New Update and Summary:
- Myanmar Visas in the USA now only take 4 business days (It used to be of 3 Months).
- See Religious Visa application for USA Embassy: http://www.mewashingtondc.org/sites/default/files/pdf/visa/Religious-Visa-Forms.pdf
- Visa cost is $50 valid for 3 months (arrive before 3 months) and stay permit of 70 days
- Sponsor letter, Payment, application form, work history, and passport are needed.
- Verify all of this at the Myanmar Embassy in DC at +1 202-238-9332
What Is a Meditation Visa?
Many people are not aware that there is a thing called a Meditation or Religious visa. This visa is renewable and allows one to stay for longer than the 30 days a tourist visa allows. Tourist visas are not renewable. 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. The rest are third party sites trying to make money off of your ignorance. If you Google Myanmar Visa, you will get lost by all of the advertisement that pay Google to pop up first. If you forget the link or this post, remember to Google Myanmar Embassy. Google will hopefully automatically know your location and pick the right one for you.
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 for US Residents at this location and the Myanmar Embassy’s website for visas is located here
What is needed?
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 tell them you want to start with 3 months and see how it goes. Then you can speak with them about renewals once you are there. Include your mailing address, and don’t give a biography. Be very brief and use very basic English. One 3 or 4 line 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. 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 no more tricks needed to get a visa and the Embassy will approve a qualified visa within 4 business days. It used to take 3 months. You can and should call the embassy at (202) 332 3344, (202) 332 4350 and verify this. When you send the application, work history form, sponsor letter, payment and passport, you should surely have tracking and insurance on your passport when you send it.
The other trick was to go to an Asian country and apply there. It takes about 3 business days in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. This is no longer needed, but you can still do that if you have an unsure schedule.
Stay Permit and Visa
A visa is “Permission to fly and see the immigration officer at Myanmar Airport.” Your visa is valid for 3 months which means you should arrive in Myanmar within 3 months after the issue date.
A Stay Permit is permission to stay in the country. This is often confused with the word visa. A stay permit is issued in the airport (if it is your first arrival) and gives you a permit to stay in the country for x number of days. A Meditation/Religious visa should be 70 days and you should request that after saying “Hello or Mingalar Bar” to the immigration agent. The number of days issued in stay permits have varied, so please request it when handing over your passport. Visa renewals take a minimum of 3 weeks, but usually 5 weeks. If you do it with a monastery helper, it could take 8 weeks (they save up requests until it is worth a trip)
You should call the respective embassy to verify this first before arranging your travel to Myanmar accordingly. If you have the payment, 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. Round trip tickets are less than $80
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 meditation/religious visa will cost $50. It is valid for 3 months and the stay permit is for 70 days.
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.
This has been posted again because of the new updates regarding a 4 day approval time.
2 thoughts on “Meditation or Religious Visas”
Bhante, can one stay indefinitely with the Gratis Visa? Assuming that one’s passport expires and one loses one’s citizenship.
One needs to renew passports and get proper.visas. if they are gratis, that is good. Sometimes not gratis. Some countries have limits. I only know Thailand, Sri Lanka and Myanmar visa systems..
Thailand has a 10 year limit but that too can be overcome if you have connections. The others have no limits from what I know. You do need a sponsor and you must abide by the sponsor’s rules. If you don’t, the sponsoring monastery won’t renew your visa.