India's new visa rules upset US, UK

India's new visa rules upset US, UK

Britain seeks review, US alleges inconsistency

India's new visa rules upset US, UK

New rules were framed after Headley’s arrest

The UK on Tuesday urged India to ease the new rules to make sure that they do not “create general restrictions”. The British Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Lord Peter Mendelson, told Home Minister P Chidambaram during a meeting here that the tourists from the UK might find the mandatory two months’ break between their long stays in India too long.

Of late, Washington too is believed to have taken up the issue with New Delhi through diplomatic channels. In an advisory posted on its website for American citizens travelling in India or planning to come to the country, the US embassy in New Delhi said the new rules were being “inconsistently implemented”. It also said the rules were not widely publicised and were “subject to changes”.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an event organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries, Mendelson said: “I can understand the motive for the new visa arrangements, but we have to be very careful not to make, create general restrictions…I said (to Chidambaram) that a two-month-gap is too big for many tourists.” He termed his meeting with the home minister a “very friendly” one.

According to the new visa rules, American and British nationals, with five or ten year tourist visas, will no longer be allowed to enter India within two months of their last departure from the country, if their last visit was longer than 90 days or if they have stayed longer than 180 days during the past year.

The new visa rules were framed after the arrest of Pakistani-born American terror suspect David Headley, who has been charged by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for his involvement in the 26/11 attacks. Headley used a multiple entry business visa to make nine trips to India, during which he is said to have visited a number of potential targets.

Mendelson said the Indian government should review the new guidelines so that they did not become a hindrance to the growth of tourism sector in the country.

The US embassy in New Delhi in a travel-advisory stated that the initial information from the Government of India had indicated that the revised visa regulations would primarily affect travellers with tourist visas, who had been in India for more than 90 days before travel abroad or more than 180 days in the past year.

“However, the US mission has received confirmation that foreign passports are now stamped on exit to indicate that the bearer cannot re-enter India within two months of exit unless special permission is obtained from an Indian embassy, consulate, or high commission abroad, regardless of the validity of the visa or the length of stay in India,” it added.

The US embassy also cited several instances of the American tourists facing problems due to the new rules. An American family, visiting India on ten-year multiple entry tourist visas for several weeks, had to return briefly to the US to attend a funeral. But they were not permitted to re-enter India. Another American family, taking a side trip to Sri Lanka from India, was told that they needed to apply for permission to re-enter India at the Indian High Commission in Colombo.