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Explaining Myanmar's Immigration Program

Myanmar is mostly known as a country that produces immigrants, not a place people move into. However, that is changing as more and more foreigners choose to live and work there.

For those adventurous enough to try it, Myanmar offers a beautiful location and a low cost of living. Here’s what people need to know to go there today!

What Does it Mean to Immigrate to Myanmar?

People who decide to immigrate are usually willing to leave their entire life behind and take it anew in another country. This takes incredible courage and willpower.

Making a life anew is not easy. It means learning new languages, learning a different culture, and doing a number of other things that might be difficult and might change a person forever.

It also means changing practical things, like getting a bank account in another country, moving their mobile service to that country, and more.

Some people may try living in another country before they decide to immigrate. They will usually get a long-term visa and move, then see if they like the life they get to live there.

Many of these people will eventually move back home, but some will choose to reside in their new country for the rest of their lives.

Why Do People Immigrate?

People immigrate, both in general and to Myanmar, for a wide variety of reasons. They might choose to do so, for instance, because they feel unsafe at home.

People from countries where there is a lot of war and conflict may find that immigration is their best option for staying safe and keeping their family safe, too.

They may also choose to move because they think there’s a better life for them somewhere else. They may not be in danger at home, but they may not be able to improve their lot, either.

Many of these people want to get better jobs and send their children to better schools than the ones they can find at home. They will move so the future will be better than the past. 

Others move because they get a job they want to work somewhere or because they want to go to school somerher. When they get the opportunity, they take it! 

Some people move to countries like Myanmar to do humanitarian work. They may choose to work with the Rohinga people, who have been persecuted. 

Others might choose to do more general humanitarian work in Myanmar. They might help people get the clothes and food they need, for instance, so they have more freedom and more choices.

Many people move to countries like Myanmar for the adventure of it. They want to live and work somewhere where there aren’t many other people like them. 

They might also want to do some adventure travel in the jungles of Myanmar or live and work on an inexpensive beach in the country.

Long Term Visits vs. Myanmar Immigration

Some people choose to take long-term visits to Myanmar rather than to immigrate fully, at least as their first step toward moving there.  

This gives them a chance to see if they like the culture and if they can successfully work from Myanmar. It also gives them the chance to see if they can find a place to live and friends. 

Long term visits can be a good place to start, especially because it can be harder to get permission to live permanently in Myanmar the first time a person applies. 

Most will find it easier, both with the government and for themselves, if they choose to try a long term visit and see if it turns into something more.

How to Immigrate to Myanmar

Most people enter Myanmar on a temporary visa. These are good for a certain amount of time and can be extended if necessary.

People who are traveling as tourists, to make a social visit, who are journalists or crew on an airline, or who are attending a seminar or workshop can stay for up to 28 days.

People entering the country on business, who are working there, visiting for religious reasons, or attending any sort of educational program can enter for up to 70 days.

Tourist visas cannot usually be extended, but all other types of visas may be eligible for extension based on the person’s need or reason for wanting to stay.

Those who want to stay will need to apply through the Immigration Services Office in Myanmar. They will be told what documentation they need in order to remain in the country. 

This is also the office that issues Stay Permits (for people who need to be in the country longer) and Multiple Journey Special Re Entry Visas, as discussed below.

The method of application depends on the traveler’s country of origin, the type of visa they want, and where they are planning to enter Myanmar. 

Myanmar does offer some visas online, or certain ports of entry offer a Visa on Arrival. Travelers need to make sure they are eligible for the type of visa they want to get before they apply.

Travelers who cannot get the visa they need online or on arrival will need to apply through a Myanmar embassy or consulate before they travel.

Some visas require extra documentation and an in-person appointment. The embassy or consulate should notify travelers of what they need so they can get their visa. 

Processing time for a visa depends on the type of visa and the method of application.

Some online applications may be processed in as little as three days.

It can take up to two weeks or more to process visas applied for via at an embassy or consulate. Travelers should plan ahead to deal with these waiting periods. 

