Saturday 2nd January 2010

Indian Visa Rules Cause Confusion for Expatriates

The Indian government’s sudden change of visa rules has caused confusion for expatriates once again with the strict new visa requirements that were introduced last month now being revised in response to objections from embassies throughout the world.

In November the Ministry of Home Affairs in India introduced a new law that required all foreign nationals who were in possession of a multiple-entry long-term visa (5 to 10 years) to leave the country for a minimum of two months every 180 days in order to revalidate their visas. Previously nationals from 14 countries were eligible for long-term visas. Such visas were used by American and British citizens to bypass the complicated processes associated with obtaining business or employment visas for India. The requirement for a two-month cool off period, however, threatened this process and entailed that many expatriates living in the region could no longer use India as a business base and complete a short visit to a nearby country in order to renew their visa before returning to India. In addition, family and friends who wished to visit expatriates who were living in India could no longer venture out of India for a short period of time during their visit.

Changes to the visa regulations were introduced by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs last month in response to revelations that US national David Headley had utilized his time in India to plot the Mumbai terrorist attacks and had frequently travelled in and out of the country using a multiple-entry Indian visa in order to meet with terrorist organizations.

India’s new visa policies, however, which were introduced suddenly and without warning, sparked a great deal of protest from countries throughout the world. The US embassy claimed that the new visas and registration requirements were not being consistently implemented and that a significant number of expatriates would be affected by the new requirements. Although the Indian government initially rejected such accusations on the grounds that their visa changes would bring them in line with international policy, it now looks like they may now be prepared to introduce an element of flexibility to the laws.

Reports this week indicate that Indian immigration are now prepared to relax their visa rules. Expatriates will no longer be required to leave the country for two months provided that they are able to show documented evidence of their onward travel plans. Expatriates who are able to show Indian immigration officials travel documents and tickets that cover the duration of their travel when they exit India will be permitted to leave the country without the administration of a stamp that prohibits entry within a two-month period. The premise of these changes is that genuine travelers will be able to provide such documents without issue: "It has since been decided that foreigners, 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 of Home Affairs said.

Read the full article: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BN0Y720091224

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