Following protests from foreign missions, the government has made it clear that its new visa rules that lay down tough restrictions, including a two-month gap after leaving country in the cases of multiple-entry tourist visa, will be reviewed in six months.
Reports said quoting sources that the Home Ministry has conveyed this to the Ministry of External Affairs and all Immigration posts in all ports of exit and entry and visa officers in all Indian missions.
Reports said that it addresses concerns raised by Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor that India was thus allowing terrorists to make the country less welcoming and that the 26/11 attackers had no visas.
Despite a warning by his senior SM Krishna to keep the matter within four walls of the ministry, Tharoor yesterday tweeted: “Missed (the) brouhaha…Now that Krishnaji, whom I respect, has spoken, I hv (have) nothing 2add (to add). Will discuss visa issue w (with) him. But thanks for all the kind words over the last 24hrs (24 hours). Appreciate the support!”
The new visa restrictions are applicable to only those countries with whom India has reciprocal arrangements on granting multiple-entry long-term tourist visas, said reports.
There are 20 such countries, including US and UK , France, Germany , Luxembourg , Netherlands , Belgium , Finland, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Vietnam .
In the case of US nationals , the long-term visas are granted for a 10-year duration, while in the case of UK and other 18 countries, for 5-year term.
For US and UK nationals, they can’t stay beyond 180 days; whereas for citizens of other 18 countries, they can’t stay beyond 90 days. Reciprocal treatment is given to Indian nationals in these 20 countries.
Reports said that the new visa rules have taken care of those tourists – who want to use India as a hub for south Asian tourism and want to travel to the neighbouring countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan for tourism – and they won’t be asked for the “two-month cooling off period,” if they disclose their complete travel plans to the Indian missions in their home country.
In case of tourists who have left the country and have to return before two months, they can also apply to the heads of Indian embassies in their home country and can return, on approval. But they will have to register themselves at the nearest FRRO (Foreigners Regional Registration Office) within 14 days of their arrival.
The new visa rules also say that if a foreign national applies for a tourist visa within one month of the expiry of the 5 or 10-year tourist visa, the Indian Embassy “may” refer the application to the Home Ministry.