Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sri Lanka as a Viable Retirement Haven - Part 2

Eva Stone photo, view of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, from Kandalama
Welcome back to Part 2 of my blog post on "Sri Lanka as a Viable Retirement Haven". In Part 1 we took a glimpse at the idea of retirement, early retirement and sea-change; retirement considerations; retirement abroad; and an idea of taking a test drive of Sri Lanka as an option.  In this installment I'll delve into more detail on some of the main considerations  for retirement in Sri Lanka. Hopefully, this will offer some insight if you're interested in retiring here.

Some of the areas I'll cover in this installment include - visa entry options, medical insurance and healthcare services.

Visa Entry Options

A big part of being able to retire abroad is about visa options for a foreign national. At the time of writing, Sri Lanka still offers a retirement visa called "My Dream Home Visa Programme", which is valid for two year and renewable. This is similar to other countries (though with different conditions) - like Australia's "Investor retirement visa" or Malaysia's "Malaysia My Second Home Programme" or Peru's "Rentista visa" to name a few.

The eligibility requirements are:
  1. Must be over 55 years of age
  2. (a) Remit US$15,000 or the equivalent in an approved foreign currency and deposit them in a fixed deposit account in an approved any bank in Sri Lanka.
    (b) Deposit monthly US$ 1500 or the equivalent in an approved foreign currency for the principal applicant and US$ 750 or the equivalent in an approved foreign currency for each spouse and dependent child* for their upkeep (if accompanied by spouse/children) in a savings or current account in an approved any bank in Sri Lanka. 
 * under 18 years of age

The following documents need to be submitted with the application:
  • A completed Residence Visa Form (available to download online or from the Visa Division of DIE)
  • 2-passport size photographs
  • A certified copy of Passport/ Travel document
  • A certified copy of latest Bank Statement(s) or other related financial documents to support financial capacity for stay in Sri Lanka
  • Proof of source of income (Pension / Superannuation) for monthly remittance of US$1,500 for principal applicant and US$750 for each dependent
  • Police clearance certificate not later than 6 months from country of domicile
  • Marriage certificate if applying for Residence Visa for spouse

 Terms and conditions applicable for the My Dream Home Visa Programme:
  • Medical insurance policy that is valid in Sri Lanka
  • Refrain from involvement in any type of criminal activities
  • Refrain from involvement in any type of political activities in Sri Lanka and not participate in any activities that can be considered as sensitive to the local people and a threat to the security of the country
  • No paid or unpaid employment while staying in Sri Lanka
  • Applicants are bound by the rules and regulations of taxes of Sri Lanka and liable to pay relevant taxes
  • Every applicant is expected to submit with half-year bank statement related to the fixed deposit and savings account to the Controller (Visa) of the Department of Immigration Emigration
  • Must inform the Controller (Visa) of the Department of Immigration Emigration of any changes in visa status or if personal information changes
  • Applicants under this scheme may withdraw their entire fixed deposit anytime should they decide to terminate their stay in Sri Lanka. However, prior approval from the Controller of Exchange in Sri Lanka through the Controller General of Immigration Emigration must be obtained to withdraw funds. 
  • Interest earned from their fixed deposit can be withdrawn and spent for the applicant's upkeep

Visa fees and taxes are currently set at Rs20,000 for the applicant, spouse and any dependent children over the age of 16. There is also an application fee of US$150 for the main applicant.

I've spoken to a few people on the My Dream Home Visa and they have had no issues with renewing this visa after the initial two-year period.

There are other ways of entering Sri Lanka besides the My Dream Home Visa programme, such as Residence Visa (there are seven categories available) and the Residence Guest Scheme.

The Resident Guest Scheme is a part of a package of incentives for prospective foreign investors and professionals who would contribute to the economic and socio-cultural development of the country.

For further information and updates on visas for Sri Lanka, please go to the Department of Immigration and Emigration Sri Lanka website.

Medical Insurance

As a requirement under the My Dream Home Visa programme, you will need to have obtained a medical insurance policy that is valid in Sri Lanka.

