Home India News India says 2-month gap must for visitors, keeps visa rules flexible

India says 2-month gap must for visitors, keeps visa rules flexible

By Manish Chand, IANS,

New Delhi : Clearing the confusion over the new tourist visa regulations, the government Thursday said a two-month gap between two visits is mandatory for foreigners holding long-term multi-entry tourist visas, but kept the rules flexible so as not to affect bona fide tourists.

New Delhi also clarified that visitors can re-enter India after going to another country from here if they provide a detailed itinerary and documents.

The new guidelines were issued Nov 4.

To facilitate bona fide tourists, the government has decided that foreigners holding tourist visas, who after initial entry into India plan to visit another country and re-enter India, may be permitted two or three entries by the Indian missions/posts, external affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said.

They can be permitted re-entry subject to their submission of a detailed itinerary and supporting documentation (ticket bookings), the spokesperson added.

The immigration authorities in all the immigration check posts in India have also been authorised to allow tourists to make two or three entries, as the case may be, based on production of an itinerary and documentation (ticket bookings) substantiating the need for tourism related travel, the spokesperson said.

The new tourist visa rules seek to balance security concerns with the convenience of tourists, but has incorporated extra layers of safeguards to avoid a repeat of 26/11 suspect David Headley’s abuse of tourist visa.

Indian officials have clarified the nature of new tourist visa rules to the US and Britain who fear that it could upset the travel plans of thousands of Britons and Americans who come to India every year, and often travel to a neighbouring country from here.

The government has slightly amended the regulations, making it possible for individual visitors to return to India within this cooling-off period of two months on certain conditions, official sources told IANS.

Under the new rules, the visitors have to obtain a special permission from the head of the Indian mission in their country and provide certain documents to establish the legitimacy of their return visit, the sources said. They are also required to register within 14 days with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) if they return within two months of their departure.

The final decision will rest with the head of Indian mission in that country, who will decide on the merits in consultation with the ministry of home affairs.

Under previous rules, tourists on long-term visas had to leave the country every 180 days.

The revision of visa rules was prompted by disclosures following the arrest of Headley, a Pakistani-American, by the US authorities that he had repeatedly travelled to India to identify targets for the Nov 26, 2008 Mumbai attacks.

British high commissioner to India Richard Stagg spoke to officials in the external affairs ministry Thursday, seeking clarifications about new visa rules. The changes, Britain fears, can impact nearly 700,000 Britons who visit India every year.

Dan Chugg, a spokesperson of the British high commission, welcomed the government’s move to clarify new visa rules. “We are getting some clarity about the new rules,” Chugg told IANS.

“There have been meetings between embassy officials and the officials of India’s ministry of home affairs and the external affairs ministry over the issue,” Elizabeth Fitzsimmons, a spokesperson of the US embassy, told IANS.

“The Indian government has been helpful in clarifying these regulations. It’s an ongoing dialogue,” the spokesperson said.

Following these clarifications, the US embassy, which had highlighted instances of inconsistent implementation of new visa rules in the so-called “warden message” Monday, has now rechristened it a “travel alert” providing factual information about new regulations American citizens need to consider before making their travel plans.