Most work visas require documentation from the company the person will be working for. This must accompany the visa application or it cannot be processed.

Once a person is in Myanmar, they can apply for permanent residence after a period of time. That period is subject to change as Myanmar is still developing its imimgration law.

Interested parties can ask at the Ministry of Immigration and Population. They can also get information about citizenship here.

Is it Difficult to Immigrate to Myanmar?

It’s generally not too difficult to get a visa to Myanmar to visit. However, getting a long-term visa can be harder.

To get one of these, most people will need to prove that they have a reason to stay in Myanmar. This can be through school, work, starting a business, investing, and more.

In addition, people who can prove that they have an income above a certain amount will find it easier to stay in Myanmar. The exact amounts subject to change.

Legal Residents vs. Citizens in Myanmar

Legal long-term residents have basic rights in Myanmar, but these are not the same as those of a citizen. However, most people will not notice a huge day to day difference between the two. 

Long-term residents have a right to safety and a right to be supported by the police when they need it. They also have a right to access their embassy or consulate at any time. 

Long-term residents may find it harder to own property, get bank loans, and perform other financial transactions in Myanmar. However, they should be able to rent a home without issues.

People who need to stay in Myanmar long-term will need to apply for a Stay Permit. These are usually reserved for people with business or work visas who need to be there beyond 90 days.

Stay permits are valid between 90 days and 1 year, depending on the applicant’s needs. These will need to be proven at the time of application. 

They only allow a single entry, though, so most people also apply for a Multiple Journey Special Re Entry Visa. This allows the person to come and go from Myanmar as needed.

Most people apply for these through the Ministry of Immigration and Population in Myanmar, though there is a new online system that some have had success utilizing.

People who want to stay in Myanmar for a long time usually choose to pursue permanent residency eventually.

Refugees in Myanmar

Myanmar is mostly known for producing refugees who flee to other countries, not for taking them in. In fact, the country has had so much crisis that the UN does not send refugees there.

Undocumented Residents in Myanmar

While it’s likely that there are undocumented residents in Myanmar, their extent is unknown. Most of these people are under the radar.

They manage to stay that way because political unrest in Myanmar means that no one is looking for them. They can usually live and work without many problems in the country.

What is Life Like as an Immigrant in Myanmar

Because of political unrest and instability, Myanmar has not developed as fast as the countries around it. This has preserved more of its culture but can make it harder for expats . 

Foreigners cannot own land in Myanmar, though they can easily start businesses. However, they may be required to include or work with locals to have an official business. 

In Myanmar, culture, including in business, is focused on hierarchy and on not losing face. These values are different from what many expats experience at home. 

This comes up in a number of ways but is particularly visible at work. Managers expect trust and don’t ask for feedback the way they do in many other countries.

However, work does not define people the way it can in western countries. In Myanmar, people are much more interested in who someone is outside of and beyond their job.

Myanmar is also a conserative country. People tend to cover their bodies more than westerners might expect them to and they may be quieter and more deferential. 

However, most expats don’t feel like they are looked down on or targeted for being foreigners in Myanmar. They tend to feel welcomed and safe, even if they have to pay more for some things. 

This is common in countries near Myanmar. Many offer discounts to cultural attractions to citizens but ask foreigners to pay when they want to enter or participate.

Myanmar is not always politically stable, but the unrest often doesn’t touch foreigners. The people may fight among themselves but they won’t target people from outside the country.

Who is Immigrating to Myanmar

Myanmar does not have a huge number of immigrants at this time. There are a few who come from surrounding countries, though it’s more common for people from Myanmar to leave home. 

Western expats are more and more interested in Myanmar. These are usually people who get a job there, start a business there, or who can work remotely for companies at home.

These are usually adventurous people who want to do something that is uncommon. They may love getting to know other cultures or simply like trying all sorts of new things. 

People in Myanmar are usually happy to help foreigners get to know their country and their culture.

Expats or travelers who want to move to Myanmar can apply for a visa whenever they are ready to travel. Once they get it, they can make their move to Myanmar and enjoy the country.

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