I've previously answered questions about expat medical insurance for Sri Lanka in Eva's Mailbox: Miscellaneous Correspondence from Near and Far #2 indicating it is possible to obtain medical or health insurance via a local insurance provider (eg. Sri Lanka Insurance, Asian Alliance, Ceylinco InsuranceCeylinco Life, Allianz Insurance, Janashakthi Insurance, Union Assurance, AIG, AIAAmana Takaful etc...). This will probably work out cheaper than if you were to obtain international health insurance from your country of residence.

However, it's good to review the types of comprehensive insurance policies on offer, what is covered, what private hospitals are included, ancillary benefits and if they suit your personal requirements given your age, health and other factors.

Healthcare Services

Public healthcare is almost completely free in Sri Lanka with approximately 2.9% of GDP spent on the healthcare sector. According to the Ministry of Health, Western, Ayurvedic, Unani, Siddha, Accupuncture and Homeopathy systems of medicine are practiced in Sri Lanka. Western Medicine is the main sector catering to the health needs of the majority of the population. The public sector comprises Western and Ayurvedic systems, while the private sector consists of practitioners in all types of medicine.

Sri Lanka’s public healthcare system boasts skilled and highly trained medical doctors and specialists
with education and training that follows the UK’s system. It has a good network of
hospitals spread throughout the country. The downside of the public health system is primarily around limited access and long waiting times for specialist treatment and advanced procedures.  The private sector steps in to close this gap but requires upfront payment for services.

A condition of the My Dream Home Visa Programme is to have taken out valid medical or health insurance in Sri Lanka. Note - you will be eligible for private health services according to your insurance policy.

There are five major private hospitals in Sri Lanka that are based in Colombo -  Asiri, Durdans, Hemas, Lanka and Nawaloka. Each of these hospitals is small by foreign standards but each has plans for further development and upgrades to its medical facilities.

Low medical or health insurance coverage are generally norm for locals (though this is changing) but when circumstances require access to private health services, out-of-pocket expenses can be high. However, the relative costs for medical services such as hospital stays, doctor's fees, scans, tests and procedures are lower than those charged in most western countries.

Under the National Health Master Plan (2006-2016) the government and private sector have been building and improving healthcare infrastructure, quality of services and human capital base in the healthcare sector.

It's important to know that although hospitals and healthcare facilities are scattered all over the island, the availability of complex surgical procedures and specialist care in the public sector is limited to the National Hospital of Sri Lanka in Colombo, a few other large hospitals in major cities and mainly around the capital. Within the private sector, hospitals that deliver the bulk of private healthcare services are primarily centered around Colombo. Health infrastructure in more remote areas in the north and east are still limited as they recover from the impact of the civil war.

Article: Sri Lanka's healthcare challenges

If you need to visit a regular GP doctor, there are GP surgeries located in most suburbs in larger cities, towns and villages. Some of these GP doctors may also practice medicine at one of the public or private hospitals and run their own GP practice on the side. At their surgery or clinic they may also stock and dispense some of the medicines they prescribe. Based on the GP doctors I have visited, consultation fees range from Rs.500 to Rs.1,500 per visit. Additional charges may apply for any prescribed medicines.

With respect to pharmaceutical drugs or prescriptions, these can be purchased at local pharmacies or chemists. Most essential medicines area available in Sri Lanka and are affordably priced. I've noted that Sri Lanka mostly imports many foreign-branded medicines, including a plethora of comparative Indian manufactured medicines. Sri Lanka also locally manufacturers some medicines. 

I've had some questions from readers of this blog on the topics of medical insurance and vaccinations for Sri Lanka. They are not necessarily asking from a retirement perspective, but you might find my answers useful all the same. You can go to Eva's Mailbox: Miscellaneous Correspondence from Near and Far #2 to find out more.

There is still a little more to discuss on the subject of healthcare services, but I'll save it for the next installment where I'll look into elderly care facilities, retirement villages and medical care at home, amongst other things.

