Home ministry refuses to change visa rules, cites security reasons

The Union Home Ministry has cited security concerns to reject a Tourism Ministry proposal to do away with the practice of collecting biometric data of foreign tourists travelling to India before issuance of visa to them.

While the Tourism Ministry has the backing of External Affairs Ministry, the Home Ministry said it does not support the suggestion.

“Already, immigration officials are collecting biometric details of e-tourist visa holders. Now, if you extend it to normal tourist visa, it will burden them. It will be a huge risk to assign them this job also,” a senior official said.

The decision comes against the backdrop of the Home Ministry deciding to extend e-tourist visas to another 73 countries by March 2016.

Tourism Secretary Lalit K Panwar has recently written to Home Secretary L C Goyal saying the requirement of obtaining biometric data before issuing regular visa was “acting as a dampener for international tourists wishing to visit India”.

He said Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar also shared the view that collecting biometrics before issuing normal tourist visa should be junked and it should be obtained when he reaches India but the Home Ministry’s nod should be required. The travel and tourism industry has been requesting the Tourism Ministry to take up the issue, Panwar said.

Maintaining that issuance of visas had been outsourced in many countries, the Home Ministry asked the Tourism Ministry to promote e-visa among tourists from countries where the facility has been extended under the Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Registration and Tracking (IVFRT) system.

IVFRT has been implemented in 165 Indian Missions and 500 Foreign Registration Offices across the country. “It is proposed to implement the project in all Indian Embassies abroad and FROs across the country by the end of March 2016,”  Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said in May.

At present, the e-tourist Visa scheme, launched on November 27, 2014, covers 74 countries and nine Indian airports. The government also proposes to extend the scheme to 150 countries and 25 Indian airports by March 2016 in a phased manner.

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