The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional intergovernmental organization of Southeast Asian countries. The organization was created in order to promote common interests among members and other Asian states, including shared security concerns. The 10 ASEAN members have long considered a common visa system, and now the ASEAN visa agreement is closer to becoming a reality.
A shared Asia visa would function similarly to the ETIAS visa in Europe and allow access to all the member states on the same travel document. The ASEAN member states are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.
One of the principal reasons for introducing the visa for Southeast Asia is to combat the rise of terrorism in the region.
Is Terrorism in Southeast Asia a Big Problem?
The threat of terrorism is not something new to the region, but there has been increased terrorist activity in Southeast Asia in recent years. Countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines are especially susceptible to terrorism because of the discord between opposing religious demographics. Many terrorist groups in these countries are extremist Islamist organizations who target opposing religious populations.
The rising activity of local extremist groups is further exacerbated by the influence of foreign terror organizations such as ISIS. For example, in 2018 ISIS claimed responsibility for the devastating bombings of Christian churches in Subraya, Indonesia and has encouraged or instigated other attacks in the region. The presence of ISIS is growing in Southeast Asia as the terror group continues to lose ground in the Middle East and looks to operate in new territories.
In 2017 ISIS-linked local insurgents were able to occupy the Muslim-majority city of Marawi in the Philippines, in what became known as the Battle of Marawi. The bloody conflict stretched on for over 5 months and ultimately claimed over 1,200 casualties, including a number of foreign ISIS fighters from India, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia. After the occupation was quashed, the Philippine government announced the construction of a 10-hectare military base to be built in the city, in order to prevent future terrorist takeovers.
Curbing terrorism with the ASEAN Visa
As ISIS-directed or ISIS-inspired terror attacks continue to increase, the governments of the ASEAN visa countries have signed an agreement that collective preventative measures must be taken to tighten free travel. The ASEAN visa may just be the solution and is being fast-tracked in response to the increasing security concerns.
Steps have already been taken to increase border control by sharing security information and implementing travel restrictions, with assistance from Interpol. The international security organization has already assisted ASEAN member states in training for border management and in the implementation of their secure global communication system in many of the main transit centers in the region.
Interpol has also launched a number of anti-terrorism operations in the region, including Project Watchmaker, which aimed “to identify and track known or suspected individuals involved in the manufacture or use of explosives”. As part of the initiative, more than 35,000 passengers and 270, 000 items were checked across Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The information collected was then uploaded to a shared database that allows the detection of such bomb-makers at international borders.
The implementation of the ASEAN visa will allow the further development of these security measures against terrorism.
How to get the ASEAN visa
Currently, all of the ASEAN countries each have their own visa requirements and policies, but each country requires a valid passport for entry at the least. Beyond this, entry for short periods of time will depend on the specific ASEAN country as well as the nationality of the traveler.
Once the parameters of the shared Asian visa have been finalized and the visa has come into effect, citizens of eligible countries will be able to complete an online visa application. In order to do so, applicants will have to comply with the ASEAN visa requirements and will require a valid passport as well as a credit or debit card to pay the online fee.
The online application form will ask travelers to fill out the basic data from the information page of their passport, such as name, address, date of birth and country of birth. Information travel plans and other security questions may also be asked.
Upon completing the ASEAN visa application, the applicant must provide a current email address to which the visa will be sent. It’s important to double check the email, as well as all other information entered on the form, as errors can lead to the loss, delay or rejection of the visa. If successfully approved, the applicant should receive the approved ASEAN visa in their inbox.
If you’re planning to travel to Southeast Asia in the near future, don’t forget to check the visa requirements and look into the ASEAN visa before you go!