, you can find one in the arrival hall. You must ensure that you complete all fields on the arrival card IN CAPITAL LETTERS. Now you can join the queue for passport control. If you are arriving in a group of 2 or more, it is a good idea for one person to buy the visas for everyone, while the others hold his or her place in the passport control queue.
Cost: $15 or the equivalent in € (Euros) or £10.
Duration: This Visa will last for 1 month and you have this month and an extra 2 week allowance on top (so you have the initial 30 days plus 14 days which means within 44 days you either need to renew your visa or leave the country).
Multiple Entry Visa: These must be obtained in your home country prior to arrival.
Please note that this information applies to all Egyptian airports, like Cairo International airport, Luxor Airport, Aswan Airport and so on, except that in Sharm El Sheikh International airport you may not need to get a visa ONLY if you are staying just in Sharm or the coast of Aqaba gulf , but getting out of these areas will require that you should get a visa, this is in case you may like to go to Cairo or any other place in Egypt or Sinai.
Tourist visas are only valid for a single entry. That is to say, if you leave Egypt to visit another country and then return, you will have to purchase a new entry visa. This will, however, reset the 30 day count.
Fortunately, if you plan on staying in Egypt for an extended period of time you may renew this initial entry visa as a 6-month temporary residence visa (for touristic purposes). This type of tourist visa is also renewable.
Citizens of the following countries are should have a pre-arrival visa:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chechnya, Croatia, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Lebanon, Macao, Macedonia, Malaysia, Moldavia, Montenegro, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, The Philippines, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Sri-Lanka, Tadzhikstan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and all African countries.
How to renew your visa
After your initial entry visa expires you’ll need to re-apply for a new one from the Mugamma in Tahrir Square
What to do
- Foreigners go up to the first floor, turn right and proceed straight down the corridor ahead. Take note of the Polaroid kiosk in the lobby on your way in; you may need to return later for photographs or to photocopy documents. The visa and immigration area is essentially structured as a long series of numbered windows, labelled in both English and Arabic.
- Before window 12 you’ll find a pile of forms similar to the picture below, not an exact copy. Pick one up, fill it out and then buy stamps from window 43- costing roughly 11.5LE for a 6 month tourism extension- before returning to window 12 and submitting your form with the stamps, one photograph, and photocopies of the photo and visa pages of your passport (photos and photocopies can be organised on the ground floor as mentioned before).
- The visa extension will usually be processed within 2 hours and sometimes overnight, being available for collection from 9am the next day.
Most staff speak some English, and they will be more than happy to give you directions. However some of the staff are very unhelpful at times-you would be too if you had to sit in this big ugly grey building all day- and so you’ll have to plaster a fake smile on your face and use you ‘low sa maht’ (please) a lot.
The Visa form will look something like this
You should know from the outset that Egypt’s administrative bureaucracy is notoriously inefficient. The Mugamma does not have any computerized records so if you require anything other than a tourist visa, patience will likely be of paramount importance throughout the process. Take this opportunity to learn your first words of Egyptian Arabic: bukra insha’allah (tomorrow, god-willing), words you’ll hear over and over when asking officials when your visa, permit or paperwork will be ready.
Resign yourself to the wait and inevitable frustration and do your best to enjoy the ride.
If you only have two names on your passport e.g. ‘Bob Ahmed’ then you may face some problems renewing your passport. This is rare, however due to the randomness of the administrators’ requests at the Mugamma it has been a noted problem by students in Egypt. To be on the safe side bring a photocopy of your birth certificate and so they can read your father’s name-don’t ask me why.
This guide outlines visas and permits according to official procedures. Once you are on the ground in Egypt, you may be surprised to find your fellow students flaunting the rules.
Due to the inefficiency rampant in most administrative offices, it is highly unlikely that anyone from the Egyptian government will ever follow up on your visa status (unless you are foolish enough to get yourself arrested). If you overstay your tourist visa by several months you may pay a fine and renew it for a near indefinite period of time. If you leave the country on an expired tourist visa you may pay a fine and continue on your way.
Please note if you’re late you have to pay a minimum of 150LE/£150 fine for a late visa application and wait a day to get your passport back. This will be a lot more hassle then getting your visa within time so please do it as soon as you can and save yourself the hassle. You can pay the fine at the airport, however there are stories of airport employees trying to get more than 150LE from you for their own personal gain. Play it safe and go to Mugamma within the 44 day limit.
There is apparently a new law (I say apparently because one official will say one thing is a law and another will say another) that says that if you are a renewing your visa for the first time and you’re a resident in Nasr City (Medinat Nasr) then instead of going to Mugamma you are required to go the local police station (qismul- shurtah) on Abbas al Aqad Street (pronounced Abbas al aad in the Egyptian dialect). The process can be a little tedious as you need to arrive there very early in the morning and write your name on a list. As soon as the list is full no one will be dealt with that day and so if you come late you have no chance of getting your visa. You then need to wait, and wait, and wait, and then you’ll hand in your passport and fill out any paperwork (make sure to have your rental contract with you because sometimes they ask for it) and then wait some more until your name is called. The whole process can take up to 7 hours so be patient. However a lot of first time students still go to Mugamma and have no problems getting their visa- this is purely based on the whims of the sometimes aggravated employees dealing with your visa.
Sources include personal experiences, www.justlanded.com among others.