* * * * * * * *

That's all for this installment on retirement in Sri Lanka. I'll explore additional areas in Part 3 of this blog post.


Anonymous said...

US citizens can get a 5 year tourist visa. (I'm not sure if this is available to any other nationalities.) You just need to go out and return form SL every 6 months. For me that is a lot easier than going through all the official retirement hoops.....An interesting question you haven't covered is why Sri Lanka is never considered in all the "Best Places to Retire in Asia" lists. Holdover from the civil war? But even then I lived peacefully and happily in Sri Lanka. It is a complete mystery to me.

Eva Stone said...

Yes, the 5-year visa is an easier option. I'm not sure it's offered for other nationalities, but worth a further investigation for other passports as a viable option for longer stints.
You pose an interesting question and I might write something up on that. I've noticed Sri Lanka never makes this list and ranks low. The criteria for what makes the "best place to retire in Asia" is probably where Sri Lanka falls down. I don't get it either, but then I also think it's great that Sri Lanka is still a secret to many expats. It won't be for long, but... some of us can remain fortunate for longer ;-)

Stephen Peacock said...

Just found your blog as currently holidaying in Sri Lanka. Every holiday for us is involves some thought about whether we could retire to that place. Sri Lanka is a definite possibility. Looking forward to reading more of your blog.

Eva Stone said...

Thanks Stephen. Hope you and your traveling party are enjoying your adventures in Sri Lanka!

Stephen Peacock said...

Thanks, feel in love with Sri Lanka when we came on honeymoon in 1998. Now falling in love again with the country with our children.

libby said...

Having just returned from a months holiday in Aus (lived there for 50 years) and having the pleasure of meeting a sir lankan pharmacist gave us the idea of maybe we could retire there. However, having read through your excellent infor on the medical services which most retirees would undoubtedly need there's no way we could afford it let alone obtain medical insurance cover. Too old and too many problems. A shame but that's life and I'm so pleased I saw your blg.

libby said...

sorry forgot to tick the box "notify me" have done so now!

Praveen Grover said...

While staying under dream home visa programme in Sri Lanka, wonder would one be allowed in addition to not be gainfully employed but doing small businesses to supplement income. This way not only keeping busy but haiving better lifestyle and also contributing to host country economy.

Eva Stone said...

Hello Libby, Thanks for your comment and reading the blog posts on Retirement in Sri Lanka.Pleaes do come back and read the next installment, which I'm working on. It will cover other aspects such as nursing options and domestic help that are quite affordable for expat retirees.
Best wishes, Eva

Eva Stone said...

Hi Praveen, Thanks for your comment. I see your point about being able to balance lifestyle and contribution. Unfortunately, the terms of the "My Dream Home Visa Programme" are quite clear. It states that "No paid or unpaid employment while staying in Sri Lanka". Best wishes, Eva

Praveen Grover said...

I have just turned 55, I see dream home visa program enticing. I am a chocolatier, would be rather disappointed if not able to pursue my passion of course little revenue generation along with it is the necessary motivation. Such activity does not infringe the condition "No paid or unpaid EMPLOYMENT while staying in Sri Lanka" under dream home visa program. Such activity in fact would enable providing employment to locals like the other house staff.

Eva Stone said...

Hi Praveen, it's probably best to clarify/confirm with the Department of Immigration and Emigration about the definition of paid or unpaid employment if you are keen on the My Dream Home Visa Programme. Best of luck, Eva

Praveen Grover said...

Eva is there any suggested location where expats of such community under dream home scheme stay in SL. What all facilities are they connected to. How many of them would be staying at such cluster. you may choose to ignore if the queries are not within your sphere..

Eva Stone said...

Hi Praveen, there is a thriving expat retiree community down near the southern coast of Sri Lanka (in-and-around Galle and further) as well as clusters around Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. Other than this bit of info, I'm not so sure. You might wish to look at some of the Sri Lankan expat and foreigner groups on Facebook that may offer up more information.

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