Thursday, December 24, 2009

After Stir, Government eases Visa Norms

The foreign ministry on Thursday announced relaxation in the new guidelines on tourist visas issued last month which had made it mandatory for foreigners holding long-term multiple-entry visas to take a two-month break between two visits.

The foreign ministry said the norms were eased to facilitate bonafide tourists. The tightening of visa norms following the unearthing of terror missions of Lashkar jihadi David Coleman Headley had led to a wave of protests from the US and UK among other countries.

‘‘It has since been decided that foreigners holding tourist visas, who after initial entry into India plan to visit another country and re-enter India before finally exiting, may be permitted two or three entries, as the case may be, by Indian missions subject to their submission of a detailed itinerary and supporting documentation (ticket bookings),’’ an official statement of the ministry said.

Tourists panic, grab extensions

Panic-hit tourists in India are already seeking visa extensions, those here for medical treatment being the worst-hit. Long queues were seen at the Foreigner Regional Registration Office in R K Puram, with anxious foreigners pushing their case with FRRO officials

Genuine tourists allowed re-entry

at all immigration check posts in India, the foreign ministry said, had been authorized to allow tourists to make two or three entries based on production of an itinerary and documentation (ticket bookings) substantiating the need for tourism-related travel.

Under the new rules, the visitors have to obtain special permission from the head of the Indian mission in their country and provide certain documents to establish the legitimacy of their return visit, sources said. They are also required to register within 14 days with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) if they return within two months of their departure.

British business secretary Lord Peter Mandelson, during his India visit, had met home minister P Chidambaram to request that the government rethink the visa policy. He said it would hurt British tourists who make India a base while traveling in the region.

The British High Commission had written to the Indian government asking for a review of the proposed visa guidelines.

Officials had later indicated they would be “flexible” if, at the time of applying for a visa, the applicant tells the Indian visa officer that he will also be traveling to other countries in the region, using India as a hub. The visa will reflect the itinerary of the tourist, affording him more flexibility.

Under the new rules, they will have to provide an undertaking that they will use the visa for visiting specific places.

The final decision, however, would rest with the head of Indian mission in that country, who will decide on the merits in consultation with the ministry of home affairs.

Traveller Check

Govt guidelines issued earlier said tourists must take 2-month timeout after last visit if it lasted more than 90 days, sparking outcry from US & UK, especially tourists

New rules to help ‘Genuine tourists’

Visitors can bypass timeout by getting special permission from head of Indian mission in their country & providing papers to establish legitimacy of return visit Will also have to register within 14 days with Foreigners Regional Registration Office on return Tourists traveling in groups allowed 2-3 re-entries provided they fully disclose itinerary to Indian mission/consulate when applying for visa; also have to provide undertaking visa will be used for visiting specific places