Do I need a visa for Malawi?

Yes, as a traveler you need a visa for Malawi. But how does that work? Are there any special things to keep in mind? And what different types of visas are there for Malawi? In this blog, you’ll read how it works for holders of EU, UK and USA passports.

How much does a visa for Malawi cost?

Until 2020, it cost USD 75 per person to enter Malawi as a traveler. Fortunately, this has been reduced to USD 50, but it’s still a topic of conversation. The tourism industry (including ourselves!) thinks it should be completely free. Just like ”competing” holiday destinations such as South Africa and Botswana. If the Malawi government ever changes the amount again, we will of course communicate this with our followers. But it’s your own responsibility to always check this carefully before you travel. Keep in mind that government websites are unfortunately not always very accessible and can contain old or incomplete information.

A travel specialist, especially someone locally ‘on the ground’ like us, can always help you with reliable information.

According to some official information, you can pay for your visa by credit card. However, the system is often “offline”, so always bring cash with you. Preferably the exact amount and in post-2013 notes. Older notes are often not accepted in Malawi and other countries in the region.

50 US dollar note

In the bottom left corner of a USD 50 note, you can see from which year it is. This one from 2004 won’t be accepted in Malawi!

After payment of USD 50, you will receive a so-called single entry visa for Malawi. This means that you have to pay again when you leave the country (for example, when going on a trip to Zambia) and come back. When you have plans to do so more than once, you can also purchase a multiple entry visa for USD 150, which allows unlimited travel in and out of the country for six months. However, this doesn’t mean that you can also stay in the country for six months!

A multiple entry visa for twelve months is USD 250.

Difference between permit and visa for Malawi

Please note that in Malawi there is a real difference between a permit and a visa. Many people often just talk about visas in both cases, especially for tourists. The visa only determines whether you can enter the country or not. Your permit then determines how long you can stay in Malawi and what you can and cannot do here.

Our first challenge with immigration in Malawi

We made quite the mistake when we first arrived in Malawi. We thought we were being smart to buy a visa for six months right away, which was cheaper than a month for longer stays. Only later did we find out that this meant that we could travel in and out of the country without restrictions for six months, without having to pay for a visa over and over again. But our permit was just for the standard thirty days. And we only found out after more than forty days…

Passport with stamps of visa for Malawi

A passport full of different stamps can be quite confusing…

There was no other option than going to the immigration office in Lilongwe. There we had to wait, and wait, and wait. Eventually, we were called to one of the desks, where an officer gave us a stern look. Uncomfortably we explained that we were new to the country and had misinterpreted our visa for Malawi. The officer sighed very hard, but didn’t say a word. A typical moment you want to disappear into the ground. We were also unsure whether to wait politely or ask what to do about it. We did the latter, and after another loud sigh, the supervisor was called in.
He asked all kinds of questions about the exact reason of our stay in Malawi. In South Africa we were used to immigration officers who turned every answer around and against you anyway, so we got a little nervous about it.

Fortunately, Malawi is called the “Warm Heart of Africa” for a reason and we were nicely assisted. The questions were asked out of genuine interest and we received the extra stamps in our passport, even backdated.

Officially you get a fine of USD 125 for each day that you over-stayed in the country. We were very lucky and of course you could be too, but as always it’s better to be careful and avoid the risk!

By the way, we have learned that our polite and humble attitude has played a major role in getting assisted. We still occasionally hear stories from people rather arrogantly trying to force a solution. And then the immigration officers can make it all very difficult for you…

How long is your visa for Malawi valid?

As explained earlier, you can buy a multiple entry visa which is valid for six months. A single entry visa is valid for three months from the moment you receive it. Normally, you would use your visa immediately, because you can buy it at the border upon entry. It’s much more important to pay attention to the validity of your permit! At the border you’ll be asked why you came to Malawi. If you come on holiday, to visit family or friends, or volunteer for a short time, you will receive a Visitor’s Permit. This is valid for 30 days. If you want to stay longer, you can simply drop by one of the regional immigration offices. Here you can extend your Visitor’s Permit for up to two times with another 30 days, so that you can be in the country for a total of 90 days. Officially this costs MK 10,000 (approximately USD 13) per renewal. But Malawi wouldn’t be Malawi, if you aren’t sometimes lucky enough to get a discount or even pay nothing at all. Depending on the mood of the officer, so make sure to be very friendly!

Different types of permits

The purpose of your trip determines which type of permit you need for Malawi. These are the most important options:

  • Visitor’s Permit: holiday, family visit, short work visit, volunteer work
    Valid for 30 days, possible extension by two times 30 days
    Cost: first included in your visa, then MK 10,000 per extension
  • Temporary Residence Permit (TRP): holiday, family visit
    You can apply for the TRP as a follow-up to the 90 day Visitor’s Permit, but do this before it expires. The TRP is valid for six months and can be extended up to one time for another six months. Note that your TRP becomes invalid once you cross the border. In that case you must start over again with a new visa and a Visitor’s Permit.
    Cost: USD 100
  • Temporary Employment Permit (TEP): working visit, voluntary work, temporary work
    The TEP works exactly the same as the TRP, with the difference that you can work on a TEP in Malawi.
    Cost: USD 500, plus USD 100 processing fee
  • Employment Permit (EP): working under contract
    Before you come to Malawi, the EP should be applied for by the organization you will be working for. They must demonstrate that this job can’t be performed by a local. The EP is valid for two years and allows unlimited travel in and out of the country. Extending is possible.
    Cost: USD 2000 or USD 1000 if you start working for a non-profit organization, plus USD 100 processing fee
  • Business Residence Permit (BRP): owner of a business
    The BRP is for anyone who wants to live in Malawi, starts their own business and invests at least USD 50,000. It is valid for five years and has no travel restrictions.
    Cost: USD 7500, plus USD 100 processing fee
  • Permanent Residence Permit (PRP): permanent residence
    You can apply for the PRP after you have lived on TEP’s and / or BRP’s in Malawi for at least seven consecutive years (five years for residents of the Commonwealth). The PRP is lifelong, but you can’t live outside of Malawi for more than one consecutive year. With a PRP, you can basically do anything that someone with a Malawian passport is allowed to, except for voting.
    Cost: USD 10,000, plus USD 100 processing fee

E-visa for Malawi

Officially, you should apply for your visa before coming to Malawi. Unfortunately, this e-visa system doesn’t work that well yet. When you visit the website you often get an error or a warning regarding security. If you are able to enter all your details, the website often crashes when going to the payment section. We’ve even heard of people who could pay, but never received confirmation or any kind of proof. Yet, since November 2021 it’s no longer possible to obtain your visa at the land borders. And it seems to be getting more and more difficult at the airport…

At least the government also realizes they still have a lot to do to improve this process. And people in the tourism industry keep pushing for it to work properly.

For now, we do recommend to apply for your e-visa for Malawi using this website. This should take 3-5 working days, but it’s best to apply in time and not risk it. After approval, you get 90 days to enter Malawi on this visa. You’ll also need an ‘invitation letter’ now. When booking with us, we’ll take care of that for you!

Dilo and Hessel at Lake Malawi, Happy Beach

It may sound complicated, but getting your permits and visa for Malawi really isn’t that bad. And we are always here for you to help. See you in Malawi!

Would you like to check whether all the information you have is still up to date? Don’t be shy and contact us with no strings attached.
We also like to email or call you about planning your trip. Videocalls are also nice, so we get to know each other even better!

28/02/2021

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