Many people are not aware that there is a thing called a Meditation visa. If you would like to meditate for more than 30 days, a meditation visa is the way to go. Otherwise, a tourist e-visa is more appropriate. Follow the link here for a tourist e-visa and don’t go to any other place.
A meditation visa is actually a religious visa but they used to be called meditation visas. The embassy in Australia still calls them as such at this link here. The form will tell you to get a sponsor letter at a meditation center, hence the name. You can download the Religious Visa form at this location and the Myanmar Embassy’s website for visas is located here
To get a meditation visa, you need a sponsor letter from the meditation center. This is usually quite easy to get by finding out the email address of the meditation center you are interested in and telling them that you are interested in visiting for the purpose of meditation for x amount of months. If you wish to stay longer than 3 months, do not say this in your letter. Just start with 3 months and see how it goes. Then you can speak with them about renewals. Include your mailing address, and don’t give a biography. Be very brief and use very basic English. One paragraph will do the trick. You will find a return email shortly in your inbox. If you don’t, you should send another email and remind them who you are. The more famous the monastery, the likelihood that a sponsor letter is already signed and ready to send to you.
Once you get this sponsor letter, you can start the application process. There are several tricks though. The Myanmar Embassy in the USA will take 3 months to fulfill your visa! Do you want them to have your passport for 3 months? You can call the embassy at (202) 332 3344, (202) 332 4350 and tell them you want to do the two step plan. This is where you send the application, but NOT your passport. They will inform you when all of the lengthy processes have been finished and then you can send your passport to them and it will be finished two weeks later. The total time will still be 3 months, but you won’t have to part with your passport for 3 months. You should surely have tracking and insurance on your passport when you send it.
The other trick is to go to an Asian country and apply there. It takes about 3 business days in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. You should call the respective embassy to verify this first before arranging your travel to Myanmar accordingly. If you have the cash, letter and other particulars, it is pretty much a “sure thing”
Another option is to go to the meditation center on a tourist visa, see if you like the place and then grab a sponsor letter and do a visa run in Thailand.
The visas have recently gotten more expensive. Not long ago, your visa expense was $100 per year and you could apply for a one year visa renewal immediately upon your arrival. Now you will need to build up to a year incrementally by getting a 3 month visa, 6 month renewal visa and then a yearly renewal. The yearly renewals are $200 per year plus a mandatory FRC fee which is $10 per year (if it didn’t go up already too). After some time, you can apply for a gratis visa if you are a monk or nun. Gratis visas do not need an FRC renewal. Your first visa will cost $50. It is valid for 3 months and the stay permit is for 70 days. What does that mean? A visa is permission to fly to the country and so that means you should travel to Myanmar within 3 months of its issue date. The stay permit means that you may enter into the country and stay for a number of days. In this case, you may stay for 70 days. Always be sure to mention the amount of days, and try to ask for 90 days at the immigration counter. A renewal process takes about 5 weeks, but some meditation centers like Pa-Auk take up to 10 weeks. You should inquire about a renewal immediately upon your arrival.
Pa-Auk Meditation Centers allows yogis to stay for long periods of time if one is following the meditation schedule and regularly going to interviews. However, start off with 3 months and talk about renewals later. Best of luck! There are no required donations and costs are handled by those who have strong faith and want to support the monastery. If you are going to stay for a couple of years, $2,000 should be enough to cover most or all of your day to day expenses. Credit Card and Bank Machines and Western Union work in Myanmar. The food and lodging are usually provided by the meditation center and many of them have an in-house medical clinic for the monks, nuns and sometimes for the lay yogis.
After some time, one can request to become a monk or nun. In Myanmar, it is quite easy to do with minimal waiting times compared to other traditions in other countries. Best of luck! Leave a comment about your experience.