Govt Softens New Visa Rules, Relaxes Two-Month Cooling Off

Softening its approach on new visa rules, the Ministry of Home Affairs has communicated to Ministry of External Affairs that foreign visitors staying in country for long and requiring to leave every 180 days can be allowed to return within two months of leaving as long as they make a ‘full disclosure’ of their travel plans to the immigration officer while on their way out.

Following Headley-Rana case, new visa rules were framed which demanded from all foreign nationals with multiple-entry long-term tourist visas to re-enter only after the passage of a two-month ‘cooling off’ period. The move evoked protest by several countries, including the US and UK. The officials of foreign embassies also met Home Minister P Chidambaram to talk about the issue.

Media reports said that home ministry officials have now told the external affairs ministry that tourists can simply show their confirmed tickets and other travel details to Immigration, so that the officer doesn’t stamp their visas barring re-entry for two months. Logic home ministry gave for it is that genuine tourists will not have problems in sharing their travel details.

The two-month rule had provoked the US Embassy to put up a “warden information” for all US passport holders, saying the mission had received reports about “inconsistent implementation of the new (visa) rules, which have not been widely publicized and are subject to change”. It then cited several examples of the inconvenience US citizens suffered as a result of the new rule.

A British High Commission spokesperson said today, “The Indian government has every right to give or deny entry to any person they wish to. India has every right to stop prospective terrorists, but such rules should not have unintended consequences and should not adversely affect genuine tourists.”

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